Cannabis: A Different Kind Of Treatment
Thanks to the results from recently-permitted scientific studies and the untiring work of cannabis activist groups, more and more people are beginning to accept that cannabis is a successful form of treatment for certain medical conditions. Despite this, many patients out there are still hesitant to try it. Their reasoning may stem from religious beliefs, or perhaps because they’re fearful of losing their job. Oftentimes, however, patients are wary of things that seem to be outside of the current medical system and choose not to explore the benefits of medical cannabis. “If my doctor doesn’t support weed, why should I?” “I’m already taking something for my anxiety and it helps me.”
It’s good to have doubts and ask questions, but these can be a bit lopsided. Patients should remember to question their current system, too. Medical culture has conditioned us to accept remarkably negative side-effects as a “normal” part of medication, and many of us become resigned to this. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifelong dependency on prescription meds. As side-effects from previous medications arise, patients are prescribed additional medications to treat them. Oftentimes this results in patients being treated for an increasing number of conditions that actually stem from the medications themselves. To illustrate this, let’s use the example of a female patient who consults a psychiatrist because she’s having trouble focusing at work. After giving responses to a standardized questionnaire, she’s diagnosed with ADHD. Her doctor hands her a prescription for Adderall and says, “This will help.” She fills the prescription. Sure enough, things improve immediately at work. The patient can accomplish tasks and participate actively during meetings. It’s a miracle! The only problem is, she’s too wired to fall asleep at night. She complains about this to her psychiatrist, who is all too familiar with this amphetamine-based side-effect and writes her a prescription for Ambien. All the patient needs to do is pop an Ambien at bedtime and she’s guaranteed to get some rest. Success! But along with Ambien comes another debilitating side-effect: daytime drowsiness. The psychiatrist ups her Adderall prescription to combat this, and all is well…until the patient starts having panic attacks due to the increase of amphetamines in her system. The fear of panic attacks disrupts her social life and leads to her feeling depressed. Next come prescriptions for Clonazepam, a benzo (aka tranquilizer) commonly used to treat anxiety, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant. Now, we have a patient who initially complained about loss of focus at work but is now being medically treated for ADHD, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Not only does she now have a handful of additional conditions to treat indefinitely, (unfortunately including conditions that arose in the form of side-effects from her prescription medications), but she has become fully dependent on her medication regimen to feel “normal” when she initially only wanted to become more focused at work. This practice of medication stacking that leads to total loss of patient responsibility is frighteningly common. What’s the solution? Well, we’d love to say that it’s as simple as “cannabis,” but it’s not quote that simple. Cannabis is not a cure-all. However it CAN indeed successfully treat many conditions, but only if the patient is willing to take responsibility for their own treatment. Only if they’re willing to work for and participate in their wellness. Cannabis works much differently than the prescription medications we are used to taking, from a physiological standpoint as well as a mental one. And the latter is what ends up turning many people off from it. They don’t want to put the effort in; they’re misinformed of the benefits of cannabis; they want an easy fix; they don’t want to try. If you want to successfully treat your conditions with this marvelous plant, you’re going to have to step up and take charge of your own treatment. You’re going to have to do the research and pay attention to all the interactions. You’re going to have to conduct your own trials and determine what works best for you. In many cases, the most effective regimen is a combination of cannabis and a reduced dosage of certain medications*. But you won’t know unless you’re unwilling to experiment. This may sound scary, intimidating, or just plain hard, but it’s what it takes to build a good relationship with your treatment. Not only can cannabis successfully treat a plethora of medical conditions without the risk of major side effects, but it can put you more in touch with yourself, your body, and your mental health. By mindfully integrating it into your life, you’ll begin to realize you have more control over your treatment than you thought. We urge patients to empower themselves by taking responsibility for their own health and wellness. That’s what being healthy truly is. *Do not make any changes to your medication without doctor approval. We strongly encourage you to be open with your doctor about your cannabis usage.