6 posts tagged “smoking”

Q & A with Dr. David Casarett, author of “Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana”

Posted July 22nd, 2015 by

If you’ve been following the blog lately, you might already know Dr. David Casarett – he’s a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the author of “STONED: A Doctor’s Case For Medical Marijuana.” He recently worked with PatientsLikeMe on a survey that asked members how they felt about marijuana, and the results were just released last week. Below, read what David had to share about the inspiration behind his novel, his thoughts on online communities like PatientsLikeMe and the intertwined future of marijuana and medicine.

 

What inspired you to write “Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana?”

A patient – a retired English professor – who came to me for help in managing symptoms of advanced cancer. She asked me whether medical marijuana might help her. I started to give her my stock answer: that marijuana is an illegal drug, that it doesn’t have any proven medical benefits, etc. But she pushed me to be specific, in much the same way that she probably used to push her students. Eventually I admitted that I didn’t know, but that I’d find out. Stoned is the result.

Inside the book, you say “For Caleb. I hope he found the relief he was searching for.” Can you share a little about his story and why you dedicated the book to him?

I describe my meeting with Caleb in the first chapter. He was a young man with advanced colorectal cancer who drove his RV to Colorado to get access to medical marijuana. He got there, and marijuana was legal, but he couldn’t afford it. He had access to other legal drugs like morphine and ativan through his hospice, but he didn’t use them because they didn’t work for his pain, and made him feel sick. The only thing that worked for him–marijuana–was out of reach.

Sounds like you went through some interesting research experiences while you were writing the book. (Pot wine? Marijuana paste on your leg?) How did those experiences influence your perception of marijuana as medicine?

I was trying to understand what the best way is to get the “active ingredients” of marijuana into people. I saw lots of ads for various methods, and all sorts of products are available, but I wanted to know what works. It turns out that some methods, like marijuana tea or beer or wine, aren’t very effective. But others, like vaporizing, definitely are.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about marijuana in the medical community?

The biggest misconception about marijuana in the medical community is probably that it offers no medical benefits. At least, that’s what I thought when I started researching Stoned. Actually, there have been some good studies that have shown very real benefits for some symptoms. True, there isn’t as much evidence as I’d like. But there will be more. New research is coming on line every year, and we’re gradually figuring out whether and how marijuana works.

How do you see online communities like PatientsLikeMe contributing to the medical marijuana discussion?

I think the biggest potential contribution of PatientsLikeMe is a source of crowd-sourced science. Medical marijuana science is lagging far behind the way that people are using it. For instance, in researching Stoned, I spoke with dozens of people who were using marijuana to treat the symptoms of PTSD, but there haven’t been any randomized controlled trials of marijuana for that use. That doesn’t mean that marijuana doesn’t treat PTSD symptoms, just that we don’t know (yet) whether it does.

We need randomized controlled trials, but those trials will take time, and money. That’s where communities like PatientsLikeMe come in. We can learn from PatientsLikeMe members what they’re using medical marijuana for, and how. And we can learn whether they think it’s working. Those reports can help patients learn from each other, and they can help researchers figure out what to focus on.

What did you find most interesting about the PatientsLikeMe survey results?

I was surprised that 87% of people weren’t at all concerned about becoming addicted or dependent on marijuana. We know that although the risk of addiction is small (about 10%), it’s very real. That risk probably isn’t enough to convince most people to avoid medical marijuana, especially if it’s helping them. But we should all be aware of those risks, so we can be alert for signs of dependence, like impairment of function, or effects on work or relationships.

You mention that the future of medical marijuana is the most interesting, yet hardest to answer question. But that said, what do you think the future holds for medical marijuana?

Some of the most exciting advances in the science of medical marijuana, to me, are related to what marijuana tells us about the endocannabinoid system – that’s the system of hormones and neurotransmitters and receptors in all of us. We don’t know a lot about what that system does, but we do know that marijuana ‘works’ by tapping into that system. The cannabinoids in marijuana trick the body by mimicking naturally occurring endocannabinoids like anandamide.

