For as long as I can remember, practicing medicine has struck me as one of the neatest things a person could aspire to. The ability to help people achieve good health so they can pursue their dreams is a privileged one, and one I dreamt about as a child. Even when I was in the sick and miserable in the doctor’s office, being gagged by that horrible strep throat swab and being given medicine that tasted like chalk, I was in awe of how the doctor could listen to my story, decipher what was going wrong, and help to fix it.
Practicing medicine still is one of the most privileged careers I can think of, and one I have spent the past 12 years learning how to practice as an art and a science. I’m grateful for the opportunity to listen to patients’ stories and to be in the position to help mend what is broken. Most of these years have been spent in the emergency department, thus giving me the opportunity to mend in more ways than you can imagine. I’ve set broken bones, treated seizures, tended to coyote bites, massaged hearts through open chest cavities, declared patients deceased, and be a small part of some of the most intimate moments in my patients’ lives.
I have gained much insight from moments in the emergency department. I have had the chance to talk with and listen to countless patients. Themes emerge. Far too many patients in today’s United States medical system seek our help for uncontrolled pain, substance abuse complications, and poorly optimized physical and mental health. I see numerous prescription drug overdoses and side effects stemming from an effort to try to mend what is broken. Patients frequently get shuffled through a healthcare system that sometimes struggles to help navigate the complex process of being sick. Most of us know someone who has navigated a serious illness or disease- perhaps you have yourself. It can be frustrating, emotionally taxing, painful, and financially cumbersome if not devastating.
There is exciting news for patients in the United States, however. For many patients, there is a new player in medical therapy: cannabis. Times are changing for cannabis therapy. Illness will always have its negatives, but we can do our best to combat those negatives. If used properly, cannabis can help bypass many of the struggles patients encounter in addressing their disease state. It offers an opportunity to alleviate pain, nausea, and mental anguish on an as-needed basis without the ill effects of many daily medications. It is a medication that patients can dose and use in the form that works for them. It provides a way for patients to participate in controlling their health and improve their physical and mental condition so they can pursue their lives.
Do I think cannabis is going to magically solve the opiate crisis and fix the US healthcare system? Of course not. Do I think cannabis is for everyone? No. Do I think it is often a better option than narcotics, surgeries, injections, and psychotropic chemicals? Absolutely. My colleagues and I join the physicians practicing in the 20+ countries where cannabis is a legal medicine who agree that cannabis therapy is a frequently a worthwhile endeavor, and once you have the right to speak with an educated physician about.
Patients deserve access to options that will help them ease suffering and cope with the complexities of illness. They also deserve access to physicians willing to acknowledge the shortcomings of our current situation and look for better answers. I am fortunate to belong to a team of physicians who are truly dedicated to helping people achieve their best all-around health. Along with promoting healthy diets, exercise, and lifestyle changes, we are working to remove the stigma still often associated with cannabis therapy. My colleagues and I are here because we have seen the benefits cannabis provides our patients. We have seen patients quit using opiates for pain, start exercising when they haven’t been able to in years, quit cigarette smoking because their anxiety has improved, sleep through the night for the first time in decades, and control end of life symptoms so they can make the most of their last days with their families. There aren’t many areas of the body that don’t interact with the endocannabinoid system, which is what makes cannabis so widely useful as a therapy. From seizures to PTSD to arthritis, the right kind of cannabis products can be a helpful therapy. We’re proud to be able to provide options and advice to help with management to help you live your best life.
We would be honored to have the opportunity to be a part of your story. Because at the end of the day, being sick shouldn’t be more frustrating or difficult than it already is. We’re here too because we believe every patient deserves access to the best health they can achieve.
Here are a couple of good resources if you’d like to read further:
The International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines provides basic and in-depth scientific reading about cannabis.
Dr. MacCallum practices cannabis medicine in Canada. She has some great cannabis and lifestyle resources for patients. Check out her page online via their website.
Thank you for reading and may you have a healthy day!
-Dr. River and the Natural Remedy MD team