Dr Towpik Writes: Impressions From Hemp Expo & Thoughts On Red Tape

9th August 2017: First two in a regular series of blog posts from an outspoken medic

Teresa site

The below two articles are taken from the Medihuanna website, an initiative by NSW GP Dr Teresa Towpik aimed at encouraging fellow medics in the field of medicinal cannabis. Further blog posts by Dr Towpik will be reproduced by this website on a regular basis, including a third post published this week.

Post 1: Doctors Impression from The Hemp Expo

There I was at the Sydney Hemp Expo May 2017, talking to real people sharing their life stories with me. It wasn’t the lab, it was real life, right there in the field. A person came to me who suffered from debilitating pain due to post herpetic neuralgia, nothing was helping, benzos, opioids, Lyrica, nsaids.

His life was a total misery, unable to cope, pain was affecting every aspect of his life. Everything revolved around managing his pain, it almost became like a job. His pain basically never left, just fluctuated, but no complete relief.

Then his friend suggested he try pot. He’d never had it before and was afraid to break the law, but because he was so exhausted from constant suffering, he felt he had nothing to lose so decided to go ahead.

The first few puffs were a life changing experience, complete resolution of pain – wow, what a relief – finally something worked. He now smokes; just few puffs per day with no psychoactive effects. He is not a drug addict, he never used it before and he doesn’t want to break the law in order to obtain his medicine. He stopped all of the previous medications, cannabis is enough.

Another person came to me and said ‘I had a throat tumour and I was told by the doctors two years ago that nothing can be done for me, that I am going to die‘. He told me he felt he had nothing to lose so he started to use cannabis and he is still here two years later.

And so on: people kept on coming to my stand and shared similar stories of healing. People are making these decisions because they have nothing to lose – it is a huge movement and we as doctors can’t ignore it; it is simply unstoppable now.

We need to embrace it and educate ourselves otherwise we will be left behind. Our current attitudes support the black market because desperate patients are sick and tired of having to jump through bureaucratic hoops and loops in order to obtain their medicine. The black market shouldn’t be the source for medical advice, as doctors should be the ones who guide and support them.

There are no reported deaths due to cannabis overdose. It may have variable effects; it appears to be a miracle drug for some and not so helpful for others. I am not claiming here that it is a panacea for everything but it can certainly help many people and most importantly it is very safe except some psychoactive effects that can be minimised if we know exactly what we are using.

So often we hear from the doctors that there is not enough evidence. This is simply not true. Sometimes, this ‘lack of evidence’ argument is a convenient excuse to cover our prejudice and fear of sticking our heads up. Which is understandable to some degree in the case of cannabis because of all the prejudice associated with it.

If we only focus on evidence base and studies in the lab, we may miss out on other very important aspects of healing – emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, karmic. These aspects are outside of scope of scientific research. We definitely need ongoing, rigorous studies; that’s how we operate in our society but at the same time we need to see the bigger picture and understand that the evidence base is a map but not a territory and we shouldn’t confuse the two.

The evidence base has its limitations; so many times something that was supposedly evidence based and used by us has proved to be wrong. We need to be very open minded in regard to cannabis; our attitudes fuel the black market and support dishonest dealers providing products of bad quality and uncertain source. This is not medicine. Patients are making their own decisions but they want and need us doctors to guide and support them but if they don’t receive it they go elsewhere out of desperation.

People have the right to choose their way of healing and doctors are there to guide them with compassion and respect. We should be able to provide them with different options, pros and cons of different choices and let them decide. They need to fully understand different aspects of healing.

So, prohibition is not the answer, knowledge, wisdom and awareness is.

Post 2: Red Tape Blocking Access to Medicinal Cannabis for Patients

I watched the ABC 7:30 report on 26th July. The segment was called ‘Access Denied’.

My heart really went out to these parents with children who suffer from epilepsy. Especially the younger one. This child is suffering so much, taking multiple medications, which don’t help. The whole house was turned into a hospital ward. Her parents decided to try medicinal cannabis with good results, even though their doctors wouldn’t approve. Cannabis helped, but the parents are afraid to continue without medical guidance.

Their child suffers so much that they made an agonising decision – not to resuscitate in the case of cardiac arrest. How sad is this. And then we hear Dr Omar Khorsid, AMA President, warning doctors to be cautious and stating that we don’t know how dangerous cannabis is. Looks like Dr Khorsid needs a bit of education here.

Cannabis has been used by humanity for thousands of years. There are no reported deaths due to cannabis overdose which we know happens all the time with legally prescribed drugs even the ones over the counter, Aspirin, Panadol, etc. In fact, we are experiencing a huge epidemic of opioid dependence and associated problems. There was recent publicity about elderly patients in rural areas selling their OxyContin scripts to cover their funeral costs.

Cannabis was introduced to mainstream western medicine in the mid- 19th century by Irish physician Sir William O’Shaughnessy following his extensive work in British India. It was widely used in various forms, oral and topical applications for multiple medical conditions, including cough mixtures for children. Cannabis preparations were made by pharmacists and there were at least 2000 cannabis preparations prior to 1937.

The original sellers of cannabis were today’s major pharmaceutical companies including Eli Lilly, Parke-Davis and Squibb of Bristol-Myers-Squibb. So, what happened to humanity from five thousand years ago until 1937 when the ‘saviours of humanity’ such as Harry Anslinger and others decided to free us from the ‘evil, killer weed’ and introduce cannabis prohibition. Were all of these people including doctors and pharmacists crazy, mad, possessed, on drugs? Were they primitive, less educated, and intelligent than we are today?

Mind you it wasn’t doctors who made that decision in regards to cannabis prohibition; in fact Dr William Woodward who represented the American Medical Association challenged Anslinger’s claim that cannabis was a dangerous drug and predicted that banning it would strangle any medicinal use of the plant.

In September 1988 Francis L.Young , the chief administrative law judge of Drug Enforcement Administration presented a sixty nine page opinion regarding cannabis, which he called marijuana. He stated that ‘marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man‘ and ‘By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within supervised routine medical care. To deny marijuana to patients who need it would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious‘.

So, there you are Dr Khorsid, these are just very basic facts, there is much, much more information out there if only you want to find out.

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