I remain cautiously optimistic that cannabidiol will someday become another weapon in our arsenal of anti-seizure drugs, but we are not there yet.
As a follow-on from my previous post about alternative medicine, I want to discuss the current state of medical marijuana. This is one of the hottest and most contentious topics in alternative medicine at present, and efforts to bring it under the umbrella of mainstream medicine are active and quite promising. Marijuana plants contain two chemical compounds of particular interest, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is thought to be the cause of most of the harmful effects of marijuana use, including its addiction potential, and is probably responsible for the low educational achievement of adolescent marijuana users. Most of the current medical research is focused on the potential therapeutic effects of CBD, which seems to have little of the baggage that comes along with THC.
The term “medical marijuana” means different things to different people. For medical professionals it means medicines derived from marijuana compounds, properly vetted through pharmaceutical research trials. I think it is fair to say that most doctors are in favor of this, in the same way that we are also in favor of properly vetted medicines derived from literally anything else (cone snail venom, leeches, Clostridium botulinum, human blood, etc.). “Properly vetted” is the key phrase, and I spent some time elaborating on this in my previous post.
Before we get too deep into things, let me share an anecdote. About a year ago an older gentleman, who is a member of the LDS Church, sat in my clinic complaining of a hand tremor (which was caused by an albuterol inhaler). His son had given him a bottle of CBD oil, which he had been using to quiet down the tremor. While we talked the man pulled the bottle of oil out of his pocket and sprayed it under his tongue, then we watched as his tremor markedly reduced over the next minute. After this very interesting demonstration, the man turned to me and asked, “So, is this against the Word of Wisdom?”
I was surprised at such a direct theological question in my medical clinic, and I didn’t feel comfortable giving a definitive yes or no answer in that setting, so I told him to ask his bishop. People shouldn’t come to my clinic for religious advice. He wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I offered him the following discussion, which I often share with patients who ask about medical marijuana. Continue reading