Kamloops physician Ian Mitchell explains how cannabis relieves pain and reduces anxiety

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Dr. Ian Mitchell says that in an ideal world, physicians would learn about the medicinal properties of cannabis in medical school. Doctors would be trained about different extracts from marijuana plants, including cannabidiol, aka CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC.

      But the Kamloops emergency-room physician tells the Georgia Straight by phone that the vast majority of doctors haven’t been educated in this area.

      As a result, some are not aware that the CBD extract has proven useful in sharply reducing seizures in children with a rare condition called Dravet syndrome, as well as in other situations.

      “It’s been tested in studies to be an effective antipsychotic,” Mitchell says. “It can be used as an anti-anxiety medication and it’s also anti-inflammatory. So it has great potential for inflammatory diseases like arthritis and Crohn’s disease.”

      CBD and THC differences not well understood

      Mitchell says knowledge of CBD and THC is essential in properly prescribing cannabis to patients suffering from pain linked to cancer, AIDS, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. He points out that some people’s stomachs can’t tolerate traditional anti-inflammatory medications, which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.

      “I have a few little old ladies in my practice,” he reveals. “They have a cookie every night and say, ‘I don’t take my Percocet anymore.’ I would consider that a success because that’s a far less harmful way to treat their pain.”

      Mitchell says that CBD is normally about one to two percent of a marijuana plant, whereas the psychoactive agent THC is over 10 percent and getting closer to 20 percent.

      Drug prohibition has led to plants being grown with a higher THC percentage because that’s what buyers prefer. The downside, he says, is that plants with higher THC levels often have drastically lower levels of CBD.

      “You don’t have the antipsychotic and anti-anxiety properties,” Mitchell explains. “So all of the sudden, you’re smoking this very intense stuff that in the U.K. they call skunk. That probably does make people a bit psychotic and probably does make people very anxious, but this is because of prohibition.

      “That’s part of the argument for proper regulations—so that you could choose stuff to have cannabidiol,” he adds. “I consider that essential in a medical-cannabis situation. I want to know what my patients are getting as far as the THC and CBD content.”

      Research planned into PTSD and cannabis

      He's part of a team awaiting approval from UBC and Health Canada to launch a study into the effect of different preparations of cannabis on posttraumatic stress disorder. He points out that PTSD is taking a tremendous toll on military families in particular.

      "This is a huge deal in America," Mitchell says. "Right now, there are 22 veterans a day who commit suicide."

      Paxil is the only medication that's approved for treating PTSD, but according to Mitchell, it doesn't work for most people. He says that there is "very good preliminary evidence that cannabis can be effective".

      "Some of the synthetic cannabinoids like nabilone have been shown effective for nightmares associated with PTSD," Mitchell states.

      He reveals that in the pending research study—the first trial of its kind—one group of research subjects would receive cannabis with CBD but no THC. Another group would consume cannabis with CBD and THC. Another would get cannabis with THC but no CBD and others would receive a placebo.

      "Even looking at the THC alone versus the THC and cannabidiol [offers] an the opportunity to test out the effect of this cannabidiol in a real-world situation," he said.

      The researchers are hoping to recruit participants in the fall.

      ReaLeaf offers advice to those seeking legal cannabis

      Meanwhile, Mitchell is a consultant with ReaLeaf Wellness Centres, which counsels patients who want to obtain cannabis legally through the federal government’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. After paying a fee, ReaLeaf clients obtain discounts from licensed producers. To buy marijuana legally, a patient requires a physician’s signature.

      “The authorization document is similar to a prescription,” he says. “Generally, it contains the patient’s demographic information and the physician’s information.”

      The document sets out how much cannabis can be used per day—the maximum is five grams—and the length of time the patient will be using it. The maximum is one year.

      Mitchell says that licensed producers are only permitted to supply dried herbs from marijuana plants.

      “You can’t order any edibles and you can’t order any oils,” he notes. “So you’re going to be smoking, vaporizing, or possibly cooking it.”

