Legalizing Marijuana, What Might the Future Hold?

With all the excitement and controversy swirling around the legalization of Marijuana, as a physician I have no choice but to consider what negative ramifications might be in store for our country. Here are just a few of the many issues we must all consider.

What could be the adverse health consequences of rampant and regular marijuana use? Over the past few years, studies have begun to demonstrate unfavorable psychiatric fallout from marijuana. Schizophrenia, and other disorders of psychosis, it seems can be expressed in predisposed individuals who utilize the drug. The incidence of schizophrenia is already one in a hundred. The toll this disease takes on not only the patient, but also the entire family, is enormous. A life-long disease with no cure in sight, schizophrenia leaves its victims unable to function adequately in society, often leading to homelessness and premature death. There is also of course an associated financial burden our society bears from the disease. Imagine then the consequence of even a minor uptick in the frequency of this disorder. Anyone who understands schizophrenia would agree that saying it would be horrific is a gross understatement.

Then there is heart disease. Just last week a study was published citing an association of marijuana with premature heart attacks. Right when doctors are making inroads into reducing heart disease, we may now be unleashing a new and previously unrecognized threat. Remember the days of the great cigarette ads, “LSMFT. Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.” In days of old, tobacco use was the norm; nearly everyone smoked. Socially, it was the thing to do. Then came the studies proving the relationship between tobacco and heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive lung disease, and of course death. Following the studies there were lawsuits. The tobacco industry paid dearly for being less than forthright about the potential downside of smoking. The attorneys did quite well, bringing in personal gains of a billion dollars. Tobacco’s victims however did not do so well.  Will marijuana become the tobacco of our future? Have we just begun yet another global experiment testing the effects of a substance on us, the American populace? If so, let’s at least prepare for the fallout.

To protect our society as best as we can, I propose the following. Wherever marijuana becomes legalized, set aside a large portion of tax revenue for future payment of medical expenses related to marijuana’s use. Also, be sure to allocate enough funds to cover the lawsuits that will surely follow our inevitable acceptance of marijuana’s health dangers. Perhaps not just the marijuana sellers will be held accountable. If a government earns revenue through taxation of marijuana, might not the government be liable through complicity? I would also recommend that all marijuana users be forced to sign a waiver of liability. Let the finest attorneys craft this document so it can be as solid as is legally possible. Then, when the lawsuits start flowing in, marijuana enthusiasts will have a much tougher time blaming others for their choice. They need to be fully informed of the potential risks of marijuana, and their understanding must be well documented. Let’s not repeat the tobacco experiment with all its attendant errors. If marijuana is to be the next widespread health hazard, let’s at least protect the nation’s financial interests. Clearly our country is not in a position to take on any more debt.

Learn more about preventive cardiology at www.preventivecardiologyinc.com.

For more information more about essential vitamins and supplements visit www.vitalremedymd.com.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

2 Tablespoons olive oil                      IMG_1167
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup pearled barley
32 ounces chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup frozen petite peas
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in garlic and thyme and cook stirring for one minute.  Stir in the barley and the broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in squash, cover the pot and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas and 3/4 cup cheese. Garnish with  remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Serves 4.

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Is Marcus Welby, MD Resuscitatable?

Over the last decade or so doctors have felt their stature steadily slip away. Their significance has of course remained; without doctors healthcare would come to a screeching halt. Newly named “physician extenders” cannot do what most physicians can. They are simply not trained for the task. As important and passionate as they are in healthcare delivery, physician assistants and nurse practitioners possess just a small portion of the training required to become practicing MDs. Doctors often spend more than a decade after college training to a level required to deliver the most sophisticated and complex care. Many laypeople seem oblivious to this fact; some likely have intentionally blinded themselves to it. Physicians are “where the buck stops”. We are the CEOs of our practices, the generals if you will. Yet, the insidious degradation of doctors has led to a variety of deleterious and likely unintended forms of fallout. Most obvious is our title. Once called nothing but “doctor”, we are now dubbed, “health care practitioners”, “health care providers”, and most recently, “EP”s or eligible professionals. This fact may seem trivial, but its reverberations run deep. We have been equated to all others who treat patients – nurses, advanced nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical assistants, and physical therapists…  Our distinction as leaders in patient care is being eroded. Imagine if the same were true in the military – no more generals, colonels, sergeants or the like. Just “military personnel.” Or, what if we applied the same rule to government – no more senators, congressmen, mayors, governors, or even presidents. Simply “public servants.” There is no doubt such an arrangement would be justifiably unacceptable to those involved. These two systems, like the medical system, would crumble absent titular distinctions. But the damage to medicine dives far deeper than this.

