A Winnipeg doctor who prescribes medical marijuana says the beliefs that it's addictive and a gateway drug are just some of the myths smoke screening its real benefits.
"We find that there's no evidence of any addiction. There's no evidence of people wanting harder drugs or anything else," said Dr. Paul Daenick, a pain management specialist with CancerCare Manitoba.
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On Wednesday, Federal Court Judge Michael Phelan struck down federal regulations restricting the rights of medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis. He gave the Liberal government six months to come up with new rules.
In his decision, the judge noted that "many 'expert' witnesses were so imbued with a belief for or against marijuana — almost a religious fervour — that the court had to approach such evidence with a significant degree of caution and skepticism."
Daenick said many physicians don't want anything to do with the drug because it's illegal. The fact is, Daenick said, medical marijuana can be beneficial for some patients.
"Most people who are coming to their family doctor are looking for permission to use it for anxiety," he said.
Daenick also studies the role of cannabinoids — a chemical compound found in marijuana — in patients with advanced cancer.
Humans have cannabinoid receptors in their body that are associated with the pain receptors, he said.
"We can actually decrease the amount of painkillers people are using by using this nabilone," he said. Nabilone is a man-made form of cannabis.
Some people believe marijuana can help manage glaucoma, but Daenick said although it helps relieve pressure in the eye, it's short-acting and may cause damage in the long run. There's better medication to manage the disease, he said.
Not for everyone
Using medical marijuana isn't for everyone, Daenick said.
"There are some patients who are going to have great benefit. There are some who are not going to have benefit," he said.
He screens patients to see if they have had psychosis and if they have a family history of addictions before he prescribes the drug.
Some doctors shy away from prescribing medical marijuana because they don't want to spend the time managing a patient's pain, he said.
"You actually have to spend time and talk to the patient and find out what it is that they're looking for, and you have to bring them back and assess did this work, did this help, did it make your function better," he said.
"If it doesn't do that, then it's not the drug for you."