For many soldiers, the price of war lingers long after the battle has been fought. After returning home, veterans often continue to fight harrowing struggles to just to readjust to civilian life. Many are fraught with chronic pain, depression, and PTSD from the physical and mental rigors of combat. In fact, post-traumatic stress disorder affects nearly 30% of Vietnam War veterans, 12% of Gulf War veterans, and up to 20% of veterans from other middle-East conflicts according to the US Veterans Administration (1). Conditions like these lead to another disturbing statistic which plagues our nation’s heroes… suicide. In 2014, an estimated 22 United States military veterans committed suicide each day according to a report released by the Veteran’s Health Administration (2).
Clearly, something must change.
How Traditional Medicine Has Failed Them
As with most chronic conditions these days, the traditional method of throwing prescriptions at it until something works, simply isn’t working. A writer for the American-Statemen, Jeremy Schwartz, wrote about his findings while researching military expenditures:
“…the military drug purchases also paint a picture of a fighting force increasingly reliant on antidepressants, psychotropic drugs and powerful narcotic painkillers that critics call dangerous and that have been involved in a growing number of prescription drug overdoses. The military spent at least $2.7 billion on antidepressants and more than $1.6 billion on opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone over the past decade. More than $507 million was spent on the sleeping pill Ambien and its generic equivalents.”
In many cases, doctors are over-prescribing medications which can lead to lethal combinations, accidental overdoses, and increased health complications. In May 2013, a reporter interviewed a veteran diagnosed with PTSD (3), who recalled being prescribed twenty-five different drugs at one time, which his own physician called a “poison cocktail.”
How Cannabis Treatment Could Rescue Thousands
In order to understand how cannabis could be a more effective treatment for cannabis, we must first understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body and the part it plays in developing chronic disorders like PTSD, anxiety, pain, and neurological disorders. Although the ECS exists in every vertebrate animal, it was only discovered in 1992 by Israeli researcher, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. The ECS consists of two tiny antennae on cells called cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. They receive signaling molecules, or endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG. The overall goal of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis, or balance, in the body by signaling other cells to behave a certain way.
In people diagnosed with PTSD, test results revealed low-production of anandamide according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). A deficiency in endocannabinoids means receptors are not firing like they should. Research has shown THC from cannabis is very similar in effect to our own anandamide; thus, supplementation with cannabinoids from cannabis may help fill the gap.
Martin Lee, from ProjectCBD, stated in this article for Leafly.com (4),
“Scientists have determined that normal CB-1 receptor signaling deactivates traumatic memories and endows it with the gift of forgetting. But skewed CB-1 signaling, due to endocannabinoid deficits (low serum levels of anandamide), results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the hallmarks of PTSD.”
Politics, Red Tape, and Road Blocks
While science and research continue to progress, the federal government, unfortunately, is not. The Veterans Administration and the Department of Justice have hampered veteran access to the potentially life-saving herb. As recently as July of this year, the House voted (5) to prevent VA doctors from discussing medical marijuana with their patients. In fact, the actions have prompted leaders from the American Legion to get involved, urging the Department of Justice to reschedule the drug to allow proper research, and the VA to back research already in progress (6).
Many state laws regarding marijuana have changed in the name of “compassionate care” for many ailments, so one must ask, does the federal government have any compassion for the people that fought for them?
At Marijuana Doctors, we believe in compassionate care for everyone. If you suffer from PTSD or chronic pain, and would like to know more about how medical marijuana can help, schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today.
- Jaimie L. Gradus, DSc, MPH. Epidemiology of PTSD. US Department of Veterans Affairs. [Online] March 30, 2017. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/epidemiological-facts-ptsd.asp.
- Janet E. Kemp, RN, PhD. Suicide Rates in VHA Patients through 2011 with Comparisons with Other Americans and other Veterans through 2010. s.l. : Veterans Health Administration, 2014.
- Kennedy, Douglas. [interv.] Chris Wallace. FOX SPECIAL REPORT: DRUGGING THE AMERICAN SOLDIER. Fox News, Charleston, June 21, 2013.
- RAHN, BAILEY. Cannabis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Leafly.com. [Online] April 30, 2014. https://www.leafly.com/news/health/cannabis-and-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd.
- Shane III, Leo. House rejects plan to let VA doctors talk about marijuana. Military Times. July 26, 2017.
- The American Legion. Legion to VA: Support cannabis PTSD study. Legion.org. [Online] September 21, 2017. https://www.legion.org/veteranshealthcare/239200/legion-va-support-cannabis-ptsd-study.
In June this year, Florida legislation approved (1) the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. Prior to this, the program only covered epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, and terminal illnesses. Now, patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other similar conditions at the discretion of the prescribing doctor. However, months after the change, many patients are still waiting for their applications to be processed.
Doctors and patients alike remain frustrated with the process. Beyond the obvious time delays, many patients have had their applications rejected and returned for minor technicalities which means starting the process all over. Another waiting game, while patients suffer through symptoms of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Ivan Fields, the CEO of Marijuana Doctor stated,
“Department of Health – Office of Medical Marijuana is obviously understaffed based on the unreasonable amount of hold time when calling in in the amount of time it takes for them to approve applications and print ID cards. We’ve been told that Department of Health has put out a bid for a third-party provider to handle the ID cards for the state.
