The New Haven Register reports on a Connecticut cannabis doctor who wants to heal people.
Dr. Stephen Brown started his career as a reconstructive surgeon in the Vietnam War repairing cleft lips and palates in a Saigon field hospital. After his retirement as a surgeon he missed having contact with patients and caring for people. When a fellow physician from McGill University Health Centre invited him to a seminar on medical marijuana, he accepted. The invite came from Dr. Mark Ware, executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids.
Dr. Brown says speaking to Dr. Ware made him feel he was talking to someone who knew what they were talking about; he was a real doctor, and was promoting medicinal cannabis as a tool for other doctors. Brown decided to give the field a try after he heard accounts of anxiety being reduced in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and seizures diminished in epilepsy patients.
Dr. Brown registered 15 months ago as a certifying physician, and he believes the majority of the 700 patients he has seen have benefited from medical marijuana. He takes pride in his role as a physician, and he spends time with each patient to familiarize himself with their detailed medical history. Afterwards, he follows up on each patient. He says it is a great opportunity to be a healer again.
Patients must be certified under state law to register with one of eight dispensaries run by pharmacists to buy medical marijuana. Patients can buy up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per month in a variety of forms from herbal cannabis to oil, strips or even cookies.
The best medical marijuana program
The Connecticut medical marijuana program is the best in the country according to Dr. Brown. It is overseen by the Department of Consumer Protection, and it is run on a pharmaceutical model. Currently 512 doctors are registered in the state.
More or less 50% of Brown’s patients have PSTD, but only 10% of them are veterans who has been to war, the rest faced all-too-common traumas says Brown, rape, assault, and people being shot in their presence have traumatized many. He says the amount of violence we see is horrific.
The symptoms treated include anxiety and sleeplessness for which medical marijuana is a great treatment. Brown says patients return to him saying they just feel so much better than they have in ages.
Dr. Brown says he encourages his patients to go into psychotherapy, as well as using medical marijuana. Even though studies have not been done, he has heard many accounts from people with PTSD and other health conditions who found that symptoms were either reduced or completely alleviated.
It is very important to him that patients stay in touch with him. He says he wants to hear from them and know how they are doing.
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Parkinson’s patient unfreeze and more
One of his patients, Peter, a 89 year old with Parkinson’s disease, suffered what is called “Parkinsonian freeze,” which left him unable to take a step. One day, he held up his hands to Dr. Brown and said, “Look doctor, look at this! I am not hesitating, I am not frozen, I have a progressive, neurological disease, but I am not progressing”.
Brown says of the 20 Parkinson’s patients he has seen only one was not helped by medical marijuana. The other condition in which he has seen a remarkable difference through using medical cannabis is epilepsy. One patient had up to 100 petit mal seizures a day, but after he started on medical marijuana he has been seizure free for a year.
Crohn’s disease patients reported an increase in appetite, and a decrease in symptoms such as diarrhea and intestinal bleeding. Many people, including doctors, accept that marijuana reduces nausea from chemotherapy, but Brown says cannabis might have other benefits for cancer patients, such as reducing major lymphedema, swelling in legs. He says no one is saying cannabis cures cancer, but he has heard reports from patients treated by two different oncologists who are getting better, and the only thing they can ascribe this to is cannabis.
He says cannabis also reduces intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma and a topical ointment in the form of oil improves dry skin caused by psoriasis.
No bad effects
He says pain can be reduced by 50% and believes that cannabis has the potential to replace addictive opioids. Some of his patients go off opioids completely. He says he has not seen any bad effects of cannabis in any of his patients.
He says clinically, it makes a great difference in the quality of people’s lives, and if he can improve someone’s quality of life, then he is doing his job as a physician. He points out there hasn’t always been a stigma attached to marijuana, but its use was severely curbed in 1937 by the Marihuana Tax Act. In 1970 the federal government listed it as a Schedule 1 drug along with cocaine and heroin because it allegedly had no health benefit. He says he believes it has tremendous health benefits.
Director of the Hartford Health Care Cancer Institute, Dr. Salner said Brown is a highly regarded surgeon who decided to apply himself to an area where he is needed. He is someone who is singularly going to devote himself to certify medical marijuana patients appropriately.
Salner said Connecticut has thoughtfully created a program that is as fraud-resistant as it could possibly be.
It is cannabis doctors like these who will see many patients on the road to recovery, and they will hopefully pave the way for more doctors who would like to become healers again.