If I could grant one wish for every medical marijuana patient – especially new patients and people exploring the idea of medical cannabis – it would be a half an hour with Dr. Dustin Sulak of Integr8 Health.

Not the best pic evah of me and Terri on our way to one of the best appointments evah! Photo by Denny St,. Pierre

Every once in a great while you come across someone so knowledgeable – so immersed in developing and growing and communicating that knowledge – that someone’s a guru. Dr. Sulak is a guru when it comes to our beloved plant and alternative medicine in general.

Except Sulak’s down to earth and instead of climbing a mountain, Denny, Terri, and I only had to head south on 295 for a short drive to his Falmouth office. Sulak’s been working with cannabis as a medicine for 10 years. This work includes a practice with patients, consults with other clinicians, constant research, education and outreach, which now includes training for budtenders.

Dr. Dustin Sulak’s office. Photo by Denny St. Pierre

Dr. Dustin Sulak. Photo by Denny St. Pierre

Plus, Sulak lives the lifestyle he preaches – like I was thrilled to hear he drinks cannabis tea when I brought it up. Further, Sulak’s full of pearls of wisdom like this:

“Cannabis when used as a medicine is usually safer than most conventional treatments and can have side benefits instead of adverse side effects.”

“This plant has so many applications because our bodies are hardwired to respond to it.”

“Cannabis isn’t only for sick people; it’s also for healthy people to stay healthy.”

Sulak knows as much about the benefits of using cannabis to maintain health as he does about using it to treat health conditions and said regular cannabis users are less likely to struggle with things like obesity and diabetes. He said data suggests regular users are less likely to have/less likely to need interventions for heart attacks and experience protection against stroke as well.

Data also suggest regular use protects against long-term debilitation related to traumatic brain injury. (TBI) Sulak said a recent study suggests even recreational users are seeking health maintenance benefits from their recreational use. 40% of respondents cited their number one reason for use was sleep.

“Poor sleep effects all health conditions,” Sulak said, “and cannabis promotes healthy sleep” rather than disrupting it like other sleeping medications. He added that patients suffering from conditions like PTSD can actually show improvements in sleep-related symptoms over time with cannabis treatment. This healthier sleep promotes improvements with other symptoms, as well.

Sulak is sensitive to the many reasons people may be hesitant to try medical cannabis and said the fear of impairment is one of the biggest. He wants people to understand that they can enjoy the health benefits of cannabis without experiencing impairment and believes such individualized, customized treatment planning is a huge benefit for patients.

As he says in the vid, educating people is an important part of empowering them to succeed with cannabis. To that end, he’s created an incredible database of information available for free from his website healer.com.

I can’t recommend this resource enough. Healer.com is comprehensive and user-friendly at the same time. People can either do a deep dive into the information offered or simply search a specific condition.

Addiction is a condition dominating communities lately, and Sulak spoke of the subject knowledgeably and compassionately. He knows that medications prescribed to treat legitimate health conditions can also relieve underlying psychological and emotional issues. Further, increases in tolerance levels often require higher and higher doses, while the health conditions and underlying issues remain or even worsen.

When it comes to treating addiction with cannabis, Sulak emphasizes that different strategies will work for different people. For example, Sulak says people who use cannabis in conjunction with opioids – something he deems safe – are able to reduce the amount of opioids taken. He and Denny enjoyed discussing Denny’s experience coming off methadone and other drugs with cannabis, and Sulak congratulated Denny on his success.

As for the state of medical marijuana in Maine and around the country, Sulak said “lots of the challenges we’ve faced in Maine are still fresh in other states.” However, internationally speaking, our state and nation are woefully behind other places like Chile and Columbia where medical cannabis has been fully integrated into the health care systems. Contrasting our system to some others, Sulak bemoaned our $4000 per capita annual cost only to achieve some of the worst outcomes in the world.

Sulak’s a firm believer in a patient’s right to grow as a means of bringing cost-effective health care to people. He called it auto-cultiva – the idea of people growing their own plants to supply their own medicine – and said in more integrated systems patients are able to bring their plants to pharmacists for specific compounding.

Sulak doesn’t anticipate the US getting to that level of integration any time soon, but he’s passionate about being a part of making that change happen. People can find out more about Sulak at his website for his practice:  integr8health.com and about medical cannabis/the endocannabinoid system at healer.com. Dr. Sulak is also available for consultations with other practitioners to help them support a patients choice to use medical cannabis.