Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

How Practice Changes Us

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

How Practice Changes Us

Article excerpt

I have learned a few things in my almost half-century of hurtling through space with all of you on this fragile blue-green rock. My most recent enlightenment is that the universe has a way of flipping our certitude on its head. Mental acrobatics requires flexibility, requiring us to bend so we don't break.

On July 1, Minnesota began allowing clinicians to certify patients for "intractable pain" as a qualifying condition for the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. Recall that medical marijuana is a Schedule I drug, and we cannot prescribe it. These programs are set up in such a way that the only role a clinician plays is to certify patients with qualifying conditions. This allows a patient to pay a registration fee and visit a cannabis patient center, where a pharmacist will recommend cannabis dose and type.

Months before this, I was waxing professorial about our lack of certainty about dosing and efficacy of medical marijuana. Then I met a 30-year-old with chronic back pain.

She had been evaluated by every subspecialist. This patient was taking and failing supertherapeutic doses of NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and gabapentin. No more surgical options existed. She had been removed from opioid contracts for aberrant behavior. She had had a hysterectomy for severe bleeding. She was in pain and asking for help.

She relates to you that street marijuana has helped with the pain, but she is worried about being arrested and losing her job. Do we put her on another opioid contract? Do we throw up our hands in defeat, apologize, and show her the door?

Serendipitously, I ran across a study evaluating the relationship between cannabis use over a 20-year period and health conditions. The study by Madeline Meier, PhD, and her colleagues evaluated 1,037 New Zealanders followed into their late 30s. …

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