I feel that the 71% of the voters who passed this amendment should call their local government representatives and alert them of the situation. The Department of Health is not doing the right thing by the patients seeking treatment, I’ve heard many stories of patients dying while waiting for the medicine including one of our own.”
Adding the additional conditions has put a burden on the Department of Health, who is responsible for approving medical marijuana applications. As of June, there were just short of 17,000 Florida medical marijuana patients, but since the addition of the new conditions that number spiked to more than 31,000 by the end of August. This influx of patients seeking medical marijuana has overwhelmed the small staff at the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which consists of only three full-time and nine part-time employees.
The lack of staff in the regulating office, some patients have been waiting up to 90 days for their card to arrive. Even when everything goes as planned, medical marijuana patients are waiting as long as a month before receiving their medical marijuana identification card, so they can begin purchasing the medicinal herb from area dispensaries.
To understand the delays, the Miami Herald recently spoke with Department of Health spokeswoman (2), Mara Gambineri who commented on the current state of affairs within the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. Although the department has received funding to hire 55 new employees, Gambineri mentioned outsourcing operations in an effort to help improve the situation and speed up application processing. To date, the department handles more than 1,000 phone calls a day and has up to 3,000 applications pending at any one time.
“As the program continues to grow, we agree that it is not sustainable to handle in house long-term, which is why we are outsourcing these functions as directed by law. However, while we work through the procurement process, we continue to do our best to process applications and respond to inquiries in a timely manner,” Gambineri stated for the Miami Herald.
In addition, Florida law requires doctors must be certified through a course to prescribe the medication. Although this course was originally an eight-hour requirement, it has been reduced to two hours. Unfortunately, no facility has started teaching the condensed curriculum, the old curriculum is no longer valid leaving doctors in limbo waiting to be certified. Meanwhile, patient numbers continue to increase, prescribing doctors remained relatively stagnant leaving just over 1000 doctors available for more than 31,000 patients.
Clearly, patients suffering deserve better. While bureaucrats wrestle with red-tape, people continue to suffer with ailments and symptoms. As Fields stated, the 71% of voters who voted (3) for the amendment during the November election should be urged to contact their local representatives and challenge the delays. Contact your representative today to ask why people continue to suffer.
- Reedy, Joe. Florida Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Legislation. US News & World Report. June 23, 2017.
- Smiley, David. Trying to get a medical marijuana card soon? Don’t hold your breath. Miami Herald. August 23, 2017.
- Kam, Dara. Fox News WTVT – Channel 13 Tampa. www.fox13news.com. [Online] Fox News, November 8, 2016. http://www.fox13news.com/news/politics/florida-voters-approve-medical-marijuana-amendment.
In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes. Worldwide, the numbers are even more staggering with approximately 387 million people have diabetes according to the International Diabetes Federation. In the United States, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death. Unfortunately, it has been estimated that nearly 80% of all Type 2 Diabetes cases could be prevented through weight management.
What Defines Diabetes?
In a healthy person, the body turns the foods you eat into sugar, or glucose, for energy. The pancreas releases insulin, which essentially unlocks cells so the glucose can enter. In diabetics, this system does not work causing too much sugar to build up in the blood stream which causes debilitating complications including:
- Diabetics are 2-6 times more likely to develop diseases of the arteries, including coronary artery disease and stroke.
- Nearly half of diabetes patients will suffer from retinopathy, a disease of the retina which results in vision impairment and even blindness
- Approximately 30% of diabetics will experience kidney damage or failure, and diabetes accounts for 50% of all kidney transplants in the US.
- Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, accounts for nearly 60% of all leg amputations.
There are two forms of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes: Also known as “juvenile diabetes” as it generally develops early in life. This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disease which signals the body’s own immune system to attack the pancreas. This onslaught causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin all together and patients must supplement with injections of insulin. However, dosing can be tricky as too much insulin can cause blood sugars to drop to dangerously low levels, while not enough will result in hyperglycemia, or too much blood sugar; either of which can lead to deadly complications.
Type 2 Diabetes: This form typically develops after age 35, and many times is the result of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. With type 2 diabetes, patients may produce some insulin, but usually not enough, and cells While diet and exercise can effectively treat the disease, many times oral medications may be prescribed to help.
Complications of diabetes are debilitating, unmanaged, it even leads to death.
Cannabinoid Therapy for Diabetes
Research over the last couple of decades has started to show how cannabis, specifically the cannabinoids contained within the plant, may be the future of treating diabetes.
Despite the appetite inducing effects well-known as the “munchies” commonly induced by consuming marijuana products, studies are emerging which show this increase in calorie intake has little impact on weight or BMI. A study from 2016 published by International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation showed marijuana users had lower body mass index than those who have never consumed.
Lower Resting Insulin and Insulin Resistance
Another study published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2013 surveyed more than 4,600 diabetes patients. 579 reported being current marijuana users, while 1,975 admitted to being past users of marijuana. Those who reported current marijuana use averaged 16% lower fasting insulin levels than those who did not consume. In addition, tests showed 17% reduction in insulin resistance in those who were consuming marijuana.
