Dr. Linda Busts the Myths About Medical Marijuana: What It Can and Cannot Help
- Can marijuana be the key torelief for people suffering
from pain from diseases likecancer or other chronic pain?
Well, it's being debatedmore and more as the drug
is legalized for recreationalor medical use in 39 states.
But is it the cure to painsupporters are hoping for?
Dr. Linda Mintle, therapistand author, is here now
to tell us what she's discovered.
Dr. Mintle, good to see you.
- Hey, I'm glad we're talking about this.
- Yes, definitely a hot-button issue.
Well, first of all, youare researching this topic
as you write a book onchronic pain and treatments.
With the nation's drugaddiction getting worse,
how serious is the problemof pain in America,
and is it isolated to our country?
- It's actually a world-widething, but 100 million people
are dealing with chronic pain.
Now that's in addition towhen you have an injury,
acute pain that happens, thisis pain that usually persists
over a three to six month,beyond a three to six month
time period when the healingof the injury is actually
already happened, but the pain persists.
And so one of the thingswe're trying to do is
get people off of opioids anddealing with some other types
of treatments so thatthey don't get addicted.
Because we know thatopioids are not effective
for people that have chronic pain.
- Are we looking in the right place
to expect medical marijuanato help a majority of people?
Are people barking up the wrongtree, so to speak with that?
- Yeah, so I was at a conference at a
very big medical school recently,
and there were a lot ofpassionate people in the audience
asking questions, because somany of their patients have
said that marijuana helpsthem with their chronic pain.
But the person who was leadingthe pain conference said,
let's be really clear, thereis absolutely no evidence base
yet that indicates that thisis an effective way to deal
with chronic pain.
Now there's a few exceptions.
Some people with neuropathic pain,
which is a different kind of pain,
it's more of a nerve painthat some people have.
This is involved in cancer treatments.
Sometimes there are peoplethat report that it's helpful,
but until just very recently,the FDA has not approved
the use of medical marijuanafor any type of chronic pain,
except two very rareforms of seizure disorder.
Other than that, this is notan evidence-based approach.
So while people feelvery passionate about it,
probably what's happening istheir anxiety is going down
with the pain, and they'refeeling like it's helpful,
but we don't have theevidence to support that.
- Where else do thestudies say that it helps?
Are there any other areasthat might back up supporters
of medical marijuana?
- You know, there's afew studies that show,
and again, these are not hugenumbers we're looking at,
but maybe some inflammationwith multiple sclerosis,
cancer pain in some cases.
So there are a few conditionswhere we look at this
and say, maybe.
And again, they're not suggesting,
doctors are typically not suggesting,
to go home and smoke jointsas a way of relieving.
The THC, which is theingredient that is helpful
that people believe, isput into a pure form,
and it's given orally.
Because, again, we don'twant to start creating
respiratory problems with people
and bronchial problemsrelated to smoking marijuana.
So, it's really at its infancy,because it wasn't legal.
We couldn't do a lot ofdouble-blind studies.
We couldn't do a lot ofevidence-based medicine,
so I think what you're gonnasee in the coming years,
you're gonna see a lotmore studies in this area.
But for chronic pain rightnow, and that's the message
I want your audience to hear,is it is not an effective,
generally an effective pain reliever.
- I'm gonna mention this to you,
'cause it is talked about a lot.
The CBD oil, what areyour thoughts on that?
- Yeah, again, these are not regulated.
So, again, marijuana islegalized in certain states,
and only in nine for medical purposes.
But there's a lot of stuff that's going on
that has no dosage.
We don't know how it's being used,
and it can be dangerous in ahome when kids get ahold of it.
We now know in statesthat have legal marijuana,
we've seen an increase,170%, in teen ER visits.
We're seeing an increasein accidents, you know.
So there's a lot more ofthe negative side effects,
and 10% of the people thatdo use marijuana do go on
to become addicted to other drugs.
And when we're talking about opioid use,
so people that are onopioids and then they begin
to smoke marijuana, abig percentage of them
just continue the opioids.
They continue to use both,which is not a good thing.
So there's a lot of problemswith the way all of this is
being administered and dosedand we really don't have
a lot of control over this.
It's still a federal substancethat is not legalized,
and it's a schedule onedrug, which means that it has
addictive potential in people.
- Well, what is the biggestshortfall of using the drug
that maybe folks are not considering.
Maybe hammer it home for us,apart from it still being,
of course, illegal in most states.
What's the biggest shortfall?
- One of the things I wouldreally think about is,
we haven't talked atall about mental health,
and one of the things thatwe know is that people
who smoke pot that haveschizophrenia diagnoses,
or some types of depressions,marijuana could actually
make those symptoms worse.
And in some people, it canbring on those symptoms
of schizophrenia and depression.
So, again, this isn'tjust a harmless substance
that people are dealing with.
And I think one of mybiggest concerns is when
President Obama saidit's the same as alcohol.
It really isn't the same,and both of them can have
potential problems in a person.
So, again, before youstart altering your body
with anything, youreally wanna think about
the negative consequencesof what could happen.
And having these substances in the home,
where kids and even toddlers can get ahold
of these substances.
You wanna look fornon-substance ways to handle
whatever your problems are in life.
I don't think it's ever a goodidea to turn to a substance
and alter your way out,because a lot of times
people use marijuana to just self medicate
and to escape from their life problems.
- And before that selfmedication takes place,
it's a good idea if you'rea Christian to pray,
to pray about this before you would go
down that kind of path.
- Yeah, and get some help,
just find out what are the other options.
So one of the things we knowparticularly with chronic pain,
is your pain is actually aperception in your brain,
and it happens because yourbody gets overly sensitized.
Your nervous system getssensitized in a central way,
which creates this perceptionof pain in your brain
that continues longafter the pain is gone.
So it's not that the paindoesn't feel real, it does.
But we have cognitiveand behavioral techniques
that we can use that can reversethose changes in the brain,
things that are not intrusive,things that could help you
so that you can get awayfrom your chronic pain
without having to dosomething that's gonna have
tremendous side effects.
- And if people wanna reachout to you on your blog
for help, they can do that, right?
- They can, and if youjust Google my name,
Dr. Linda Mintle dot com,it'll take you to my website
and the blog feeds on there,
and there's a lot of information.
I'm always updating onwhat we're finding out,
particularly now in thisarea of chronic pain
since I'm writing a book on that.
- And we can also link to yourblog as well on our website.
So if people need help they can reach out.
Dr. Linda Mintle, weappreciate it, thank you.