Pet owners can agree, there is nothing more frightening than when your fur baby can’t communicate what is wrong. The way of the world is different at this time. Not all veterinarians are keeping regular office hours during this pandemic, and, in turn, this can make things very difficult and expensive. A trip to the emergency vet can be quite costly. Since the ER staff likely does not know your pet’s history, they will have to perform extra tests out of necessity and this can compound the stress and anxiety.
Last weekend, I found myself in that exact situation. My regular veterinarian could not get my poor pup in until almost a week later. When I called the emergency room, the nurse on the phone warned me it would be around $400 to start, not including any medications he may need. My jaw dropped, and I felt incredibly trapped. My 15 year old Maltese, Jude, was suffering. His tiny body was trembling from head to toe uncontrollably, accompanied by episodes of panting that made him appear like he was in a lot of pain.
Since Jude has a history of arthritis and neurological pain, I thought I would try using one of his pain pills and giving him another dose of his CBD oil. The nurse in me said, ok, he’s got 20 minutes; if he is not better, I will spend whatever they ask just to make him feel better. Then I remembered this amazing veterinarian who I had met at a conference the year prior. His name is Dr. Zac Pilossoph. I took a 60 second video of Jude’s symptoms and sent it to him with an attached message asking for his advice. He immediately responded and asked if I could call him.
Within seconds of being on our call, he sent me the link to his new veterinarian service he is offering in response to the current crisis in our world. He explained to me, “With Validvet, it is not my goal to take business from people’s regular vets, or from the ER’s if the pets really need those facilities. My goal is to be in between those two options, for moments like right now, where you know you need assistance, but it might not be emergency room assistance.”
Dr. Zac watched the video and asked several questions about Jude’s condition. I told him what medications I had already given Jude, and his first suggestion pleased and shocked me at the same time. He asked if Jude had a CBD oil I felt comfortable increasing his dose with and giving him more. I had to confess that I had intuitively done so just moments before calling him. Expecting to be scolded, my heart melted when instead he complimented my actions and for trusting my intuition. As we spoke I began to notice that his trembling was beginning to cease and so was his panting. Finally after 20 minutes on the phone, Jude was resting comfortably.
Dr. Zac was able to rule out certain conditions because the CBD oil was 100% effective at calming his symptoms. The service he has created offering telehealth consults for pets is one of the best things that I have seen come out of this pandemic. It is a game changer for anyone out there stuck in that space of “should we go to the ER or can we wait till next week?” If you find yourself concerned about your furry loved one, it is easy to schedule a call or video appointment with Dr. Zac for a digital health and wellness consultation by visiting his website:
97-ValidVet or 978-254-3838
10% of sales are donated to Global Strays, an animal welfare non-profit organization, which supports and empowers animal rescuers worldwide.
Salute to Cannabis Nurses
Featuring Taylor Hayes
Taylor Hayes is a psychiatric registered nurse with a passion for psychedelic plant medicines that she has used to found the new International Association of Psychedelic Nurses (IAPN).Taylor’s journey to plant medicine use began through her own exposure and the benefits she received. One trip changed the trajectory of her life.
As a college student at Auburn University, Taylor had no idea what she wanted to do in addition to struggling with depression and PTSD for almost a decade. “I had never gotten help before. So I went to counseling services. I thought I would try this out and see what mental healthcare is like. And I received some help there. I was inspired by some of the people who helped me through that time period. It inspired me to want to help people as I recovered from my own depression and PTSD, I wanted to be there to help other people through their struggles, so I chose nursing school and knew I wanted to go into psychiatry since I started. I fell in love with psychiatry and all the psych patients that I have worked with mostly inpatient kids, adults, adolescents, teenagers.”
Taylor’s first exposure to a psychedelic plant was in college, and she didn’t take it with the anticipation that it would have any huge effect. “It was a mushroom, I had a psychedelic experience and it completely changed my life. I went to my psychiatrist and I told him that I didn’t feel like I needed my medications anymore; I didn’t feel depressed; I had made significant lifestyle changes following this one experience: started exercising and eating better and just caring about my life.” With the approval of her psychiatrist, Taylor was able to come off of her medication.
