CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta Gets It Right

Jun 18, 2009

Bruce Mirken, Media, Medical Marijuana, science

Last night, as part of the ongoing "AC 360" series on marijuana, Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighed in on marijuana's medical benefits and health risks. The transcript of the show is here (scroll down about 2/3 through the page to get to Dr. Gupta).

It's no secret that we haven't always been thrilled by CNN's coverage, but Gupta -- given time constraints that inevitably truncated his answers a bit -- gave a balanced, accurate assessment of the science of marijuana that was remarkably solid, much more so than one usually sees on TV. Among other things, Gupta explained about the cannabinoid receptors in the human brain and noted:

For example, someone who's having terrible malnourishment or terrible nausea as a result of chemotherapy or the effect of HIV/AIDS, using marijuana could stimulate appetite.

 Neuropathic pain, Anderson, something I deal with quite a bit as a neurosurgeon. It's that lancinating nerve pain that's often caused by trauma or some sort of injury or surgery. Sometimes it can be very refractive to pain medications. Marijuana can help there, as well.

Multiple sclerosis, something else that I treat. That's something that can cause significant tremors, for example. Marijuana can help.

Gupta did discuss pulmonary risks of smoking and the possibility of dependence, but in a factual, non-hysterical way that made it clear that dependence rates for marijuana are far lower than for other drugs, including alcohol.

There were rumors for a while that Dr. Gupta might be appointed U.S. Surgeon General. I'm starting to wish he'd gotten the job.

P.S. It does appear that I'll be on CNBC tonight, around 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, though as of this writing it's unclear who, if anyone, I'll be debating and how broad the discussion will be.