In his near-future dystopian novel, World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler presents a bleak portrayal of a small upstate New York town a couple of decades hence. The federal government had collapsed, Washington DC was nuked and the availability of gasoline and electricity ended. Ex-motor cycle toughs run the community’s central resource, the old town dump, now the source of riches such as nails. In this new world, owning a horse makes one wealthy.
In the novel, the system no longer provides medication nor medical care. The town’s doctor is the protagonist. He faces the frustrations and tragedies of having to practice medicine with no modern supplies, tools or services. With pharmaceuticals unavailable, the good doctor grows medicinal herbs. A key medication for pain relief and succor from various ailments is one not freely available before the collapse, cannabis. Treatment with cannabis is part of open-source health care in this new world. Seeds are the open source. Such self-treatment will become an ever more important part of our own health care future.
In health care, the term open-source includes self-care, with the individual taking more responsibility for his or her health and treatment. In some cases, the person (the term patient not quite right) becomes the source of treatment. Self-care itself is part of a larger wellness model that focuses upon a preventive lifestyle, especially with sufficient exercise and mindful nutrition, as key aspects of health.
Without doubt, more open-source medication, especially with cannabis, will be part of America’s health care future. For many people, including the 45 million uninsured Americans, the current health care system does not work. It has many problems:
- The current medical care colossus sucks up one dollar out of 5 in the American economy.
- The American system is by far the most expensive, and offers far less care for the dollar than in other countries.
- Much of what passes for medical care is in reality too late and inefficient. It does not do well treating the huge class of auto-immune inflammatory disorders that most afflict the health of Americans with chronic degenerative diseases.
- Medicine is (over)used to try to stave off injury of primarily a behavioral nature. Medical technology is used to try to fix damage caused by behaviors such as cigarette smoking and sedentary lifestyle.
- Pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed for most ailments. Mortality from these drugs alone is a major cause of death.
The choices and actions of Americans, especially regarding physical (in)activity and (over)eating behaviors underlie much of what ails us. In most of the degenerative, inflammatory diseases that bedevil modern Americans, much medical care is merely palliative, relieving just the symptoms, symptoms of behavior-caused damage. Obesity, flaccid body composition and sickly organs damaged from cigarette smoking and alcohol poisoning are examples.
Type II diabetes is essentially a self-chosen disease; walking 10,000 steps a day is a robust preventative, even cure for Type II diabetes. Personal health actions such as increasing physical exercise, if universally adopted, could abolish many of the inflammatory ails that now pass for disease.
- To ignore these preventatives and to proceed as before with a late intervention, medical and pharmaceutical approach to life-style-based health problems is folly.
- Just as the pre-diabetic can literally walk away from diabetes, so too our general health practices determine how healthy we really are. The 10,000 steps-a-day prescription is not just for those threatened by diabetes or obesity, but serve as a good goal for nearly everyone. Such activity is open-source self-care at its best.
- Eating daily 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables is the core of healthy nutrition. Rich in nutrients and sparse in calories, this plant based foundation provides much fiber. High fiber helps us stay full and tune the digestive system.
Aspirin-taking is open-source self-medication. Because aspirin is a legal and available drug that provides relief for a wide variety of ailments, we are free to use it for self-medication. Aspirin is very useful, but not without some dangers, such as attacking the stomach. Like most drugs, it has a lethal dose and several hundred people die from aspirin poisoning each year. Still, its ability to reduce pain and inflammation and to provide protective cardio-vascular effects make it a key open source medication.
Another substance to relieve a wide variety of symptoms such as pain and inflammation is cannabis. Unlike aspirin, no deaths are associated with its use. Like aspirin, cannabis is medically useful not just for a small array of discrete problems. Although it does provide fairly specific prevention and therapy of maladies such as glaucoma, and works wonderfully for reducing the worse symptoms of chemotherapy, its applications are broad. It is useful in treating a dozen major diseases. Other benefits are less specific. The cannabinoids in cannabis are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and analgesic. The latter, pain relief, points to the more generalized medical benefits of cannabinoids.
Pain is one of the chief reasons people seek medical care at all. What percentage of the humankind, what single person, does not experience pain at sometime in life? To quell pain is the reason most people take an aspirin. To quell pain is the main reason tens of millions of Californians in the future may take a tincture of cannabis.
- A century ago Americans enjoyed the medical freedom to relieve pain and other ailments by choosing not just aspirin, but also cannabis tinctures. (See the great medical cannabis blog of Dr. Allen Frankel for much more on tinctures. One post “How Pharmacy Shelves were stocked in the past,” shows the wide choice of cannabis tincture medications from which Americans were free to choose.)
- A century hence, and hopefully far sooner, Americans will regain the pain-relieving, self-health remedies available to their ancestors. They already have in California and a dozen other states.
In a country supposedly searching for national health care answers, the open-source, self-care benefits of medical cannabis must not be ignored. Medical cannabis will not be ignored by those without insurance, nor those increasing millions who become aware of the superiority of pain relief and other medical benefits available to them with cannabis. Bizarrely, conservatives who worry that a national health care system would deny medical choices are the first to deny totally American citizens the right to choose cannabis-based medications.
Americans will make these choices anyway, using the cannabis seed as the open-source basis for their medication. Hopefully they will have state laws in place to provide them some safety from the dangers inflicted upon them by their government, as they again produce their medicine grown by hand.