Throughout her journey with plant medicines, Taylor has participated in research studies and expanded her own knowledge through study in South America. “I signed up to be a participant in a psilocybin research study down in Jamaica. […] I kept following plant medicines, it became very important to me. I took a semester off school to go stay at an ayahuasca research center in Peru. I studied in San Pedro with the indigenous healers of Peru. I just had so many life-changing experiences throughout the course of that. It made me want to further study the plants and their applications within Western psychiatry: treating addiction, mental health, depression, PTSD, trauma. I actually learned throughout this journey that a significant portion of western medications originated in the Amazon Rainforest Basin, which means there’s probably countless medicines left to derive from the plants there.”
As we continue to profile cannabis nurses, GRAM recognizes the power that nurses have. Taylor says, “Nurses have taken the lead as far as self-care in the way of medical cannabis. They’ve started writing standards of care. I think that is because the nursing practice is more pinpointed. Nurses are powerful; they’re the hands of healthcare and the heart of healthcare and they’re a significant portion of the whole body of healthcare. So if nurses get behind plant medicines and there’s no telling what kind of changes could happen.”
In February 2020, Taylor launched IAPN, which currently has about 200 members. They are “Nurses and nursing students who are interested in learning more about psychedelics and the plant medicines and how to fit this into healthcare appropriately and insightfully determining best practices and standards.” The goal is, “Increasing our database of information, increasing our membership, increasing awareness, compiling the research so that we can start putting the research into practice and into best practices for the field.”
Taylor definitely thinks plant medicines should be legal, accessible, and regulated. “I think people should be able to possess whatever plant. As far as administering or hosting ceremonies, I definitely do think there should be some regulation around that, because it can be unsafe with people who don’t know what they’re doing or aren’t medically trained. If we promote a culture of education and safety around proper use of these plants and medicinal use of these plants, I don’t see why anybody shouldn’t be able to use them.”
In order to allow people to have safe access to psychedelic plant medicines, Taylor has also launched Hope Network Health. In coordination with licensed medical professionals, they work to provide psychedelic plant medicine care in a controlled, legal environment. They are scheduled to have their inaugural psilocybin group healing session in January 2021.
Taylor has a lot of hope for the future of plant medicine. “I am really looking forward to the future of what can be done in this space if we work consciously and with a good intention. There’s lots of potential for a new wave of healing or medicine.”
Psychedelic medicine has the potential to revamp and expand the mental health care system in the U.S. Taylor tells us, “We have a very good system in the U.S. as far as some parts of mental healthcare, but I think that our system can be expanded and improved upon. I’m advocating for an expansion, for adding new substances to medical practice, so that people can have options especially people who have tried the traditional therapy and it’s not working, now perhaps they can have access to a breakthrough therapy psilocybin or MDMA. There’s such high demand for healthcare workers because there’s so many sick people. If we can get better medicines perhaps we can improve our healthcare system, see fewer patients, less personnel on staff, less stress in everyway on the system itself, less stress on society in general, if we could get mental healthcare under control, our opiate and alcohol addictions under control, you might see less DUIs, less domestic violence, all these things are related to each other so if we have better medicine options, I think we would have a much happier and more productive country altogether. I want to see our country well.”
Election 2020 Plant Medicine Results
Here at GRAM, we look forward to the changes coming in 2021!
2020 was a major year for plant medicine. Voters in red and blue states voted for changes in state law about cannabis for recreational and medical use. In every state that cannabis was on the ballot in November, it passed!
Cannabis Legalized for Adult Recreational Use
Arizona Proposition 207
South Dakota Amendment A
New Jersey Question 1
Cannabis Legalized for Medical Use
Mississippi Initiative 65
South Dakota Measure 26
Other Plant Medicine Election Results
Washington D.C. Initiative 81
Year of the Nurse
Featuring Eloise Theisen
Eloise Theisen is the president of the American Cannabis Nurses’ Association (ACNA). She has been a nurse for 20 years and a cannabis nurse for six years. With the focus on healthcare workers during the pandemic of COVID-19, GRAM felt talking to a cannabis nurse about COVID-19 issues would benefit our readers.
