Dr. Sanjay Gupta — CNN’s chief medical correspondent — revealed on a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” this week that he’s “doubling down on the legalization of medical marijuana.”
In the AMA, Gupta tried to dispel some medical myths about pot and pointed out that it’s safer than many narcotic pain pills that doctors prescribe.
Gupta has waged a campaign to change perceptions about pot and argue for its medical legalization since he changed his opinion on the issue in August.
Here are a few highlights from the AMA:
Can you confirm whether marijuana is addictive or not?
Studies have shown that about 9% of people develop an addiction to marijuana. It’s likely more psychological than physical. Simply put: if the use of marijuana is interfering with other aspects of your life and you can’t control that, you may be developing a psychological addiction. For context — the addiction rate for alcohol is 15%, heroine 25%, cocaine 20%, and tobacco comes in the highest at 30%. With those substances, the addiction is more physical.
What is the single most profound piece of quantifiable data (or perhaps a correlation) that convinced you that medical marijuana was a legitimate medication?
The studies about cannabis and epilepsy were very compelling. Also, the use of cannabis as a treatment for neuropathic pain and Multiple Sclerosis. I think people should know that cannabis is being used a legitimate medication in hospitals all over the world. In fact, a medication for Multiple Sclerosis that is cannabis based, is now approved in 25 countries around the world, but not the United States.
Would you recommend medical marijuana to traumatic brain injury patients?
I think we will get to the point where this is a viable treatment option. You should look at the data around patent 6630507. It is a patent held by our own Department of Health and Human Services for this very reason.
[The patent concerns using marijuana as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant.]
Does smoking hurt your memory or is this myth?
It seems to affect everybody in the short-term. But it has more of a long-term impact in people who use it while their brain is still developing (roughly anyone under the age of 25).
Why isn’t the federal government taking cannabis off of Schedule I?
It’s a great question, and was the focus of an op-ed i wrote back in August.
I don’t think marijuana meets the criteria for Schedule I. That would mean it is among the most dangerous substances and has no medicinal benefit. Neither of those statements are factual.
What do you feel could be the long term negative aspects and positive aspects of consistent recreational use of marijuana?
I think that in the developing brain – which neuroscience says is below the age of 25 – I have concerns about consistent marijuana use. Beyond that, there has not been much science to show long-term negative side effects for marijuana use. We do have cannabinoid receptors throughout our body and we know that our body makes cannabinoids. So we are learning more and more about the potential positive benefits of cannabis.
What are your thoughts towards using high percentage CBD strains to help people with Anxiety? Do you think that using CBD in combination with therapy could be effective and less dangerous than other drugs such as Prozac or Xanax?
I think so. We have a better understanding of how CBD works in the brain, and the receptors where it binds. There are many prescription drugs that have a much higher risk than cannabis, but are prescribed often. Narcotics, in particular. We consume 80% of the world’s pain meds in the United States.
What is the best method of marijuana ingestion?
It is probably vaporizing. I think smoking creates a lot of byproducts that we don’t know enough about. I think eating it leads to very uneven absorption. Vaporizing seems to activate the medicine without burning it. I also think oils absorbed in the mouth are effective, especially for kids.
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