So although it’s fascinating to think about what marijuana could do, and although clinical trials of marijuana are essential, the really neat science of the future may focus on that endocannabinoid system – what it does, how it works, and how we can use it to promote health.

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Results From PatientsLikeMe Survey Highlight Patient Beliefs About Medical Marijuana

Posted July 14th, 2015 by

Cambridge, MA, July 14, 2015—A new survey of 219 PatientsLikeMe members has found that patients with certain conditions who use medical marijuana believe it is the best available treatment for them, with fewer side effects than other options and few risks. The survey, conducted in June 2015, is among the first to gauge patient perceptions about the benefits and risks of medical marijuana and their level of willingness to recommend its use.

PatientsLikeMe’s Vice President for Advocacy, Policy, and Patient Safety, Sally Okun, RN said that while the number of respondents and conditions represented is limited, the survey and its results come at an important time. “As more people consider using medical marijuana, and more states legalize it, patients need to know what others are experiencing. This survey starts to gather real world data about marijuana as medicine—information that may be useful for patients and their physicians as they explore options and make treatment decisions.”

Half of the survey respondents started using medical marijuana in the last five years, while 25% started to do so in the last two years. Smoking (71%), edibles (55%), and vaporizing (49%) were the most commonly used methods for taking the treatment. The top three conditions represented were multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and depression. Key findings are as follows:

Usage and Perceived Side Effects

  • About three quarters (74%) of survey respondents agree that medical marijuana is the best treatment available for their health issue. Another 20% are unsure if there is another option available.
  • 76% report that they use medical marijuana because other treatments weren’t working and/or caused too many side effects. About 21% use it to avoid the side effects of other treatments.
  • When asked about the severity of side effects from using marijuana, 86% of PatientsLikeMe members who report using marijuana indicate the side effects are either “none” or “mild.” The same group says those side effects include dry mouth, increased appetite, and sleepiness.

Perceived Benefits and Risks

  • Survey respondents use medical marijuana for more than one reason, including to treat pain (75%), muscle stiffness or spasms (69%), insomnia (67%) and anxiety (55%). The majority (63%) considered marijuana as a treatment option because they think it is more natural.
  • Most (93%) say that they would recommend medical marijuana to another patient.
  • About 61% say their healthcare provider is supportive of their medical marijuana use, and 60% have a letter of recommendation or prescription.
  • Most patients report a low level of concern (“Not at all” or “A little”) with long-term health risks, such as developing lung cancer (89%), long-term lung damage (86%), or becoming addicted/dependent (96%).
  • One in four patients (26%) report being “Somewhat” or “Very” concerned with legal problems.

Infographics on these and other survey results and the complete list of questions and responses are available at http://news.patientslikeme.com.

David Casarett, M.D., a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and the author of the newly-released book STONED: A Doctor’s Case For Medical Marijuana, worked with PatientsLikeMe on the survey. “This is an important first step in crowdsourced science about medical marijuana. Until we have a lot more large, high-quality clinical trials, patients will need to rely on each other to learn about whether and how medical marijuana might help them.”

Medical marijuana refers to the use of the cannabis plant as well as synthetic THC and cannabinoids as medicine. It is legal in Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, and in some U.S. states.

Survey Methodology
Between May 26 and June 10, 2015, PatientsLikeMe invited 1,288 members who added medical marijuana to their profile to respond to the survey; 219 completed it. The mean age of the respondents was 49 years (SD: 12.2); the age range was 19 – 84 years. Most respondents (81%) reported their location as the United States, while 13% are from Canada and the rest are from Australia, Europe, South Africa or Israel. Four respondents did not report their location.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 350,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 60 peer-reviewed research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact
Margot Carlson Delogne
PatientsLikeMe
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com
781.492.1039


World No Tobacco Day: 10 Facts About Secondhand Smoke

Posted May 31st, 2012 by

We’ve written about how smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US.  We’ve also highlighted some of the treatments that our 4,000+ members who report tobacco addiction have tried in their quest to quit.

