It’s 3:27 AM. I’m laying here awake, wondering. Wondering about a lot of things including who else is awake right now also wondering. Realizing that it’s been over a year since I last updated this website with my thoughts…but what a year it has been.
2020 started out so promising with a rejuvenating holiday in a sunny climate before jumping back on a treadmill schedule of business travel. Then it hit. What was thought to be a simple few weeks of inconvenience has turned into a marathon of uncertainty.
Admittedly, at the start, I cherished the thought of a mandatory lockdown which forced us all to stay home and come together as neighbours. Having time to power-wash the deck and clean the garage was simply amazing. But the garage is spotless now and I’m running out of renovation ideas.
It’s surreal to be in the middle of a global pandemic. Not too many of us have ever faced such a notion. We’ve read about it in science fiction novels and seen the movies. But now we are living it. Some of us are handling it better than others.
When I check in with my medical cannabis patients who have dealt with mental health conditions such as generalized social anxiety, depression and PTSD over the years, for the most part, they are doing OK. They have learned to cope with being socially isolated and physically distanced for most of their lives. They have acquired these skills in an effort to stay healthy every single day. For those of us who take for granted the ability to move freely about and interact with others with no hesitation, there is a new-found sense of struggle.
After chatting with my colleagues in Psychiatry, they share the same observations that I have witnessed when it comes to how this virus has affected individuals both physically and mentally. People seem to be decompensating before our eyes when faced with a crisis that seems to challenge our personal freedoms and rights that we previously took for granted. As Public Health policies adapt to the evolving information with the spread of Coronavirus, we are becoming less adaptable. A face covering has morphed into a polarizing, political statement that evokes emotional reactions on both sides of the mask.
So, thus the chaos with Covid. But what about Cannabis?
After over two decades of managing patients with cannabinoids, I have never witnessed so much interest in this therapeutic option as people develop anxiety and insomnia for the first time.
Although there is limited double-blinded, placebo controlled, randomized clinical trials when it comes to management of these conditions, there is an abundance of anecdotal stories to support the use of cannabis. And people like to talk. They google. They share information with their friends about their health and what has worked for them. Lack of clinical evidence doesn’t necessarily mean lack of efficacy, it may simply mean the research hasn’t been conducted yet.
But before a person chooses to journey down the road of using cannabis for medical purposes, it’s important to know what you’re using, how to administer it, and what dose to take. What might be effective for insomnia might actually make anxiety worse and vice versa.
Another aspect of Covid and Cannabis that is worth noting is the potential that specific cannabinoid ingredients may have in impacting the virus itself. Previous in-vitro studies using animal models have demonstrated both the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids along with the disruption of the ‘cytokine storm’ which has been observed as a possible determinant of whether a patient suffers increased morbidity. In this situation, the virus triggers the immune system to over-react to its’ presence and an out of control inflammatory cascade ensues that attacks our own tissues.
Preliminary research out of diverse centers of learning including the University of Lethbridge along with multiple sites in Israel suggest that specific strains may be effective in the prevention and treatment of the novel Coronavirus. In fact, there is a study currently underway in an Israeli hospital that is observing the effects that unique cannabinoids may have on the viral load and subsequent recovery of a Covid infected patient. The data so far looks to be promising…in fact, superior to Dexamethasone which is presently thought to be a vital part of combination therapy at present. However, stay tuned-we’re not there yet. It’s simply another example of how clinicians everywhere are desperately searching for solutions but at least it seems more plausible than injecting bleach into our veins…
For now, let’s concentrate on trying to stick together and envision a future where we no longer have to hear terms such as ‘new normal’, ‘resiliency’, ‘pivot’ or ‘Zoom’. In the wise words of the esteemed Public Health Officer of British Columbia, Dr. Bonnie Henry, “Be Kind, Be Calm and Be Safe”. However, if you can’t manage the chaos, consider cannabis.