Monday, November 15, 2010

Medical Marijuana - Will My Doctor Prescribe It?

It was time to call my doctor to ask if she would write a medical marijuana prescription  for me. Suddenly, I found myself getting nervous, trepidatious. Would she be upset with me? Scold me? Be disappointed in me? These thoughts overwhelmed me. But then I thought, “What a shame!” that our society has made me feel apprehensive about talking to my doctor regarding my medical needs. After all, during my annual check-up, my doctor and I talk about my health, and she regularly asks me if I use alcohol or tobacco. And I feel completely comfortable telling her the truth. Yet because of the stigma associated with marijuana, I feel uncomfortable discussing medical marijuana.

Then I began to wonder, “Could she get in trouble for talking to me about medical marijuana? Could she lose her medical license?” So before calling her and possibly putting her in a situation where she could risk losing her license, I decided to do a little research.

I discovered that doctors are not allowed to write prescriptions for marijuana because it’s classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. If a doctor writes a prescription for marijuana, then they can have their DEA registration revoked and no longer be allowed to write prescriptions for any medications listed as controlled substances. And for doctors, losing their DEA registration can severely limit the medications that they can prescribe, which can effectively put them out of business.  However, California doctors can openly discuss marijuana and whether it may be beneficial for their patients. California’s Proposition 215 allows doctors to recommend marijuana to their patients, and for patients to possess marijuana. It’s good to know that I need to ask my doctor for a recommendation, not a prescription.

But I’m still nervous about calling her.

Why? Because of an experience I had with my wife’s doctor. He’s a pain management specialist. His focus is specific: he helps people manage their chronic pain with medications. The meds are taken orally, or can be injected directly into the site where the pain occurs. My wife requires both oral meds and injections to manage her chronic pain. What concerns us both about these medications are the potential side effects she may suffer. To manage her pain she has prescriptions for Hydrocodone, Methadone, and Lidocaine, and also gets steroid injections. These are potent meds, and their long-term use can cause other physical problems, including addiction. From what I have learned about medical marijuana, it has shown efficacy as a pain-management alternative to these other drugs, is significantly less harmful physically, and is virtually non-addictive.

So during one of our bi-monthly visits with her doctor, as my wife was lying on a table and he was slowly inserting a four-inch long syringe needle deep into her hip to inject a cocktail of meds at the pain site, I innocently asked whether he could write her a prescription for medical marijuana. He glanced up at me, eyes-widening, and said, “What?!! You want me to lose my license?!!”  He was half-joking, but was also half-serious. I replied, “Of course not! I was just curious. It’s not a big deal.” And that was the end of our discussion. He’s a an excellent doctor and we have a great relationship. He has helped my wife tremendously for several years… and I do NOT want him to risk losing his license. From that experience, though, I learned to be wary of asking doctors about prescriptions for medical marijuana. We never discussed the subject again.

So given my apprehension about contacting my doctor to discuss getting a recommendation for medical marijuana, I decided to search for doctors already known to give recommendations.

And I discovered that there are plenty of doctors willing to give medical marijuana recommendations.

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