      This has created a niche for dispensaries, which sell extracts, oils, and edibles. Dispensaries operate in a grey area since the Harper government required Canadians to buy medical cannabis from licensed suppliers.

      "It just seems like right now, they have free rein to open up," Mitchell says. "You can go in and buy a cookie from them or buy one of these cannabinoid extracts. You can't do that from the licensed producers. That's the biggest difficulty that patients have right now in dealing with the licensed producers. They don't have that variety of product."



      Wayne Pettipas

      Mar 19, 2015 at 10:22am

      I think the government is taking away our right to grow, and cashing in on the pot . That's it in a nut shell.

      Rande Treen

      Mar 19, 2015 at 11:14am

      I have MS and would like a license / prescription to possess, but I haven't found a doctor in Saskatoon that will help.
      Does anyone know of a doctor in Saskatoon that will prescribe ?

      Scott hartman

      Mar 19, 2015 at 11:34am

      You are a inspiration ian and a awesome family man keep up your great work


      Mar 19, 2015 at 3:26pm

      A life saver for me. :) starting to feel positive again.


      Mar 19, 2015 at 8:19pm

      I have a friend that uses the cream to ease the pain from her fibromialgia.
      It works wonders for her.
      Lets keep the damn government Out of this!

      @ Rande

      Mar 20, 2015 at 3:57am

      Have you looked into Lyme Disease (totally treatable) symptoms are identical to MS
      Look into it in depth, do some research


      Mar 20, 2015 at 10:16am

      Too little, too late. The model of treating people as human resources, managed feed-lot style by Physicians, Dentists, Chiropractors, etc. is repugnant to freedom. The only people it profits are the members of the "health professions" (medieval style guilds) who make a ton of money not because they are highly educated and competent but because there is no one else competing.

      This is further compounded by the disincentive to heal people with nutrition---you're not going to generate customers that way. It's time to drop the simpering gradeschool naivete about how Teacher/Doctor just has our best interests at heart. Bullshit. Teacher/doctor wants to make a better than average wage, that is all. Any nonsense about "helping others" is simply a lack of insight on the part of the teacher/doctor, a bit of PR that the poor dear has convinced himself of in order to make it easier to con others. Look at the priesthood: the most efficient congame ever, in history, and many of them believe it. If you can con yourself, you will be better able to con others.

      The putative statutes controlling drugs are void. The very reason that people enter into government historically, as numerous cross-cultural studies demonstrate, is for security of property. Only someone who is _actually psychotic_ would enter into a government that would rob him of his drugs. If you are not allowed to possess drugs, you're the slave of whoever controls that aspect of your life.

      Within a few decades of the British Empire having freed its slaves, we got drug prohibition and college monopolies. Old habits die hard.

      ggeobc I

      Mar 21, 2015 at 10:48am

      Health Canada sponsors the biggest grow opp in the world pays the Saskatchewan farmer around $900.00 /kg and sells it to the sick for $7 /g, you do the math. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are now trying to corner the medical cannabis industry by attempting to prevent the sick from growing their own and demanding they only buy the dried product directly from Health Canada. The Conservatives are using the excessive profits (700 % markup )to balance the budget in times of reduced revenue and high unemployment, making themselves look good in the eyes of the public.

      After 2 years of study by the government's own LeDain commission and another intensive study on long term users, the Rastafarians of Jamaica, we know there is insufficient evidence of harm from using cannabis to warrant any prohibition of cannabis, certainly not enough to warrant criminality. There is no need for government controls of any kind, cannabis needs to be completely legalized, anyone can grow it, anyone can sell it in any way, shape or form.

      Legalize cannabis now!

      monica fraese

      Mar 21, 2015 at 1:49pm

      this is long overdue..!.. idk why so many uneducated doctors are manipulating our health.. at least now some are doing honest research... why do ppl need to suffer unneccessarily because of ignorance..?