We have just witnessed the release of Medicare payment information for each doctor in the US. Soon the “Sunshine Act” will also become a reality. The amount of money paid to highly specialized doctors to deliver educational talks will become fodder for the public to muse. The lunches, coffee, or even requested medical articles brought to offices by pharmaceutical representatives will soon be open for public scrutiny. Total transparency is a beautiful concept for an ideal world. In such a world everyone would love and respect each other; no one would compete with another; and all would be subject to the same laws and regulations. Such is not the case of course. Do you know what your attorney earned last year, or how much money your grocery store pays for its eggs?  Of course not! We live in a land that purportedly permits freedom to compete. Competition requires a high degree of privacy. Our country was in fact built upon such a premise. How can one dermatologist fairly compete with another if confidential internal financial records become open access? There are far too many financial ramifications to explore in this short blog, but the adverse fallout from such transparency will be pervasive. And it will most certainly include a drastic decline in the education of practicing doctors. That of course will translate into deteriorating quality of care.

The most consequential outcome of medicine’s recent evolution will undoubtedly be decay in heath care delivery. Marcus Welby, MD was an excellent television show because it depicted a dedicated, diligent, assiduous, committed physician. Dr. Welby captured the hearts of viewers because he loved his patients and they loved him. He was honored, respected, appreciated, and yes, even well compensated. The reality, for better or for worse, is that doctors are human beings. They crave recognition and appreciation for their sacrifices. Absent such recognition, and assuming a continued decline in reimbursement as well as the massive increase in federal regulations, the Marcus Welby, MDs of this nation will become extinct. At times this augury feels inevitable. At other times there is hope. Unfortunately however, until the general population recognizes the physician resource it is rapidly losing, I believe the more pessimistic outlook will prevail. Marcus Welby, MD may truly be unresuscitatable.

Learn more about preventive cardiology at www.preventivecardiologyinc.com.

For more information more about essential vitamins and supplements visit www.vitalremedymd.com.

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ConsumerLab Approval: A Brief Boast about VitalOils1000

couple bike riding

I make it my practice not to blog about VitalRemedyMD or any of its products, but this week demands a self-promoting shout-out. VitalRemedyMD is a company I started over ten years ago. It is now owned and operated by my wife (Laura Baum – also an MD). VitalOils1000 was created about six years back as the first and only enteric-coated fish oil pill to contain a full 1,000 mg of combined DHA and EPA. Thus, VitalOils1000 was the first omega-3 fish oil to meet the American Heart Association recommendation for individuals with cardiovascular disease in just one pill. This fact holds true even when considering prescription fish oil.

Yesterday we made the grade again. On April 6th ConsumerLab.com, the preeminent watchdog of the nutritional supplement world, released their every-other-year study of omega-3 fish oil products. Once again VitalOils1000 was “approved.” This year, in addition to “proving” our purification, concentration, and quality of enteric coating, we were also tested for PCBs and Dioxins. We were one of only two products tested in this comprehensive fashion, and we “passed” this important criterion as well. Our purification process of supercritical fluid technology enables us to achieve these exceptionally high standards for safety and purity.  There is so much confusion about omega-3 products that I felt compelled to write about our continued success with VitalOils1000. Needless to say, I am very proud. Thank you for permitting me a moment to boast.

Learn more about preventive cardiology at www.preventivecardiologyinc.com.

For more information more about essential vitamins and supplements visit www.vitalremedymd.com.

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