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Adventures in Sleep

Medical Marijuana

Published July 17, 2014 11:10 AM by Penny Mehaffey

I am curious about the opinions of my peers regarding medical marijuana. It's a hot topic lately and especially so in my area. Our governor was in for a visit last week to underscore his support of continuing research in the use of marijuana to help treat seizures in children. Our pediatric neurologist is very interested in researching cannabidiol with his severe patients. He has one child who has upwards of 60 seizures a day.  

I live in the Bible Belt and change does not always come easily or quickly here. I am in support of the research. I think the stigma attached to marijuana research is legitimate, but I also believe we shouldn't let that stop us from investigating the benefits to be derived from cannabidiol. 

Marijuana is not the first drug of ill repute to be harnessed for medicinal purposes. I think in this day and age we should be open to finding the facts or seeking the truth about this drug and how we can use it to our patients' benefit. It is, after all, a chemical just as the rest of our medications are.

The potential for, and history of, misuse for this drug is a fact, but that is true in many instances -- consider the myriad of narcotic pain medications we have today. 

There are 20 or so states that have legalized medical marijuana. It has been demonstrated to have medical benefits for AIDS/HIV, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, asthma  and breathing disorders, Crohn's disease, epilepsy/seizures, glaucoma, hepatitis C, migraines, multiple sclerosis/muscle spasms, nausea/ chemotherapy side effects, pain, psychological conditions and Tourette syndrome. Let's try and think clearly and objectively about this research and not limit it based on the stigma it currently carries.
posted by Penny Mehaffey


I have a niece with severe seizure disorders who also has special needs.  She has multiple types of seizures many times a day.  She is 21 and has tried EVERY seizure medication under the sun and none work or work for very long.  There are different strains of marijuana and ways that they can take out most of the THC (the portion that gets you "high").  Studies have shown that there needs to be some small portion of the THC left to have it work sufficiently for seizures.  They make this available in an oil form - so no smoking and no overdosing on candy flavored medication.  As a Respiratory Therapist/Sleep Technologist I am very concerned about the smoking of medical marijuana (except in end of life situations ie: cancer) and the long term effects it can have.  I hope that studies will continue before any more states allow recreational use.  Unfortunately, we can look to those states who already have recreational use to be our "study subjects"...if you will.

Kate, Sleep - Senior Case Manager July 23, 2014 12:05 PM

Don't let where or whatever Belt you were raised in choke you from informing your self. With the availability of vaporizers, smoking is pretty stupid. I purchased my first vaporizer about fifteen years ago and it still works as good as the day I bought it.

Sativex is a spray applied to the tongue available in Israel, parts of Europe, and Canada

Tim knox, respiratory - RT July 23, 2014 11:18 AM
Miami FL

One thing that really bothers me about all of the media discussion of the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana as particularly a recreational drug, is that no one is discussing the potential health hazard to the lungs. Anything we inhale in the form of smoke (and possibly vapor) is damaging to the lungs and may contribute to chronic lung disease. The general public seems to have the misconception that it does not do the same harm to the lungs as cigarette smoke, especially our youth. Although more research is needed, this needs to be addressed.

Cindy July 23, 2014 9:51 AM

Come was the numero UNO drug in the Pharmcopeia of 1856! They used it for EVERYTHING!! We've come a long way from those days, but what I am seeing is a society that is FINALLY in small steps returning to SANITY. We lock people UP for mere possession of this drug? Get REAL.

   Drug testing policies, work policies are going to have to be changed to reflect this reality. We are finally inching away from the Orwellian nightmare that was jammed down our throats in the 80's. And nope, I don't use it, and wouldn't even should it become legal to do so recreationally in my state.

Marc, Sleep - Reg. Polysom Tech July 23, 2014 9:46 AM
Santa Fe NM

This topic has a lot of polarizing opinions associated with it. I am very much in favor of a treatment that alleviates  patients symptoms, whatever they might be. I believe this could be a major component of treatment for many disorders from PTSD  to chronic pain. I have seen people react very negatively to the use of marijuana as medicine. I attribute this to the stigma that has been attached through the years of misinformation and manipulation of facts.  Let patients whom suffer maladies offer their opinion on what is efficacious. Did these same individuals whom act demonstratively argue against other medications derived from plants? It grows naturally on the earth with natural compounds that we can use to benefit mankind. These are to be used and not abused, we as educators and facilitators can influence this in a positive way.  

