Cannabis Patient Care - March/April 2022

Cannabis Patient Care March/April 2022

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26 cannabis patient care | vol. 3 no. 1 research focus Read the Research: What One Medical Writer Can Tell Us from Years of Compiling Data on Medical Cannabis Use for Chronic Pain Treatment, Opioid Addiction Management, and Enhancing Mindfulness B Y E R I N M C E V O Y The Potential of Cannabis as a Treatment D R. UWE BLESCHING started a 20 year long career as a paramedic and fireman for the San Francisco Depart- ment of Public Health during the height of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunode- ficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic. He quickly noticed a large patient population that used cannabis for various medical rea- sons. "It really started with observing and witnessing patients firsthand in the back of my ambulance," he said. He explained that initially he was naïve about drugs, par- ticularly cannabis. "I began to notice differences between, let's say, a person that was challenged by HIV and AIDS, for example, who presented with peripheral neuropathies and who utilized cannabis and those who didn't," he said. "The dif- ference between patient presentation and the way they pre- sented themselves, in the larger context, was quite dramatic." Dr. Blesching also witnessed patients using medical canna- bis who were experiencing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, or the pains from radiation treatments for specif- ic types of cancer, or even people who were heroin users and who utilized cannabis to mitigate their withdrawal symptoms. "Fairly quickly, I began to look at cannabis and not so much with the black and white perspective that came from the nar- rative on the war on drugs that I was raised with," he said. "It added nuance and it added a sense of curiosity to what's go- ing on here truly." During this time, he was also in touch with several phy- sicians who were looking into and trying new treatments, such as cannabis, for HIV. This led him to find "a dozen or so researchers and physicians who were open to looking at can- nabis and who were the pioneers in a lot of the research that has since transpired over the past 30 years or so." He felt that this environment "was a welcoming of kindred spirits opening their minds," but the stigma that came from the war on drugs hampered progress. "In general, the medical community like myself, initially, are socialized by the narrative on the war on drugs and as such, if we're not completely averse to it, we're very skeptical," Dr. Blesching explained. The amount of research conducted in the past 30 years has greatly increased, though, and continues to do so. "To give you a couple of numbers, last year, nearly 4000 studies re- lated to cannabis and specific patient populations were pub- lished, which translates to roughly about 10 trials being pub- lished on a daily basis that can be utilized to learn more about if cannabis is posited to work for a particular condition or not," he added. Compiling the Research and Data Adding to his firsthand experience with patients, Dr. Blesching's friends and relatives began to ask his opinion on cannabis as an effective treatment for various ailments such as chronic pain, glaucoma, or high blood pressure. Eager to help and to provide an informed opinion, he began researching and taking down notes, and was surprised to find how many studies had been conducted on cannabis as treatment for chronic pain. Over time those notes became a collection and compilation that turned into his first book, The Cannabis Health Index, and later its online equivalent, CannaKeys (1,2). "The Cannabis Health Medical writer, author of three books on medical cannabis, and co-founder/chief science officer of CannaKeys, Dr. Uwe Blesching provides insight into the exploration of cannabis as a supplement for chronic pain treatment, opioid addiction mitigation, and the mind-body balance. Informed by his years-long compilation of research and personal experience, he also offers suggestions regarding the challenges and benefits patients and doctors could encounter in their own journey into cannabis research and understanding.

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