With all of our talk about healthcare it is easy to miss the importance of the grassroots movement in America to bring medical cannabis to patients in need. At this time 28 states and the District of Columbia have authorized and started to implement medical cannabis programs. So as a patient what you need to know:
1. Medical cannabis is not like any other medicine that we receive from a pharmacy. The difference is the complexity of the plant itself and that the medicinal effects come from the interactions of all the individual components. When you take a pill, it is a single compound that is usually used but in medical cannabis we are dealing with many different compounds.
2. The cannabis plant is made of many cannabinoids.
3. A cannabinoid is one of a class of diverse chemical compounds that acts on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain.
- THC: The most notable cannabinoid is the phytocannabinoid tetrahydracannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis.
- Cannabinoid (CBD) is one of at least 113 active cannabinoid identified in cannabis. It is a major phytocannabinoid, and while not strongly psychoactive works in synergy with the THC parts of the plants.
- Terpenes: are the pungent oils of plants and over 100 different varieties of terpenes are in the cannabis plant. Some terpenes can bind to different neurological receptor sited and affect their chemical output and others can modify how much THC passes through the blood-brain barrier. In general our understanding of their role in the effect of a particular cannabis is growing daily.
4. In most states the process includes individual doctor certification to prescribe, a patient registration process and an identification mechanism to allow you to go to a dispensary and get what has been recommended by a doctor.
5. Medical cannabis can be helpful in treating anxiety, pain, insomnia, weight loss due to wasting illnesses like HIV or cancer and also in glaucoma, movement disorders like Parkinsons or Huntingtons and multiple sclerosis, spasticity, epilepsy, neuropathy, post traumatic stress illnesses an opioid addiction and bowel disorders like inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel.
6. It is crucial to understand that medical cannabis is VERY different than recreational cannabis. The product created is held to stricter guidelines with standardized extract that us particularly tailored to a specific disease state. For instance, if we are treating a child with epilepsy we will be using strains with higher CBD contents and lower THC contents in order to obtain the optimal result.
7. The cannabis product is often packaged as oils, tinctures, edibles, capsules or vaporization products. As a rule we do not recommend smoking as it will still have a tar level and carcinogens that we would like to minimize. Vaporization can minimize that significantly. Also all of the above methods allow us to tailor the doses more consistently.
We are on the beginning of this path path and are working diligently to assure that the patient’s needs are met and that we hold this nascent industry to the highest standards possible.
Jeff Greenberg is a Manhattan based artist that has developed the Encaustic Wax Heart Series to raise funds for the Staten Island Heart Society.
This is a 501c3 local not for profit group that has promoted healthy heart awareness and the distribution of defibrillators throughout NYC.
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By Dr. Jack B. D’Angelo