The 2012 World No Tobacco Day poster.  This year’s theme, selected by the World Health Organization, focuses on exposing the tobacco industry’s interference with global tobacco control efforts.  Learn more by clicking the image.

But today, in honor of World No Tobacco Day, we’d like to focus on the global consequences of secondhand smoke, or the smoke that fills restaurants, offices, homes and other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products.  Given that there are one billion smokers around the world, secondhand smoke (also known as “passive smoking”) has become a serious public health issue.

How serious?  Deadly serious.  Here are ten hard-hitting facts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the sponsor of World No Tobacco Day.

  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.
  • There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful.
  • More than 600,000 premature deaths are caused by secondhand smoke each year.
  • In 2004, children accounted for 31% of the deaths attributable to secondhand smoke.
  • Over 40% of children around the world have at least one parent who smokes.
  • Almost half of all children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke can cause sudden death in infants and low birth weight in pregnant women.
  • Cigarettes, bidis and water pipes all produce secondhand smoke.
  • Less than 11% of the world’s population is protected by comprehensive national smoke-free laws.
  • Research shows that smoke-free laws do not harm business – and in fact, are popular.

Want to show your support for World No Tobacco Day?  Join the cause on Facebook.  If you live in the US, you can also check this map to see your state or city’s laws regarding smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces.


How Heart Attack Warning Signs Differ in Women

Posted February 21st, 2012 by

A heart attack is unmistakable, right?  Not exactly.  And especially not if you’re a woman.

Elizabeth Banks in "Just a Little Heart Attack"

We kicked off February by recognizing National Wear Red Day and sharing a hilarious video created by actress Elizabeth Banks for American Heart Month.  In the short piece, a harried working mother begins having strange symptoms one morning, including tightness of the jaw, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, muscle pain and pressure on her chest.  Despite all of this, she remains more concerned about getting her husband and kids off to work and school, respectively.  Her son is the only one to recognize what’s going on, saying “Mom!  I think you’re having a heart attack.”

Part of 2012 Heart Month message is that the warning signs of a heart attack for women can be different than for men.  Unlike the stereotypical image of a man clutching his chest and falling down, heart attacks may appear less dramatic in women.  For example, a woman can experience a heart attack without severe chest pressure (“an elephant sitting on my chest”).  Also, women are somewhat more likely than men to report more subtle symptoms such as back or jaw pain, shortness of breath and nausea/vomiting.  The danger is that even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly.

The Key Statistic Behind This Year's American Heart Month

Would you be shocked to have a heart attack?  That’s what many women report – that they never thought it could happen to them.  As a result, they assume their discomfort must be something more routine like the flu, acid reflux or normal aging.  They also may downplay it in order to put their family’s needs first.  Don’t make this mistake.  A heart attack strikes someone every 34 seconds, and heart disease is the number one killer of women.  So if you think you or someone you love might be having a heart attack – even if the symptoms are subtle – don’t wait more than five minutes before calling 911.

Beyond knowing the warning signs, a little prevention (such as quitting smoking or walking just 30 minutes a day) goes a long way.  Learn your heart attack risk – as well as how you can lower it – with the American Heart Association’s Risk Calculator.


Are Your Lungs Trying to Tell You Something?

Posted November 28th, 2011 by

Chronic coughing and wheezing.  Frequent shortness of breath.  Struggling for air.  These are some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects 24 million Americans (or approximately one in five adults over the age of 45).  As many as half of them don’t realize they have COPD, however, as many people mistake their slowly worsening symptoms as normal aging or a lack of fitness.

November is National COPD Awareness Month, and the COPD Learn More Breathe Better® campaign, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, aims to raise awareness about this under-diagnosed condition.  With a growing prevalence in the US, COPD – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis – is now the third leading cause of death in the US as well as a significant cause of long-term disability.

