Dr. Stephen Dahmer on A Vision for the Future of Health Care
Medical doctors gathered recently in Minneapolis to discuss the use of plants – particularly cannabis—in their practice. One presenter talked about a system of “plant-based synergistic polypharmacy supporting homeostasis... Not pitted against, but supporting the next breakthrough reductionist intervention with remarkable short-term power and efficacy.” In other words, a future where pharma-oriented medicine and plant-oriented medicine work in harmony.
So believes Dr. Stephen Dahmer, chief medical officer of Vireo Health and its parent company Goodness Growth Holdings, Inc. In early April, they hosted The Spring into Cannabis Symposium, a two-day event that included continuing medical education credits (CME) to qualifying medical professionals—a rare opportunity at cannabis educational events—and a tour of one of their growing operations. Goodness Growth is a physician-led, science-focused cannabis company and intellectual property developer, and its subsidiaries Vireo Health and Green Goods make it one of the largest multi-state operators growing, selling and researching medical cannabis in the country.
While Dahmer’s vision of a future plant-oriented medical system involves far more than just cannabis, the revolution that cannabis is bringing to the system is helping to change the minds’ of medical doctors, creating a new way of thinking about health care. He discussed the symposium and his vision in a recent podcast interview. For him and his colleagues, it all starts with solid science. “Minnesota has a fantastic medically oriented program,” he says. “The department of health there does fantastic research in asking questions directly to patients and providers. They maintain a registry—one of few in the world—that are monitoring those patients in the program and routinely publishes results from that.”
Dahmer hears a general call among providers for more CME. He said, “Physicians—especially of my age—received zero education about the endocannabinoid system in medical school. The only thing we learned about cannabis was the derogatory and negative effects. So we know nothing about harnessing potential benefits or how to best consult and work with patients that are interested in exploring this path.”
This gap is what the symposium was designed to help fill. “There is so little we do know about the positive potential for this plant, we need to build off one another,” he said. “This is not coming through the usual pipeline. We need to create this content ourselves.”
The first day’s speakers were very well received, says Dahmer, but the highlight for many was a tour of Goodness Growth’s grow facility on the second day. “So many providers for the first time got to actually see where these plants are grown and the process by which our medicines are made. For every provider I bring through, it’s a remarkable experience to see the actual plants that we offer to our patients.”
Dahmer sees that physicians are more eager to learn more about the endocannabinoid system. He says, “It’s an endogenous system that is super-modulatory toward homeostasis. I can’t think of one that could be more pertinent and important right now. As a primary care doctor, 80 to 90 percent of what I see is related to stress. So something that oversees resilience and our body’s ability to deal with stress... what an amazing system that we are just scratching the surface of. Every day, exponentially, we are learning more.”
“We are ready for a paradigm shift,” Dahmer says. “We’re seeing mostly chronic disease, where something with a softer impact on our physiology would be more useful. I’m just enthralled with the idea of the entourage effect—this polypharmacy that occurs within the plant. I think this is going to form a solid part of the future of medicine.
“I don’t want to come off as anti-pharmaceutical or anti-Western medicine. There are so many things for which it’s remarkably effective; specifically, acute care medicine. There’s nothing I know that is more effective—as opposed to chronic care medicine, which is more complex and needs a more complex approach in how we treat it. So many aspects of medicine are starting to go in this complexity direction because we know that’s what is going to be needed to tackle these situations.”
Sven Hosford is the managing editor of the Pittsburgh edition of Natural Awakenings magazine.