Don’t DIY Your Healthcare

by Jill Becker, MD

Since the legalization of recreational cannabis in Massachusetts I’ve found that many people have taken to “DIY-ing” (do it yourself-ing) their own medical care – to their detriment. Oftentimes we see patients that have come to inhaleMD either from a “card mill” or who have tried to get advice from bud-tenders at dispensaries as to how to best treat their ailment. I’ve included a few of the comments I’ve heard over the past few months to, hopefully, elucidate why DIY-ing one’s own health care is never the best way to go.

“My cancer is treated at Dana Farber. They recommended your practice [inhaleMD], so I know you’re the best of the best.” So began my latest new patient visit. A very similar sentiment came from another patient just last week. I found this very reassuring given the vast number of patients whose care has been undermined by well-intended bud-tenders at various pot shops.

“I smoke pot around the clock, it helps with my anxiety.” Using cannabis in that manner can contribute to a cannabis use disorder, especially if youre among the younger part of the adult use age group. In addition, using cannabis this way can actually increase the symptoms of anxiety.

“I like to ‘wake and bake.’ I smoke pot when I wake up, and throughout the day. It prevents me from feeling nauseated and anxious.” These are some of the symptoms of cannabis overuse disorder. Waking and Baking is never what the doctor ordered.

“The bud-tender at the dispensary told me to put some resin on top of my flower to make it stronger.” Concentrated cannabis is good for only two things: getting super stoned and driving up tolerance, taking what might have been a useful medication and making it useless. Once again, not ordered by the doctor.

“I had no idea there was so much to this cannabis thing. I thought it was just about smoking pot.” And, that is the very reason for putting your health care in the hands of a trained professional, a cannabis specialist physician.

“I’m seriously interested in hearing how you got into the cannabis field and how it has evolved. We [doctors] used to get apprehensive to do the cards when medical cannabis was first approved. They were so unethical then. it sounds like you found a balance.” No, I haven’t found a balance. I have chosen to work with a practice and in a manner that conducts evidence-based medicine and is consistent with the ethics that all who practice medicine should be committed to.

“I need you to recommend a broad-spectrum CBD to treat my ___________ (fill in the blank).” CBD has been scientifically proven to be useful in mice and for children with rare seizure disorders. And the dosing is in the 10-20 milligram per kilogram range. So, even if it was useful, the cost would be prohibitive. Given that you are neither a mouse, nor a child (I see only adults), I do not recommend CBD. 

“The bud-tender at the dispensary also told me that your practice’s purchase limit is unfair and that I’m entitled to way more cannabis since I have a medical card.”  While this may be the case under Massachusetts law, it is not what is in the best interest of patients. In fact, I would no sooner tell you to go into a pharmacy and grab as much oxycodone as you wanted to than I would a psychoactive medication like cannabis.

And, while I’m back on the subject of bud-tenders…

“The bud-tender at the dispensary told me that I should be getting one strain for daytime and another for night time and a third when for when I’m twirling on my head.” The bud-tender has one job – to sell buds (and edibles, and topicals, and lubes, and whatever else they can get you to purchase). There is no science behind the suggestion that different strains consistently do different things. You might like one over another, but that’s personal preference, not science. And, just for clarity, I’ve yet to meet a bee that differentiates among cannabis strains. Therefore, when they are doing their bee-thing they are cross-pollinating. Meaning, there are no pure strains.

We, at inhaleMD, take the evidence-based science of cannabinoid medicine very seriously. We are able to synthesize current literature in the best interest of our patients. Hopefully this blogpost has served to express why DIY-ing one’s health care is not in their best interest. Should you wish to learn more, please contact us 617-477-8886. We would be happy to become a part of your treatment team.

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