Maria Sonnenberg , Special to FLORIDA TODAY Published 7:54 a.m. ET Aug. 13, 2019
Winking, smirking and “Reefer Madness” melodrama aside, marijuana can be good for you, particularly for older adults trying to cope with chronic pain, said Barbara Fradkin, director of One Senior Place.
“A growing body of scientific research now points to significant benefits of medical marijuana for a number of different health conditions,” Fradkin said.
At 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19, the Suntree one-stop shop for senior services will host a program on medical marijuana to treat chronic, everyday pains. Leading the discussion will be Dr. Frank Filiberto of Marijuana of Brevard.
A board-certified plastic surgeon with more than three decades of surgical experience, Filiberto was one of the first physicians in the county to study how cannabis can help the older population. He has devoted several years to the research of medical marijuana, traveling to universities and clinics in California to see results first-hand.
“I was the first to jump on the bandwagon,” he said.
The use of cannabis for health reasons may still be relatively new in Brevard, but it is not new in the rest of the world. According to the National Institutes of Health, people have used marijuana for for thousands of years. The use of pot under medical recommendation is legal in about two thirds of states, including Florida, where in 2016 Floridians overwhelmingly voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow the use of medical marijuana.
“Marijuana Business Daily” lists the number of Florida’s qualified medical marijuana patients at 246,079 as of July of this year. Several marijuana dispensaries operate in the county, including the recently opened Fluent Cannabis Care in Suntree.
Like all residents of the Sunshine State, Brevard residents have the right to obtain cannabis for medical use with the recommendation of a physician who has determined that the person’s health would benefit from marijuana use in the treatment of cancer, epilepsy, AIDS, HIV, PTSD, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, MS, glaucoma, chronic pain or any other illness noted in the Medical Marijuana Use Registry.
Filiberto’s patients must undergo a physical examination and a thorough review of medical records to ascertain if cannabis is the right choice for them.
“It’s a 2 1/2-hour consultation, and they have to meet the criteria,” said Filiberto, who has more than 1,000 medical marijuana patients.
More than 40 percent of Filiberto’s patients are seeking relief from cancer. He notes success stories, such as a terminal cancer patient who arrived in a wheelchair and with an oxygen tank. She had been given a few weeks to live. Filiberto found her a suitable candidate for medical marijuana. He was right.
“She walked in seven months later with no wheelchair and no tumor,” he said.
Not all pot is created equal, and physicians must recommend what they believe will work best for the individual patient. Indica and Sativa, the two major types of cannabis, offer different benefits. Indica decreases nausea and acute pain and relaxes muscles, but it also increases appetite and is best used at night. Sativa, on the other hand, seems to work best during the daytime for pain relief and anxiety/depression control.
“The dispensaries are very knowledgeable in working with doctors to find the proper dosage for patients,” said Filiberto.
Filiberto advises patients against possible side effects, such as sleepiness and weight gain from “the munchies.”
“The key is to find the right threshold for each individual,” he said.
A bonus for use of medical marijuana is a decrease in the use of opioids for pain control. A study by the Dent Neurologic Institute presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting this year noted that patients using medical marijuana are less likely to get hooked on opioids.
Filiberto dismisses the claim that marijuana is a gateway drug.
“It’s considered a gateway drug only because people would get it from drug dealers who would then hook them on other drugs,” he said.
If you go
What: A seminar on medical marijuana for seniors
When: 1 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19
Where: One Senior Place, 8085 Spyglass Hill Road, Melbourne
Admission: Free, registration is required
Info: 321-751-6771 or OneSeniorPlace.com
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