Why I Chose Cannabis Medicine

Why I Chose Cannabis Medicine

As a practitioner with a focus on medical cannabis, I find quite a mix of reactions and questions from patients and friends.  “What led you in this direction?” “Are you concerned about your reputation?” “Is this for real, or just hype?” “Can it help me?”

I am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, with a master’s degree in nursing.  I have advanced specialized training in integrative and holistic approaches to health. I have worked in health care for more than 25 years.  

Several years ago I came upon information from the University of Vermont Larner School of Medicine about a new certification program of study focusing on Cannabis Science and Medicine.  I was fascinated to see this, such a momentous turn of the tides that now well-respected medical schools were offering programs to train professionals in this specialty. It was clear to me that medical cannabis legalization and availability is a remarkable and rapidly growing new chapter in medicine, and that health care providers need to be knowledgeable to support and guide our patients who are interested in this option.

I was aware of the excellent results cannabis-derived medicine was bringing to children with a very severe form of epilepsy, and of the relief from nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite side effects of chemotherapy cancer treatment.  I knew that there were very many veterans of war who found cannabis beneficial beyond any medications they had ever used for alleviating enduring, debilitating physical and psychological pain, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

I listened to and read stories of cannabis medicine users and seekers.  I realized the passionate and powerful work of activism and mutual support of strong grassroots networks of people choosing to use cannabis medicinally.  Thousands of patients, parents, and caregivers were experiencing first hand the benefits of cannabis for hard to treat symptoms, safely and with fewer adverse effects than many pharmaceuticals.  Their experiences along with emerging science was fueling the demands for change in outdated policies that barred them from having access to this important treatment.

I tapped into the abundant scientific research on cannabis. I read books and journal articles by internationally prominent medical doctors, nurses, and researchers working clinically with cannabis.  I learned how and why the Cannabis sativa plant has such remarkable medicinal effects, recognized and utilized for thousands of years in many cultures.  

Learning the history of cannabis prohibition that unfolded in the 1930’s was a fascinating and unsettling eye-opener.  Prior to this time, these medicines had a well-established place in the American pharmacy. Concerns about the social effects of smoked cannabis led to many unsubstantiated claims about its dangers, and through a twisty trail of events, this time-honored medicinal plant became vilified and eventually included in the Schedule 1 category of drugs - those considered to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse.  Ironically, although the US federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug with no medical use, they also hold a patent on certain cannabis plant compounds based on their known therapeutic medical uses! In contrast to the propaganda from our past, I learned about the remarkable safety profile of cannabis medicine, safer by far than the vast majority of pharmaceutical medicines on the market. 

I was interested to learn about local interest and use of medical cannabis.  I facilitated a free public talk at my office to share information and conversation, and to learn about our community’s interest and experiences with cannabis medicine.  I was so touched by meeting the people who came to that talk, and listening to their questions and comments. There were elders and people in their 20’s. There were cancer patients, chronic pain sufferers, someone with Parkinson’s Disease, some family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease, a mental health professional interested to know more about how cannabis can benefit her clients struggling with PTSD.  

The more I learned, the more fascinating and compelling this work became.  I began professional studies from the best resources, and became a member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.  Qualified to assist patients enrolling in the NH Therapeutic Cannabis Program, I began to integrate this option in my practice. Immediately I too experienced first hand how very low doses of liquid tinctures made from cannabis had a very beneficial impact on my patients symptoms.  

It is exciting and heartening to have the freedom and mentorship of experts so I can support my patients in their use of a medicine made from one of the most therapeutic plants Mother Nature provides. 

Nadine Hottat, APRN, MSN, CNM can be reached at nadinehottat@gmail.com

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Feminine Medicine

As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and Certified Nurse Midwife focusing on integrative approaches to women’s health care, I often encounter women with complex health conditions, often years of not feeling well,  having seen several doctors and specialized providers. Along with pharmaceutical medicines, many take multiple vitamin, nutritional, and botanical supplements throughout the day. Some have shelves or drawers full of bottles that they don’t open.  I often find that rather than add more to her list, I try to help her simplify, gather up and connect with the remedies and self care approaches that are most resonant and helpful to her now.   

I often think about the masculine and feminine dynamics in medicine.  I want to restore feminine principles to the practice of healthcare. Our mainstream medical system is profoundly rooted in and operating based on masculine principles - highly structured, reductionist, compartmentalized, mechanistic, heroic, and technological.  There is most definitely a place for these important aspects of medical care. But this approach is often not very effective for many health issues, especially chronic illness. We need more balance. 

Our mainstream approaches have evolved to leave little room for the equally important aspects of the feminine principles - listening, receptive, nourishing, relational, connective, fluid, and changing.   These are empowering and healing energies.

My scope of practice allows me to work within the structures of our health care system. I can write prescriptions and order lab tests. I can help a woman to navigate the conventional medicine aspects of her care as needed.  But I bring our focus to the therapies, self care, and remedies that help restore these lost feminine aspects of the art and science of medicine. I know how well this is needed, especially in women’s health care.  

I have seen this need from my first steps into clinical practice. 

In my 25 years as an RN and 7 years as a CNM, and before, I have forged a path of practice always with this in mind.  This led me to become a nurse and midwife and to seek out approaches to women’s health care that are holistic and woman-centered.  I trained in Integrative and Functional Medicine for Women, Arvigo Techniques of Abdominal Therapy®, Holistic Pelvic Care™, Integrative Pelvic Pain Relief Techniques, Interactive Guided Imagery.

In the past year, I have taken a deep dive into learning principles and practice of cannabis medicine so that I can bring this to my work.  Cannabis as a medicinal plant, and it’s wise use, are very resonant with the integrative, natural approach I work with, and well suited to many women’s health concerns. Interestingly, the medicine from cannabis comes from the female flowers and interacts with each person in very individualized, gentle, yet potent ways.  

In my practice, as much as we pay attention to concerns and symptoms, we pay attention to and tap into health and to where health comes from.  When I work with women I often feel that I am witness to her expressing the unique topographical map of her life. Among these rivers, hills, valleys, and forests of her  experience and insight are revealed her own resources and paths to healing.  

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician who for me profoundly expresses the feminine art of medicine, said: 

"While an impulse toward wholeness is natural and exists in everyone, each of us heals in our own way. Some people heal because they have work to do. Others heal because they have been released from their work and the pressures and expectations that others place on them. Some people need music, others need silence, some need people around them, others heal alone. Many different things can activate and strengthen the life force in us. For each of us there are conditions of healing that are as unique as a fingerprint."

This is the magic of the feminine approach to medicine.