Combats Auto-Immune Disorders
Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disorder, meaning the immune system attacks the pancreas. However, as the Diabetes Council reports on their website, research is showing potential for CBD to save insulin-forming cells from damage, as well as, reverse the auto-immune disease in lab mice.
Neuropathy, or Nerve Damage
Diabetes is well-known for its ability to cause nerve damage. Between 60-70% of diabetics deal with some form of neuropathic pain. Cannabis, on the other hand, is well-known for its neuroprotective capabilities. The US government holds Patent #6630507 which declares cannabinoids as effective antioxidants and neuroprotectants which can treat a plethora of disorders. The anti-inflammatory effects of medical marijuana also help ease symptoms and quiet pain.
Diabetes, and the associated symptoms, can be debilitating, life-changing disease. Yet, with more research in the legal cannabis industry, there may be hope to end the disease. If you’re struggling with diabetes and want to know more about medical marijuana, don’t hesitate to contact our office today to set up your consultation with one of our qualified physicians.
Medical marijuana has been shown to treat a variety of ailments, and depression may be one of them. Currently, depression affects 1 in every 20 Americans according to the CDC and more than 15 million adults deal with major depressive disorder in each year. In 2014, more than 42,000 succumbed to suicide. Depression is becoming a public health concern and many people are turning to cannabis as an alternative to prescription therapies.
What is Depression?
Depression, a common and serious mental illness, negatively impacts physical well-being, thought processes and behaviors. Depression causes feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, and leads to emotional and physical issues and decreases quality of life. Depression can interfere with work, school, and relationships.
Symptoms vary from mild to severe, including:
- Melancholy or chronic depressed mood
- Loss of interest in various activities
- Appetite Issues — causing weight gain or loss
- Sleep disturbances
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty with focus, though-processes, or decision-making
- Suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies
Traditional Therapies May Not Work
While some patients may be able to find help through traditional therapy for depression including psychiatric therapy, cognitive therapy, and prescription medications, others are less responsive to pharmaceuticals or may even experience negative side effects like fatigue, drowsiness, nausea, increased appetite and weight gain, and sexual dysfunction. A report published in the British Medical Journal found shocking statistics of suicides in patients (1) being administered pharmaceutical anti-depressants.
The endocannabinoid system, ECS, has been shown to play a role in depression. This system produces compounds which are similar in nature to the cannabinoids found in cannabis and react much the same way. The ECS helps all the other systems of the body and even some organs function properly. The primary goal of the ECS is to achieve and maintain homeostasis. When the ECS isn’t functioning properly problems manifest in various diseases and ailments, such as depression.
Just a few of the effects of cannabis therapy that may be beneficial in treating depression:
- Sedative – many cannabinoids, including CBD, THC, and CBN exert various levels of sedation that can be beneficial for a calming effect or to aid with sleep which is vital in treating depression.
- Euphoria/Bliss – the endocannabinoid, AEA, produced by the human body is affectionately called “The Bliss Molecule”. When low on AEA, the euphoria created by THC can be very beneficial alternative.
- Calming – CBD, or cannabidiol, is a very calming molecule. This is what makes it so effective in treating seizure disorders, it relaxes the muscles, quiets spasms, and calms the nerves.
“After the death of my mother, a cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications had me falling asleep in meetings at work and behind the wheel of my car during my daily commute. I couldn’t focus, I was in a constant fog, and I had increasing thoughts of dread and suicide. Since switching to cannabis, I don’t have any negative side effects. I’m clear-headed and alert, and I have motivation, creativity, and ambition again. I really believe cannabis-therapy saved my life.” ~ Colorado Cannabis Patient
Science Behind Cannabis Therapy for Depression
New studies are starting to show how supplementing the endocannabinoid system with cannabis may help restore functionality and treat many illnesses with fewer disruptive side effects.
A couple of recent studies have been published on the impact of the endocannabinoid system on development and treatment of depression:
- Chronic Stress – chronic stress is shown to lead to major depressive disorder. Researchers at the University of Buffalo (2) recently discovered chronic stress causes reduced endocannabinoid production. Cannabinoid supplementation through cannabis therapy could help restore endocannabinoid function and treat depression.
- Inflammation – other studies implicate an immune-response (3) could be responsible for some depressive episodes. Cytokines, or inflammation cells, are abundant and cause inflammation of the brains of those suffering from depression. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a well-known anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help control the inflammation process.
If you’ve been struggling to find the right treatment for depression and think that medical cannabis may be able to help you, then schedule your appointment today to meet with one of our physicians.
- Suicidality and aggression during antidepressant treatment: systematic review and meta-analyses based on clinical study reports. Tarang Sharma, PhD, et al. Jan 27, 2016, British Medical Journal.
- Wilde, Cathy. RIA neuroscience study points to possible use of medical marijuana for depression. Research Institute on Addictions, University at Buffalo. 2015.
- Inflammatory cytokines in depression: neurobiological mechanisms and therapeutic implications. Felger JC, Lotrich FE. Aug 29, 2013, Journal of Neuroscience.