With the advent of Georgia’s new laws regarding the use of medical marijuana many health care providers are looking at this option for their patients, one such provider is Dr. Rasean T. Hodge.
Dr. Hodge is a graduate of Morehouse College, completed his residency at the Morehouse School of Medicine and received his medical degree from UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. His practice, Premiere Chronic Pain Care, is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
Rolling out spoke with Dor.Hodge about his practice as well as his vision and mission statement for the care of his patients.
When as a physician did you start to realize that medical marijuana could be an option for your patients?
That’s a great question. As a physician I was doing hospice care, family medicine and I also specialize in chronic pain management. I suddenly got hurt, I broke my neck five years ago playing a game of pickup basketball. As a result of that injury, I had several orthopedic spinal surgeries. The medication is given to me during recovery barely touched my nerve pain. So, here I am a physician and now I am a patient, the tables were drastically turned. Everything my colleagues gave me was not even touching my pain. I also suffered from severe side effects of the pain medication such as constipation, weakness, chronic fatigue, and even addiction. I was disabled, but I was also young and I wanted to get back to work.
That journey made me start to do all this research digging deep and I looked at various studies of the use of marijuana for treatment. There were studies coming out of California, Israel, and New Zealand and I made my own assessment that this could help me and aid others. That’s when I started my journey to get certified by the state through the Medical Board of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Public Health. I was able to help and identify others who could benefit from medical cannabis.
What are three things you want people to know about medical marijuana?
-This was the No. 1 prescribed drug in this country from the 1890s to the 1920s. It was prescribed for a wide range of illness that included migraines and we have a sport in our brains that have receptors that take the medicine naturally.
-When you look at over the counter drugs such as Tylenol, Motrin, Ibuprofen these drugs are the No. 16 cause of death of people. There are zero deaths from cannabis.
-There is an anti-inflammatory property in this plant that is 20 times stronger than drugs like Advil, Motrin or Goody powder you might take and it causes no deaths or side effects like ulcers. This one plant solves a myriad of other problems because it regulates your moods, appetite not just pain.
I’m not saying it’s for everybody, but access should be for everybody. I’m not pushing cannabis down your throat.
If a person comes to your office for possible treatment using medical marijuana products what steps will they need to go through? Do any insurance companies cover treatment?
Unfortunately, medicinal cannabis in this country is a schedule 1 drug. It’s absurd, they are saying it’s just as dangerous as crack cocaine, heroin, and other hardcore drugs. But the cats out the bag and everyone knows that this is medicine. Unfortunately because of medical marijuana’s Schedule 1 status it no insurance company will cover the office visits or prescriptions. We can only make recommendations in this state because it is federally illegal. So, you have to pay with cash, money order or credit card until it is changed to a Schedule 3 drug. There is a medical benefit with limited abuse when it comes to marijuana.
How do you go about prescribing medical marijuana oil?
We have 8 diseases originally when this bill passed and there were end stage requirements for use of the product. Now the list has been expanded and removed the end date requirement for patients. It made no sense not to give people medication that could help with their disease unless they were in the final stages of cancer or some other illness. So we were able to change that portion of the law in Georgia. Now it can be prescribed for HIV, chemotherapy, cancer both while being treated and in recovery from the disease. We have also made this card a reciprocity card so that if you travel to another state that allows the sale of marijuana you can use their dispensary in that state, we don’t want you to do anything illegal. This also means that when you come to Georgia as long as you have a medical marijuana card you can medicate your family. But you have to abide by Georgia law that only allows oil and not the whole plant. In Georgia, you are allowed 20 ounces of low-THC oil on your person at any one time.
Are psychiatric conditions like PTSD covered in Georgia?
Unfortunately for Georgians PTSD is not a covered condition for medical cannabis. That is because PTSD is highly subjective and there is no one test for it. Anyone who survives something catastrophic after 6 months it goes from an adjustment disorder to a post-traumatic stress disorder. It does not just have to be a soldier. PTSD can arise for many different reasons and millions of people could, in fact, qualify for PTSD. We did not decide to write it as part of the most recent bill. However, next legislative session PTSD and other psychiatric disorders will be something we will try to get covered with medical marijuana. It’s important, we know that every 70 minutes a veteran commits suicide in this country, that’s 20 suicides a day that could have been prevented if we had a good medical cannabis program in place and access for vets. Medical marijuana could allow a person to get a rest. We know that the pineal gland and cortisol, that cascade of horrible memories reverses and a person can get a truly peaceful sleep. Suicidal ideations and thoughts just go away. They are cured, they are healed and that’s going to happen.
How can potential patients reach your practice?