By Mark Pew, Senior VP, Preferred Medical
This week I want to highlight three different articles that revolve around the same theme of there being many alternatives to treating pain and living a healthy lifestyle. The articles discuss the potential benefits of medical marijuana and increasing your overall well-being through mindfulness and wellness. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.
What PA patients are treating with their medical marijuana
Pennsylvania is one of many states that has legalized marijuana for medicinal use. According to Pennsylvania’s largest medical marijuana retailer, between 60 to 70 percent of their patients are using cannabis to treat pain. Some other common ailments are PTSD, multiple sclerosis and cancer. For workers’ compensation, pain and PTSD are very relevant medical conditions. Additionally, a store manager from another popular dispensary in Pennsylvania said that they are seeing increasing amounts of people using marijuana as a way to cope with their addiction to opioids.
For my friends in Pennsylvania, here’s an interesting finding about the use of medical cannabis—65% of patients are using it to treat Chronic Pain while another 15% are treating PTSD. That is consistent with New York that showed 73% of patients were treating “severe or chronic pain.” All of this matches what I heard Rachel Levine (PA physician general) say on June 8 (just prior to my session in Hershey)—”We need more treatment for chronic pain beyond opioids.” She is a Cabinet member so it’s official that marijuana is deemed a substitute for Rx opioids. Which is similar to what Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said when legalizing medical marijuana in August…”We are creating an alternative to opioid addiction.” What does all this mean, including to Workers’ Comp? A lot. But the question not often asked is…What if drugs aren’t the answer? The prevalent argument for medical cannabis is as a substitute for prescription painkillers. The statistics above obviously bear that out since pain is the predominant reason for its use. But saying one drug is a substitute for another is an oversimplification. Does marijuana address some people’s pain? Do Rx opioids address some people’s pain? Do non-drug coping mechanisms address some people’s pain? You know what I think…
Mindfulness: The Science Behind the Practice
Mindfulness is practiced in many ways by different people. No matter what definition of mindfulness you use, it can improve our mental state and general well-being. But did you know there are actually scientific, evidence-backed benefits to participating in a mindfulness program? It can improve memory, reduce stress, encourage a healthier diet, and improve sleep.
Whether you use the simple definition (“paying attention on purpose”) or the clinical definition (“self-regulation of attention with an attitude toward openness”), Mindfulness can be a tool to better deal with life. Things like pain, anxiety, stress, depression, addiction and more. Will it work for everyone? No-nothing does. But this article highlights four science-based outcomes:
- Memory improvement (“mindful meditation has been shown to change the physical structure of our brains”)
- Stress reduction (“reduce distractions which can be one of the main pathways for worry to take over our thoughts”)
- Healthier diet (“mindful eating reduced their binge eating while also reducing some of the stress and depression related to efforts to control their diet”)
- Sleep improvement (“reducing the influence of ‘sleep-interfering cognitive practices’ like worrying”)
What I like most about it? Self-management. Engagement. Taking ownership. Discipline. All of this equates to Resilience. Mind over matter (“one’s ability to use will power over physical limitations”) is not science fiction. Ever heard of placebo effect? Not regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow is a freeing concept.
Do you have what it takes to be a Wellness Champion?
This guide explains how to help build a healthier workplace for you, your employees and colleagues. It centers on “wellness champions”—people who want to help their friends and co-workers live a healthy life. They do this by encouraging them through a variety of programs from learning seminars and health coaching to mobile activities and onsite fitness programs.
If you’ve followed me for awhile you know I’m a fan of the Ohio BWC. First it was what John Hanna created and Nick Trego is enhancing for appropriate use of prescription medications. Most recently is the BWC’s approach to wellness. “A Wellness Champion can be a single person, or a team of people. The goal is simply to help the workplace become a healthier place by encouraging employees to live healthy lifestyles.” While meant for Ohio employers, what this brochure talks about certainly has application outside their borders. Both educational and aspirational, there are a lot of great hints included. So take a look. And wherever you are, be a “wellness champion”! The goal of this program is to “help the workplace become a healthier place by encouraging employees to live healthy lifestyles.” That can be done in any state by any person. But don’t preach it if you’re not going to live it. Parents know this—people pay attention more to what you do (i.e. living healthily) than what you say. So before you launch a wellness program for others, launch a wellness program for yourself.
To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed above are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.
About Mark Pew
Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing for Preferred Medical, is a passionate educator and agitator. Known as the RxProfessor, Mark is focused on the intersection of chronic pain and appropriate treatment, particularly as it relates to the clinical and financial implications of prescription painkillers, non-pharma treatment modalities and the evolution of medical marijuana. He is a strong champion for the workers’ compensation industry to #PreventTheMess and #CleanUpTheMess, movements he created to drive attention to the importance of individualized appropriate treatment for injured workers. Mark is a vocal advocate of the BioPsychoSocialSpiritual treatment model.
Mark serves on the IAIABC’s Medical Issues Committee and SIIA’s Workers’ Compensation Committee. In addition, he serves as technical advisor to regulators and legislators in 20+ jurisdictions on subjects such as drug formularies, treatment guidelines, Opioid Task Force initiatives, encouraging support of non-pharma treatment options and the medicinal use of cannabis. Mark received the WorkCompCentral Magna Comp Laude award in 2016 and the IAIABC’s Samuel Gompers Award in 2017.