MEDICAL MARIJUANA - New York City | The Convenus Group


Dr. Ditzell has the training and expertise to certify patients for medical marijuana and to help guide cases and manage this treatment modality.


At Dr. Ditzell Psychiatry we like to stay up to date with the newest treatment options to make sure we offer our clients the best available. Dr. Ditzell is well-equipped to handle alternative medicine and treatment; his background in addiction medicine aids him in his ability to decipher the proper strength and dosing to keep our patients safe. At Dr. Ditzell Psychiatry we like to stay up to date with the newest treatment options to make sure we offer our clients the best available.



A body of research suggests yes, but scientists are having to fight red tape to study whether medical marijuana could substitute for opioid drugs. Six days before Prince died, the iconic pop star was hospitalized after possibly overdosing on Percocet. His death on April 21 involved overdosing on another painkiller, fentanyl. Both are among the prescription opioids that alleviate the pain of millions of Americans every year—often at the price of their needing ever greater amounts and the risk of overdose.

Various wide-ranging new studies back him up. As reported in the June issue of the Journal of Pain, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a retrospective survey of 185 patients who frequented a medical marijuana dispensary in Ann Arbor, Mich. Those patients reported cutting their opioid use by more than half in treating their chronic pain. Meanwhile animal studies have shown that cannabinoid chemical compounds found in marijuana can work synergistically with opioids to mitigate pain.

Each of these analyses has its limitations. Retrospective studies cannot reveal crucial details such as whether overdose deaths involved patients who were using medically prescribed opioids or people who got the drugs illegally and were using them recreationally or to self-medicate. And although Haroutounian’s observational study was carried out in real time, the participants were prescreened for psychiatric conditions and the potential for drug misuse. That means they were less likely to suffer complications from medical cannabis than a general population of chronic pain patients. “We don’t have good data on the long-term effects and in larger populations that are not so carefully selected,” Haroutounian explains. As for the safety of medical marijuana as an opioid alternative, one of the most extensive reports to date was published late last year in the Journal of Pain and followed about 200 patients using cannabis for chronic pain over 12 months. Unlike most previous research, this study directly compared medical cannabis users with a control group of chronic pain patients who did not use the drug. The results showed some increased risk for nonserious adverse effects in the medical cannabis group but no difference in the risk of serious adverse events.

Medical cannabis was also a hot topic at the 2016 meeting of the American Pain Society, says Simon Haroutounian, chief of clinical research at the Washington University Pain Center in St. Louis. He co-authored a study, published online in February in the Clinical Journal of Pain, that followed a group of 176 chronic pain patients in Israel over seven months and found that 44 percent of them stopped taking prescription opioids within seven months of starting medical cannabis. The research is among several recent observational studies showing an association between medical cannabis use and decreased dependence on opioids.

The U.S. “is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. As early as 15 years ago physicians began hearing that patients were using cannabis instead of prescription opioids for pain. These anecdotes inspired a research team led by Marcus Bachhuber, assistant professor of medicine at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, to examine whether some states’ legalization of medical cannabis had affected the number of opioid overdose deaths. Published in 2014, the study revealed an intriguing trend: between 1999 and 2010, states that permitted medical marijuana had an average of almost 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths each year than states where cannabis remained illegal.

Bachhuber’s research could not prove that medical cannabis use directly led to fewer opioid overdoses. In addition, the overdose count included both prescription opioids and illegal heroin. But the study opened the eyes of many researchers to a possible relation between marijuana and painkiller use. “I think medical cannabis could fall into the category of alternatives for treating chronic pain so that people don’t use opioids or use a lower dose of opioids than they otherwise would,” Bachhuber says.

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