The Use of Cannabis in Medicine

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Like many others her age, she hadn’t touched marijuana since the 50s. But that was before her knee arthritis became so bad, it robbed her of sleep night after night. She took two over-the-counter pain pills a day, but the pain would wake her up, and the drugs were hard on her stomach. Then one day, she did something she never thought she would do: she made an appointment at a local dispensary.

“I was determined to live my life again,” said Alice, a 68 year-old Alameda resident. “I just wasn’t sure how.”

Humans have turned to cannabis as an herbal natural remedy for centuries, before it was labeled an illegal drug in 1937 in the US. While the federal government still considers it illegal, more than half of the states allow it to relieve symptoms or treat various diseases.

The cannabis plant contains more than 100 unique chemical components classified as cannabinoids. The two most prevalent types are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is primarily responsible for the mind-altering properties sought out by recreational users, and cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effect. CBD is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant.

Today, CBD is commonly used to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and relieve pain. Researchers are continuing to explore the possible uses of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids for treating chronic pain, addiction, cancer-related symptoms, such as severe nausea, and many other conditions.

Scientists hypothesize that the endocannabinoid system—the network of neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system that’s stimulated by cannabinoids, including CBD—acts as a powerful “dimmer switch” that helps modulate brain activity and mood.

“Although we don’t have rigorous studies, it’s important that clinicians be knowledgeable about medical marijuana, be open-minded, and above all, be non-judgmental,” said Dr. Anita Gaind of Calyx Health. “Otherwise, patients will seek out unreliable sources of information and not tell their doctors, which has the potential to damage the trust and strength of the doctor-patient relationship.”

Many patients are looking for relief outside of prescriptions and are curious about cannabis, but may feel embarrassed about bringing it up with their doctors. The clinical team at Calyx Health takes an objective approach to patient management, consistently weighing the benefits and risks of any given option, and encourage patients to have open and honest conversations with their doctors.

Calyx Health will be hosting a cannabis talk at the Mastick Senior Center on Wed, June 26th at 1pm. To learn more and RSVP, call 747-7506.

Calyx Health, a doctor’s office exclusively for Medicare seniors, is located above Trader Joe’s in the Alameda South Shore. To schedule an appointment, call 402-1471 or click here.

Shaily Gupta