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Sanjay Gupta’s “WEED” Documentary

Sanjay Gupta’s “WEED” Documentary

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary on weed. How Dr. Sanjay Gupta changed his view on medical marijuana. (CNN) — Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called “Weed.” The title “Weed” may sound cavalier, but the content is not. I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning. Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled “Why I would Vote No on Pot.” Well, I am here to apologize. I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.” They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of...
Guidance on Alternative Therapies for Lowering BP

Guidance on Alternative Therapies for Lowering BP

Hypertension affects about 26% of adults worldwide and ranks as the leading chronic risk factor for mortality. The prevalence of hypertension is projected to affect more than 1.5 billion people by 2025, according to recent estimates. About half of all strokes and ischemic heart disease events are attributable to high blood pressure (BP). “An important component of preventing the adverse consequences of hypertension is to adopt lifestyle changes that reduce BP,” says Robert D. Brook, MD. “Several lifestyle approaches have been promoted in guidelines.” These include losing weight, reducing sodium and alcohol intake, adopting a Dietary Approaches to Lower Hypertension (or DASH) eating pattern, and aerobic exercise for 30 minutes on most days per week. Several scientific statements on different approaches to caring for hypertension have been released by various organizations in an effort to address the problem. To further these efforts, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a scientific statement in 2013 that provides recommendations for alternative approaches to lowering BP that go beyond medications and diet. The AHA published the statement in Hypertension. Dr. Brook, who chaired the panel that developed the AHA scientific statement, says there are few large, well-designed studies lasting longer than a few weeks that look at alternative therapies, but he adds that many patients still ask about their value. “Patients often say that they don’t like to take medications and ask about other strategies they can use to lower their BP. The goal of the AHA scientific statement was to provide direction for clinicians when these situations come up.”   Recommendation Highlights For the AHA scientific statement, an expert panel assessed three...

Like a Duck: When Quackery and Modern Medicine Collide

Even in the day of the Information Superhighway, patients take the wrong exit to Misinformation Ave. Protoscience, pseudoscience, anti-science, spiritualism, mysticism and plain falsehoods flood some minds at the speed of thought, thanks to the overwhelming white noise of all the advertising methods in existence. Each day I power on my computer, I am bombarded by dozens of ads for colon cleanses, cancer cures, depression eradication methods, an — my personal giggle switch — male enhancement. After more than 7 years in emergency, sports, and urgent care medicine, I have not only learned to avoid the many false leads that spew from media, but have encountered hundreds, if not thousands, who haven’t. Whether it’s a patient who’s developed dyspepsia from downing a gallon of Dr. Oz’s latest miracle fruit juice, or stories of African Witch Doctors (if that’s even the politically correct term these days) who murder albinos and grind their bones into AIDS cures, the consequences can range from discomfort to death. Colleagues who have practices in Clearwater, FL, tell me of Scientologists whose spiritual advisers sign them out with life-threatening conditions. Others who have worked with MSF or gone on mission trips tell me of poisonous wonder drugs from the Sub-Saharan region. All these dangerous concoctions have one thing in common: They’re near impossible to talk their believers out of. It’s always a touchy subject when someone asks you about some breaking news story from last week, or tells you they’ve been eating raw seeds from local plants and think they may have a B16 deficiency. You’ll either be met with hostility or a barrage of “why”...

Guidance for Using CAM to Manage Pain

There are many different treatment options available to lessen the effects of chronic pain, improve functioning, and enhance quality of life. According to current estimates, more than 116 million Americans are living with chronic pain. Physicians who manage patients with chronic pain often find it challenging to treat because what works for one person doesn’t always work for another (see also, Striving Toward Quality Pain Management). Effective pain management plans must be individualized, and integrative approaches—which include a combination of treatment options—are often needed. CAM Use More Common to Manage Pain Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is increasingly being used by patients to assist in their fight against chronic pain. CAM has been defined as a group of diverse practices and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine as practiced by physicians and allied health professionals. CAM practices are often grouped into two broad categories: 1) natural products and 2) mind and body medicine. “More than 83 million people in the United States use some form of CAM therapy to manage and treat their health problems, including pain.” It’s estimated that more than 83 million people in the United States use some form of CAM therapy to manage and treat their health problems, including pain. More than $33.9 billion a year is spent on out-of-pocket visits to CAM practitioners and for the purchase of CAM products, classes, and materials. Some of the most common pain-related reasons people seek CAM therapies are for back, joint, and neck pain, arthritis, severe headaches or migraines, and fibromyalgia. An Important Initiative on CAM Education To further educate healthcare providers, the...
Most Americans Using Alternative Therapies: Consumer Reports

Most Americans Using Alternative Therapies: Consumer Reports

A Consumer Reports survey found that while most Americans would choose prescription drugs to treat 12 common conditions, roughly 75% partake in alternative therapies, such as yoga and acupuncture. The survey of 45,601 people suggests that about 38 million adults nationwide visit acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and other complementary therapy providers a combined 300 million times per year, according to the publication’s report. While dietary supplements ranked well below OTC medications in many cases, chiropractic treatment, deep-tissue massage, and yoga dominated the list of alternative therapies for back and neck pain and osteoarthritis. Furthermore, 73% of respondents said they took mainstream vitamins and minerals, making these the most widely used alternatives for general health; other dietary supplements (57%) and mind-body or hands-on therapies (~20%) were also reported as alternatives. When Consumer Reports asked respondents why they chose a given alternative treatment, most people said they were simply “a proponent” of it. “Some people use these therapies because it’s just the way they were raised,” said Richard Nahin, PhD, MPH, senior adviser, scientific coordination and outreach, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH. He added that some respondents said they had gone through a transformational process that made them look at life differently. Some believed—in many cases mistakenly—that dietary supplements are safer than prescription medications because they are natural. Others chose alternatives to avoid the side effects of prescription medications for some conditions. The survey also suggests that physicians are selective when endorsing dietary supplements. They tended to direct patients toward fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin, which have some clinical evidence behind them. And although quite rare, according to...
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