In Modern medicine – there’s a pill for all that ails you. Most of the products are good for one symptom or condition, or what we will refer to as “single symptom solutions or SSS.”
As an example, heartburn medicine like omeprazole (Prilosec) may relieve heartburn symptoms, but it won’t relieve muscle spasms. In fact, the medication class known as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) are known to reduce magnesium in the body and increase muscle cramping and spasms.
Clinicians are very comfortable with SSS, but it becomes a burden for patients who are ultimately left to take these medicines at home on their own. Ideally, patients would be able to take all their medicines at once, but complicated medication regimens may be required to ensure absorption or to prevent drug interactions. Some medicines will only be used on an as-needed basis – or that is the anticipation during the initial prescribing.
Medications are not easy for patients to take
Many patients have trouble remembering how or when to take their medicine, even when its simple enough like a tablet. Complex formulations like injections or nebulizers that require diligent cleaning after use are seen as an inconvenience and often times neglected by patients.
Sometimes we can recommend a combination product or a medicine with dual purposes to benefit the patient. A good example of this is using duloxetine/cymbalta for nerve pain and depression. The immediate goal of reducing the patient’s pill burden also leads to a reduction in the likelihood of a medication error (currently the third leading cause of death in the USA).
Most (if not all…) prescription medications are inherently dangerous.
That is why professional oversight is required.
When we consider the utility of cannabis as a complementary or alternative therapy, several symptoms could be targeted. 7 symptoms relieved by Cannabis include pain, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, depression, spasms, and sleep. So let’s consider why Cannabis belongs in the medicine cabinet and available to patients in pharmacies, not dispensaries.
1. Cannabis is the only antiemetic that is also an orexigenic. That’s right – Cannabis relieves nausea while also improving appetite. No other nausea medicine has this effect. Appetite improvement is very important for our patients with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, anorexia, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Eating, in general and with loved ones, is vital to our social health and well-being. Cannabis may not increase weight gain for all, but improving the taste and smell of food can encourage mealtime socialization and improve quality of life.
2. Our mood and energy is regulated by the endocannabinoid system and supplementation with phytocannabinoids may benefit as an anxiolytic and/or antidepressant. These symptoms frequently accompany conditions like chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and other degenerative neurological disorders. CBD directly increases activity at the 5HT1a receptor. Buspirone (Buspar) targets this same serotonin receptor and its responsible for anxiolytic effects that are typically evident 1- 2 weeks after starting therapy.
3. Many patients in pain have trouble sleeping and cannabis can help users fall asleep faster. And if patients are able to sleep through the night – they will feel better the next day. Our current medical model doesn’t place enough importance on the benefit of sleep. We have very few medicines for sleep (many of which are high-risk in those over 65 years old) and sleepiness is typically seen as a side effect of those drugs (for example; using an antidepressant like trazodone or an antipsychotic like quetiapine/Seroquel for insomnia). Using drugs for their side effect is a strange, yet accepted way of practicing medicine – it clearly worked for Sildenafil (Viagra)!
It’s high time the medical community understands the importance of treating the WHOLE person and not just one symptom at a time. With the supporting body of research, it is clear that Cannabis is a superior medicine to many pharmaceutical options currently available to consumers. Our next post will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of formulations which is another advantage to Cannabis medicine. PrepCann is here to guide healthcare professionals through Cannabis research in preparation for a role in Cannabis medicine – because Cannabis is medicine.