The Good and the Bad of Recreational Marijuana

In Season 2 Episode 6 of The Healthy Matters Podcast we talk with addiction medicine specialist Dr. Charlie Reznikoff about legalizing marijuana. As you recall, Dr. Reznikoff gave us The Inside Scoop on Addictions in Episode 4 of Season 1, and now he shares his thoughts about the current state of marijuana use in this country. Many states have now legalized it, both for medicinal use as well as recreational use. You are probably aware that a bill went through the legislature and was signed into law here in Minnesota last year allowing low-dose, hemp-based THC products.

“These products act just like recreational marijuana, and behave in the body just like that, but it’s only a low dose,” said Dr. Reznikoff. “They’re derived from hemp, which is related to marijuana, but not the same. And it has the active ingredient that is an intoxicant, so that that is available now throughout Minnesota in a variety of retail stores.”

Shortly after this podcast became available, the Minnesota legislature passed a bill that would legalize the use of recreational marijuana, likely going into effect on August 1.

We discussed whether this legal change would have a net positive, or a net negatives for individuals, and as a society.

“The most important number one benefit for the vast majority of people who use marijuana is that it brings pleasure and having some joy in your life,” explained Dr. Reznikoff. “I think it’s very reasonable that a lot of people are saying, ‘I want to have a little safe pleasure in the privacy of my own home to be able to use this intoxicant. It’s not that harmful. I use it appropriately.’ I think the number one upside for the vast majority of people is that it’s a relatively safe way to have a little bit of pleasure. And I’m not necessarily endorsing it, but I think that a lot of people just use it to relax.”

Is it a gateway drug to other drugs? What are the health benefits?  Is it healthier to smoke, vape or eat cannabis? We hashed out these questions and more on Episode 6 of Season 2 of The Healthy Matters Podcast.

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Yep. We’re talking about your colon.

We talk about everything on the Healthy Matters podcast, and on Episode 5 of Season 2, we’re going to prove it as we discuss the colon – otherwise known as the large intestine. We’re going to geek out about colons and stool today with my colleague, Dr. Jake Matlock, gastroenterologist, and director of the Division of Gastroenterology at Hennepin Healthcare, who launched the podcast with a claim that this organ is responsible for modern human society. I required more explanation.

“Your intestinal tract provides about three liters of liquid waste to your colon every day,” he said. “And your colon is responsible for taking that three liters of liquid waste and converting it to a small volume of solid stool and providing you the opportunity to eliminate that stool on a voluntary basis without your colon. We’d be like birds, we’d be just constantly leaking stool whenever we were walking around in the day, and we wouldn’t be able to get anything else done.”

Most of us haven’t thought about our intestines in that way. But let’s tuck that thought aside for a moment and consider some other real concerns that can jeopardize the health of your colon.

“Colon cancer is obviously a very important topic,” said Dr. Matlock. “It’s the third leading cause of cancer in both men and women in this country. The most important thing is to get screened, and I think that myself and my colleagues all carry a bias towards colonoscopy. We try not to let that bias come out because the most important thing is that you do something to get screened.”

That’s right – the best screening test is the one you’re going to do. We also talked about various inflammatory disorders that can impact the colon and other maladies that can cause discomfort.

Dr. Matlock shared how it’s a huge quality of life concern if a person’s bowels are not working in a way that meets their expectations, and if you’re having issues with your colon health that interfere with your life, you should talk to a provider. Changes can be made with your diet, your lifestyle, and occasionally, medication therapies can be implemented to help bring some regularity to your bowel function.

“If you do have colon problems, as difficult as it is, let your family know, because that risk for colon cancer is increased in first degree relatives of people with problems,” Dr. Matlock explained. “So, if you’ve had polyps, or colon cancer – let your family know because it changes their cancer risk.”

What do polyps look like? Why is colonoscopy prep so important? Are all polyps precancerous? We go there when we talk about your colon on Episode 5 of the Healthy Matters Podcast.

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Stayin’ Alive! Q & A with a cardiologist

Our hearts are complex organs, and in Episode 4 of Season 2’s Healthy Matters Podcast interventional cardiologist Dr. Louis Kohl walks us through some of the amazing ways it functions to keep blood flowing throughout our bodies, as well as what happens when things go wrong. We start with a look at some high-profile athletes who collapsed with a rare cardiac injury. So, what happened in these cases?

“The thing that makes the most sense in Damar Hamlin’s case is that he experienced what is called commotio cordis,” explained Dr. Kohl. “It’s the most unlucky of most unlucky circumstances – a condition where if you get hit square in the center of the chest, just at the right moment in your heartbeat cycle, the electric cardiac cycle, it can cause your heart to transition from a normal coordinated pumping motion to what we call ventricular fibrillation. It’s when the heart is just quivering there, not pushing any meaningful blood out to the body.”

This led to a great conversation about the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest, plumbing and electricity. And with all that blood pumping through our hearts, you’d think it would have those chambers as an ample access to blood supply for its own function. It doesn’t!

“The heart doesn’t get blood from the pumping chamber,” said Dr. Kohl. “It’s got its own little set of arteries, and when those get blocked, that causes a heart attack – but only a small portion of heart attacks – less than 5 percent.”

We talked about how to do bystander CPR and what to do if you encounter someone who may be in cardiac arrest (call 911!), and Dr. Kohl answered many other interesting questions about cholesterol, aspirin, blood pressure, and well, staying alive.

Also – have you ever wondered what happens to those stents we hear about getting placed in arteries? How do they get there? Do they need to get removed after so many years? How exactly do they work?

Dr. Kohl explained what he does when he performs a stent procedure, whether it’s for chronic angina, chronic chest pain, or if you’ve had a heart attack and an artery is blocked – and how he uses a little pressurized balloon to push aside any clots that might be in the way. You might be surprised to hear that he doesn’t remove the clot.

Blood flow is at the heart of heart matters – and we get the inside scoop on hearts with Dr. Kohl on this episode of Healthy Matters.

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