Mike, Sleep - Lead Tech July 22, 2014 9:51 PM

I live in Colorado so we not only have medical marijuana but recreational marijuana as well. I work for an HCA facility and we are told that we cannot use marijuana regardless and it is grounds for dismissal according to our HR dept. This seems a bit insane since it is a substance that stays in your bloodstream for many days and clearly is not an indication that you are necessarily "high." We also do not allow pts. to use it medicinally in our hospital either. Our Drs. substitute marinol if a person uses it at home.

I am curious to see what happens as we research medicinal uses. As an RT, smoking anything just doesn't seem appropriate however there have been several instances in our state where people and pets have reportedly overdosed on edibles as the dose is so high. Smoking has not been associated with any kind of overdosing. It can also be vaporized which is being touted as a safer method.

It will be interesting to see what research shows in the long run as it has been used medicinally for centuries but has not been researched that well because it has been illegal. Clearly it is beneficial for some diagnoses. And what about the side effects? Lots to learn-just like with any herbal or natural remedy that western medicine has not typically used.

I do think if the inhaled route such as vaporizing turns out to have less side effects and catches on with physicians, as in "they often prescribe it," that RT's could have a role in administering. That would be interesting. Guess we'll see...

Melanie, Respiratory Coord. July 22, 2014 8:39 PM
Denver CO

What, why and where is the fear of anybody, to have for those who are in a need of a solution that does allow them to have an alternative choice to alleviate their pain, discomfort or medical necessity as long as they are informed, educated and have a willing physician to help guide them with their personal choice of care.

Pedro', Respiratory/Pulmonary/Sleep - Healthcare Provider, Dreamland Unit July 22, 2014 7:02 PM
gainesville FL

I am a CRT/RPSGT and I too, feel that thier maybe many benefits that medicinal marijuana can be use for. I once did a paper on the pros and cons of it's use and to be honest there are really no studies to prove anything for or against. We as a nation have always just dealt with this being a bad drug when it has been and will always be found around the world. Plus remember this is a plant not a chemical produce in a lab. yes it does have chemical compounds once it is lit but what doesn't. The years of  saying it is a gate way drug is behinds us. Let those who it helps help. Lets do more testing to find out. Now I have read you don't even have to smoke it. So even that is a thing of the past, so I am one who is pro medical until proven otherwise. I hope I am not alone. Good luck for those who need it. I wish you well

Vincent, Sleep - Lead Tech, Hospital July 22, 2014 5:32 PM

I am also interested in seeing more research on the medical use of marijuana.  Finding out that entire families have relocated to states where the drug is legal (for medical purposes), in order to help their seriously ill children, made a big impression on me. It must be helping the kids.

In addition, I am curious about the ramifications regarding hospital employees who are using medical marijuana. I'm a respiratory therapist, and my last two hospitals required drug testing as part of the hiring process. Both jobs were long before the days of medical marijuana use. One place in particular, required me to list all prescription and non-prescription drugs I had used. I had been prescribed a benzodiazepem prior to a medical procedure I had recently undergone. I listed the drug on the questionnaire. But, a few days after I took the drug test, I received a frantic call from the HR department of the facility.  The HR representative wanted me to know that I had tested positive for benzodiazapene! My first response would have been, "so what?". But since this woman seemed so agitated, I reminded her that the particular drug had been documented. I was required to immediately return to the HR office, so she could make a copy of my prescription bottle. I did get the job.

Thinking back on how this person reacted to a "positive" drug test, I wonder what would happen to a potential employee if he/she had been using medicinal marijuana. Are any hospital employees currently working who've had experience with this?

Judith, Respiratory/Pulmonary - RCP, Providence July 18, 2014 11:12 PM

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    Adventures in Sleep
    Occupation: Sleep technicians
    Setting: Various sleep facilities
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