Medical marijuana: a NY doctor’s perspective

According to one New York doctor, medical marijuana has shown potential for preventing tumors' ability to grow. Credit: Metro File Photo.
According to one New York doctor, medical marijuana has shown potential for preventing tumors’ ability to grow. Credit: Metro File Photo.

* All views expressed here are those of Dr. Craig Blinderman and do not reflect the views of New York Presbyterian Hospital. 

Dr. Craig Blinderman, a palliative care specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, is one of the New York physicians intrigued by the potential medical marijuana holds for treating pain.

“What we’re trying to do is restore some functioning, whether it’s physical or mental or whatever,” Blinderman said. There’s actually a lot of research that suggests that it has benefits in patients with chronic pain, no appetite, nausea.”

Despite an “exponential increase in research,” however, Blinderman said we’re “just barely scratching the surface of this very complex network” of “cannabinoid receptors” all over our bodies, from our brains to our immune systems.

He insisted that there’s no reason why something so ubiquitous in our bodies shouldn’t be allowed for medical use. 

“The problem is it’s associated with a huge stigma in our society, it’s remarkable just how much stigma is associated with it,” Blinderman said.

He emphasized that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in marijuana), is “not the only cannabinoid that exists.”

“Marijuana, the cannabis plant, contains a number of chemicals [and] can have dozens of different types of cannabinoids,” Blinderman explained. “There are some growers in California that are trying to actually tailor their plants so they can actually have different concentrations, like 20 percent THC or 10 percent cannabinol” (a non-psychoactive component).

These attempts are especially promising for making marijuana a truly effective medication.

“Let’s say the law‘s passed and I prescribe to a patient with severe nausea and pain, and the patient ends up feeling lethargic and spaced out and so forth,” Blinderman said. “I might seek out a different strain that has lower psychoactive qualities.”

Blinderman said there is already evidence suggesting that small doses of cannabis can have an “opioid sparing effect,” meaning one of the possible benefits of medical marijuana could be lessening a person’s need for opioids.

Opioids are very strong pain medications like oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. They are often used for cancer-related pain, and high doses can pose a lot of negative side effects. Cannabis, Blinderman said, may even affect the duration of pain relief and minimize withdrawal symptoms, which would not only decrease how much opioid a patient needs to take, but also how often it needs to be taken.

Blinderman rejects the reasoning that legalizing marijuana is dangerous because some people may use it for reasons other than pain management, pointing out that’s fairly common with prescription drugs already.

“People use ketamine recreationally, for example,” Blinderman explained. “It’s a powerful anesthetic, it’s used all the time, it’s great for pain.”

“Just the fact that people use it and go to dance parties, doesn’t mean I can’t prescribe it to someone with chronic pain, or depression for that matter,” Blinderman added.

Blinderman said he’s heard of studies showing that some elements in cannabis could have the ability to actually stop cancer from growing or spreading, by blocking key enzymes used in angiogenesis: blocking the enzymes prevents tumors from drawing in blood and growing.

“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think we’ve seen higher incidences of lung cancer” in patients using smokable marijuana to cope with chemotherapy. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no association between smoking marijuana and negative effects on lung functioning.

Ultimately, Blinderman is hopeful about the New York legislation, though expressed dismay at Senator Diane Savino’s rejection of “chronic pain” as a possible use for the substance. Savino said the term is too vague; the legislation instead lists specific illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and epilepsy.

“It should include all types of chronic pain, I think,” Blinderman said. “That’s too bad.”

But he said he understood Savino’s inclination to narrowly restrictive legislation, and called the California legislation “kind of a farce.”

“Anybody can get a prescription for it, for any kind of ailment,” Blinderman said. “It makes a joke out of it being medicinal.”

If medical marijuana were legal in New York state, Blinderman said he would consider recommending it for patients with pain, nausea, appetite problems, and patients having a rough time with chemo.

“Hopefully with more states passing it, there will be more opportunities for research to be done, and clinical testing,” Blinderman said. “Drugs with less evidence have been approved.”

Medical marijuana: the political

Medical marijuana: the personal

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…