The number one challenge across the country is rapid change and uncertainty. This uncertainty is no different for the cannabis industry. “One of the challenges we’re seeing in the industry right now are these rapid changes that are coming out around deeming cannabis as an essential business in some states and not others; requiring adult-use states to now only supply cannabis to medical patients again. I think we’re seeing the industry–as a whole–is in jeopardy in terms of being able to sustain and weather this storm because of the fact we don’t qualify for any of the business stimulus relief at the federal level because we’re federally illegal still. So we have all these challenges as an industry that I am concerned about how, eventually, the ripple effect comes to patients. If manufacturers can’t weather this storm, if dispensaries and growers can’t weather this storm, who’s going to be there for patients when we start to come out of this?” Eloise said.
A challenge for healthcare providers is providing the opportunity for cannabis as an alternative to opioids. Eloise said, “The way that the laws are set up, you have to go in and physically get your prescription refilled. And with all the practices trying to limit patients coming in, some of these chronic pain patients on opioid prescriptions are having a hard time getting their prescriptions refilled. So it’s a good time to explore cannabis as a medicine, as either an alternative to their pain medication or something they can use in conjunction, which may allow them to spare some of the dosages.”
Eloise highlighted the extreme variations happening across the healthcare industry that she sees through ACNA. “What we’re seeing right now is there are hotspots in need of healthcare professionals, but outside of that, we’re seeing layoffs, furloughs, and places closing down because the ERs aren’t at capacity or the hospitals aren’t at capacity. So there’s a real interesting extreme happening in healthcare where we’re either in crisis mode like in New York City, Michigan, Chicago, or you’re getting laid off.” One of the things ACNA is working on is a position statement on post-traumatic stress. Eloise anticipates a “huge increase in that diagnosis from the frontlines, first responders. So we want to get out there and get the states to list PTSD as a qualifying condition because not all states do.”
Eloise addressed the various concerns floating around about using cannabis in these times. “I think a lot of people are nervous about inhaling cannabis right now because there’s been some mixed reports, some clickbait, fear-mongering articles coming out. A lot of those articles, they’re using information based on tobacco studies and not cannabis studies.”
“We do have legitimate research to show that cannabis is effective for things like anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, and those are three major conditions or symptoms that people are struggling with right now,” she said. “I would say if you’re new to cannabis, inhalation is not the route you should choose to start until COVID settles in. If you’re a long-term cannabis user and you’re having any respiratory distress or any type of respiratory symptoms like a cough or shortness of breath, you should stop, contact your healthcare provider. Know that there are other options out there.”
It is important to note that cannabis is not a treatment for COVID-19. The ACNA came out with a statement1 addressing cannabis or CBD products being marketed as a cure or treatment for COVID-19. Eloise said, “I think it’s essential for patients to know that the FDA says there’s no coronavirus treatment or cure, and what we know about cannabis and immunity is mixed. So if you’re seeing people making claims about how cannabis or CBD can improve your immune system to fight COVID, you should be suspicious of those claims, and they haven’t been founded in science.”
If you are trying to save money on cannabis or hemp-based CBD products, you are probably sacrificing quality and putting yourself at risk. Eloise said, “Right now, because people have limited income, they may be turning to the grey market to try to save some money, and there’s concern about what’s in those products in terms of mold and pesticides.”
One frustrating aspect of the current environment is that in the race to find a treatment and develop a vaccine for coronavirus, doctors and scientists are basing decisions on extremely small subject groups. “The gold standard of the double-blind, randomized placebo trials, that the healthcare community requires or requests for any type of treatment has been getting a lot of pushback with cannabis, and here we are seeing very small sample sizes with coronavirus and different treatments. And you understand, people are desperate. They’re theorizing how COVID is behaving in the body and what mechanism of action and trying to find the right medication for it. But we see mixed results. Even The New England Journal of Medicine published and basically said there’s not enough evidence to support that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are effective treatments for COVID right now.2 Yet we have our current leadership out there promoting this treatment [which has] devastating side effects. It can be toxic to the heart, among other things. It’s this double standard that we’re experiencing right now. I would love to see some leniency or some opportunities open up for cannabis,” Eloise said. “You’re reading about shortages in the hospitals for the different things we need to treat patients, not just with personal protective equipment, but now medication. It’s like if there was ever a time for cannabis, now is it.”
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