How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death via @nytimes

Psilocybin StructureCan psychedelics ease the suffering of those with terminal illness?  A growing number of medical studies, and a recent article in the New York Times, say “yes.”

Research into the use of psychedelic and entheogenic drugs, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms, LSD and MDMA, to treat medical and psychiatric problems was actively pursued in the 1950s and 1960s.  Recently, after a decades-long hiatus due to government reaction to cultural factors in the 1960s, research has begun again.  The initial focus has been on mental health issues such as anxiety in terminally-ill patients and PTSD in military veterans. But using these substances to treat medical conditions, such as LSD for cluster headaches, has also shown promise.

Pam Sakuda was 55 when she found out she was dying. Shortly after having a tumor removed from her colon, she heard the doctor’s dreaded words: Stage 4; metastatic. Sakuda was given 6 to 14 months to live. Determined to slow her disease’s insidious course, she ran several miles every day, even during her grueling treatment regimens. By nature upbeat, articulate and dignified, Sakuda — who died in November 2006, outlasting everyone’s expectations by living for four years — was alarmed when anxiety and depression came to claim her after she passed the 14-month mark, her days darkening as she grew closer to her biological demise. […]

Norbert Litzinger remembers picking up his wife from the medical center after her first [psychedelic] session and seeing that this deeply distressed woman was now “glowing from the inside out.” […] under the influence of the psilocybin, she came to a very visceral understanding that there was a present, a now, and that it was hers to have.

The latest study out of UCLA, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2011 and conducted by Charles Grob MD, administered psilocybin — an active component of magic mushrooms — to end-stage cancer patients to see if it could reduce their fear of death.

The results showed that administering psilocybin to terminally ill subjects could be done safely while reducing the subjects’ anxiety and depression about their impending deaths.

Surely more research is needed. And these drugs are currently all still in Schedule 2 of the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.  So any use outside of a DEA-approved research protocol is illegal.

You can find the entire NYT article here.



Study Shows Shocking Disparities in Hospital Bills for Appendicitis Treatment #costsofcare

“Mommy, my tummy hurts.”

It's 4am. Your 8-year-old son is shaking you awake.  After you confirm that in fact, he is having abdominal pain and not just a bad dream, you head down to the local hospital emergency department to have him checked out.

Little did you suspect, a variety of factors beyond your control in the next 2 hours, having little to do with your son's medical condition, will determine whether your family has to declare bankruptcy or not.
Read More

Remote Medical Care for International #Travel? Can I have a physician on call?

I was interviewed for an article on Dr. Andrew Weil's

“Yes, it is possible to arrange remote medical consultation while you're traveling abroad. I discussed your question with Paul Abramson MD., an integrative medical doctor and travel medicine specialist in San Francisco who is a graduate Senior Fellow of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. He told me that a variety of services are available via Read More

Doctors in Flight

Why I book flights with Dr. in front of my name – NYT interview featuring Paul Abramson MD

Exerpt from “When Doctors are Called to the Rescue in Midflight” in the New York Times, May 24, 2011, by Katie Hafner:

Since the earliest days of commercial aviation, airlines have coped with medical emergencies in flight by calling on physicians who happen to be passengers. And as more people travel by air, the number of emergencies has risen accordingly. […]

But physicians who get a firsthand look at the kits say the contents vary.

“With some planes, it’s a hospital in a box, and they have everything you could ever want,” said Dr. Paul Abramson, a primary care physician in San Francisco. “But often they look like they’ve been picked over.”Read More

How to stay healthy when traveling abroad; via @drweil #travel #health

I was interviewed for an article on Dr. Andrew Weil's

I am planning a trip to sub-Saharan Africa next year. I understand I will need to get some vaccines. How do I find out which ones? Do I really have to have the shots? What other health risks should I be concerned about? And what medications apart from my prescriptions do you suggest I take with me?

International travel, especially to developing countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, can offer great experiences, but can also present a variety of health risks. You might prepare by consulting a physician who specializes in travel medicine, a field that focuses on the prevention and management of health issues for international travelers

I discussed your questions with Paul Abramson, M.D., an integrative medical doctor and travel medicine specialist in San Francisco Read More

Anatomy of a hospital ‘bounce-back’ #preventreadmissions

Published at Fierce Healthcare on March 5, 2010

As a physician who works as a hospitalist and a primary-care doctor, I understand the complexity of discharging a patient from the hospital, and all the moving pieces that must come together to successfully transition a patient back to the outpatient setting. If even one link in the chain fails, a patient often ends up back in the emergency department and/or readmitted to the hospital as, in hospital-speak, a “bounce-back.”

These readmissions are like a canary in a coal mine, Read More

MRI Brain

Reconnecting #healthcare through health information exchange #HIE

Published at Hospital Impact on September 15, 2010

The clinical scenario is familiar to many doctors.

An elderly man arrives at California Pacific Medical Center's emergency department in San Francisco at 11 p.m. on a Saturday by ambulance, unconscious and severely ill. A neighbor had called 911 after he failed to answer the phone or door. No friends or relatives are available, and the man has never visited this emergency department before.

The treating doctors must Read More