While COPD can have environmental or genetic risk factors that lead to its development in non-smokers, the disease most often occurs in people age 40 and over with a history of smoking (either current or former smokers).  Smoking is the most common cause of COPD, accounting for as many as 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths.  Thus, quitting smoking now can reduce your risk.  (Worried about your ability to quit?  Read our recent Great American Smokeout blog for motivation, resources and support.)

A Snapshot of the COPD Community at PatientsLikeMe

If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, connecting with other patients like you can help you learn how to live better with the condition.  331 patients report COPD at PatientsLikeMe, with 44 listing it as their primary condition.  Some of the common treatments they report include Budesonide, Fluticasone, Prednisone and Oxygen Therapy.  (Click on each name to see the treatment evaluations submitted by our patients, who share their experiences with effectiveness, side effects, cost and more.)

Not sure if your breathing problems might be COPD?  See your doctor for a simple breathing test known as spirometry.  The earlier you get diagnosed and treated, the sooner you can begin to breathe a little easier.


PatientsLikeMe® Poll Reveals Patients Share Health Data Online Prefer to Keep Quiet With Doctors, Employers

Posted April 13th, 2011 by

screen-shot-2011-04-13-at-123447-pmPatients Unveil Top Reasons Not to Share Health Information

CAMBRIDGE, MA–(Marketwire – April 13, 2011) – According to a new PatientsLikeMe® Poll, almost one in three (29%) patients have withheld certain health information from their doctor. Of the 4,364 poll respondents, all of whom are members of PatientsLikeMe’s online health data-sharing community (www.patientslikeme.com), nearly half (47%) indicate that they have chosen not to share certain health information with an employer, while 14% have withheld information from insurance companies.

“Here’s a population of arguably the most open patients, who share detailed data about everything from their treatments to their sex lives on PatientsLikeMe, and yet some of these individuals feel uncomfortable sharing with other stakeholders in healthcare,” says Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. “If we’re all going to make healthcare better, then it’s time we really understand what’s keeping patients from sharing information. That insight is crucial to improving the system.”

In their poll responses, patients also identified some of the reasons why they chose not to share their health information. Patients’ unwillingness to share certain information with doctors is driven by more emotional triggers. Almost half (44%) say they didn’t tell a doctor about something related to their health because they “didn’t want to be lectured/made to feel bad;” second to that was fear of embarrassment (36%). What aren’t they sharing with doctors? Respondents said symptoms (41%), lifestyle information such as “diet, alcohol, exercise, or smoking” (39%) and failure to take a prescribed medication (29%).

Alternatively, the majority of patients who withheld information from an employer cite more practical implications. Sixty six percent (66%) of patients indicate the top reason as being “none of their employer’s business,” but nearly half (49%) say they are afraid of losing their job and about one-third (35%) are afraid of not getting a promotion. Finally, the individuals who kept certain health information under wraps from their health insurance companies report they did so out of fear of losing coverage (39%), fear of not having a specific treatment or procedure covered (39%) or fear of premiums going up (25%).

The complete PatientsLikeMe® Poll results can be downloaded here.

NOTE TO EDITOR: All poll results must be sourced as originating from PatientsLikeMe®.

Poll Methodology
Between March 22nd and March 29th, PatientsLikeMe invited all members who had been active on the website within the past 90 days to participate in the PatientsLikeMe® Poll; 4,364 members completed the survey. Mean age of respondents was 49 years (SD 12, range 13-84).

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe® (www.patientslikeme.com) is the world’s leading online health data sharing platform. PatientsLikeMe® creates new knowledge by charting the real-world course of disease through the shared experiences of patients. While patients interact to help improve their outcomes, the data they provide helps researchers learn how these diseases act in the real world and accelerate the discovery of new, more effective treatments. [Follow company news on Twitter.com/PatientsLikeMe and http://blog.patientslikeme.com]

PatientsLikeMe member lscanlon PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams