What marijuana culture is or will become has been widely discussed by many. To one small group of doctors, though, that culture means little. For these doctors, their patients are the only ones who matter.
Nick Spirtos, M.D., the Medical Director of the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada, and four other doctors have decided to focus on the science of medicinal marijuana and study the effects of its use on their patients.
The group consists of doctors that specialize in a spectrum of medical conditions ranging from cancer to pain and seizures. Their goal is to reduce opiate addiction and the side effects of current medication used to treat these conditions.
This group of doctors created the Apothecary Shoppe, a dispensary located across the street from Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. This dispensary is not your typical pot shop, and a lot of thought has been put into its appearance and how it is run. The group feels that the place should look and feel like a pharmacy, so as to differentiate it, and themselves, from the recognized marijuana culture.
“Whether you want to feel good or use it as medicine, that’s fine,” Dr. Spirtos said. “But we see it as medicine, and if it’s medicine, then we need to treat it and study it like medicine.”
The shoppe has a variety of medications available for its patients. Edibles, waxes, and even lotions are among some of the options, in case a patient wants to try something other than flowers. Patients are assigned their own concierge who helps them find what they need.
“When they come in, we ask them what is their pain level and what is it that they’re looking for,” said the shoppe’s Manager of the Concierge, Alfonso Moore. “Some people are in so much pain, that they are in tears. It’s our job to understand them, help them, and prescribe the right medication for them.”
Many of their patients are just curious as to what the shoppe can offer them.
“This is why the doctors created the dispensary,” he said. “We are trying to build up the community and educate people on the medicine that’s in the marijuana field. It’s not just recreational.”
While this idea isn’t new, not many have taken a stance on the differences between the marijuana culture and the medical field. Dr. Spirtos believes that this is why medical marijuana is still not widely accepted in the medical community.
“There’s the importance of having good science done,” he said. “Stand up and be counted.”
Which is exactly what the group is doing. One of the only in the nation studying the effects of marijuana in chronic pain patients, the group has already began their trials and hopes to compile the results within one year.
While medicinal marijuana is legal in Nevada, the process to gain that access is one of the most difficult of all legal states. While medicinal users in other states can obtain their cards within hours, it can take months for Nevadans. The process involves a lot of paperwork, a background check, and ends with a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
For Dr. Spirtos, this process can be very frustrating. “It’s been designated a medicine, medical marijuana. Why do we need background checks?” he said. “People with criminal backgrounds still get pain medicine, they still get treated and they get a prescription. If this is a medicine, treat it like a medicine.”
Dr. Spirtos says that many have applied to be involved in the trials but less than a handful have their cards and can participate while others are still waiting.
“The results are what matters,” Dr. Spirtos said. “Whether they are good or bad, we are still able to prove theories on either side.”
The trials will record results from patients dealing with chronic pain and cancer. Dr. Spirtos is particularly interested in those going through chemotherapy. Many patients do not finish their recommended chemotherapy regimen due to the side effects, mainly nausea and vomiting. By reducing these side effects with medicinal marijuana, more might be willing to finish their chemotherapy.
“It will work for someone, whatever that number is, that’s the plus,” Dr. Spirtos said. “One way or the other, let’s see what it does and let’s see where it’s going.”
The group plans on presenting their results to every major cancer conference, no matter the results. By taking marijuana seriously, they hope others will too.
Cover photo courtesy of Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com