Instead of Smoking Pot, How Do I Deal With Anxiety, Depression and Pain?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Not all marijuana use is recreational. Many people use marijuana purely for its medicinal effects. But are there healthier alternatives? Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana discuss many of the options available for those who believe medicinal marijuana is the only way to cope with their afflictions.


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Tana Amen: So we are back talking about pot. Not my favorite topic. If you listened to the last podcast, I'm feeling like my blood pressure's a little bit up. But I want to be fair. Is there ever a time that it's ever appropriate to consume marijuana in different forms? The answer's probably yes. So, we're going to talk a little bit about that. Also, for when it's not appropriate for you. For when it's not good for you. You know that it's affecting you and your family negatively. What are some of the alternatives to anxiety, sleep issues, pain? We're going to talk about that as well.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Temper problems.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I have patients who've had traumatic brain injuries. Who've then become terribly aggressive.

Tana Amen: Like severe. We have one with severe traumatic brain injury. They can't take him in public because he has a weird reaction. He attacks men. He just attacks men. That's a pretty severe issue.

Dr. Daniel Amen: When he consumes pot in cookies or-

Tana Amen: Chocolate brownies. Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... something like that, the aggression goes away. As we talked about, on the last podcast, when our father-in-law had pancreatic cancer, marijuana really helped with the pain. Other people use CBD oil and say it's really helpful for children with seizure disorders. Now, because it has been federally illegal, there's been no research money. You can find case stories for anything is good for you, including sugar. But, I think our thought process is if you've tried the other things and they've truly not been successful, then this could be something to think about. But not marijuana in general because the THC not only gives people a high, it can trigger mental health illnesses, mental health problems. The study is likely going to be with CBD oil. Which is-

Tana Amen: Minus the ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Minus the THC.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I'm looking forward to seeing the studies. All I can tell you is being a psychiatrist and I'm a child psychiatrist and so often what we would see is somebody, 14, 15, 16 never look like they have-

Tana Amen: Try 12, 11.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... ADD and all of the sudden they're in my office because the parents think they have ADD. But they didn't have it at six. They didn't have it at eight. They didn't have it at 10. My first thought is they either had a head injury and that's why the look like they have ADD now. Or they picked up pot. Parents go, "No, no, no." Then I'll see their skin and their skin looks toxic. Overall decreased blood flow for their age. I'll have the teenager by him or herself and I'm like, "Why does your brain look toxic?" They'll start to cry and they'll say, "You won't tell my mom?" Or, "You won't tell my dad?" They'll tell me they've been smoking pot for a year. Their decrease in school performance parallel their pot use or sometimes it's alcohol use. And so what I would say, it's not okay for a developing brain.

Tana Amen: I've seen this actually ... We have a teenager who's in junior high. Four of the kids, I saw this explosion happen. She's actually now homeschooling, by her choice. But four of the kids that she started school with, who are now partying, smoking pot, drinking alcohol have been expelled. It's a big deal. Their parents think that it's not. They think their kids are really good kids and it just is a misunderstanding. They're completely unaware of the reality. It's sad.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I've not seen it improve, brain development, for anyone. But the common reasons people use is they can't sleep, they're in pain, or they're struggling with anxiety. Let's talk about alternatives to pot that might not have the side effects of decreased motivation, decreased blood flow to the brain. So many of my patients talk about decreased memory. It shrinks, the hippocampus. That's the horse-shaped structure that gets memory into long-term storage. What are some of the things you've found helpful for anxiety?

Tana Amen: I have trouble sleeping and I'm a little anxious. For me, I really ... We say it all the time so it begins to sound rote. But it's just so true. Meditation, meditation, meditation, acupuncture is really good. My chiropractor helps me as far as just really relaxing everything. Exercise, all of those things are really my key to unwinding. I don't do well without them.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So you actually meditate every day?

Tana Amen: Yes. I really try to focus on something. This is not always easy. Okay? When there's someone that's really causing problems in your life, I will literally sit and meditate in a positive way and pray positively for that person. It's hard. You have to practice doing that. Pretty soon it becomes easier.

But, what I find is that they've actually done studies on forgiveness and on prayer and meditation. If you won't do it for them, do it for you. Right? When you don't let go of that anger and fear and anxiety, it actually increases your anxiety when you don't let go of that anger. You're the one that pays the price. It's like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die. You're doing it for you. You have to focus on-

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, mental health hygiene.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: One of our favorite meditations is loving kindness meditation. It's really simple to do and you do it for people. To yourself, to someone, you're thankful for, someone you're neutral on, and someone you're having trouble with.

Tana Amen: In theory, it's easy. But you have to practice doing it with the person that-

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, it's may I be healthy? May I be happy? May I be at peace? Something really that simple.

Tana Amen: And you repeat it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Towards yourself. Repeat it for a couple of minutes for yourself-

Tana Amen: Three or four times. Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: To someone, you're thankful for. Like I would do it for you.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: To someone, you're neutral on.

Tana Amen: The store clerk.

Dr. Daniel Amen: To someone, you're having trouble with.

Tana Amen: Someone who makes you really angry. That's where it takes practice.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's been found to decrease anxiety. Decrease the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Decrease migraine headaches. Decrease pain and improve sleep. How simple is that? To take four or five minutes a day and close your eyes and just repeat, "May I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be at peace, may Tana be healthy, may Tana be happy, may Tana be at peace?" Then someone neutral. Then, someone, you're having trouble with. Then you're done.

Tana Amen: This is not one of those pie in the sky ... It's like Paulianna like I'm going to ... It decreases-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah. I like Paulianna.

Tana Amen: I know you do. Decreases my anxiety. This is study. These types of mediations have been studied. Forgiveness has been studied. Relaxing your brain, doing these things have been studied. The reason why is because they've decrease stress hormones. Burn patients heal better. They actually found that people with cancer, autoimmune disorders, those types of things. They begin to get well because those hormones actually begin to settle down. Those autoimmune reactions begin to settle down.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The other thing is diaphragmatic breathing.

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: In fact, Chloe was having some anxiety recently. I got her on BrainFitLife, our online program, and portal. I took her to a game we have online called My Calm Beat that just teaches her-

Tana Amen: It's a great program.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... to breathe at about 5.5 breaths per minute. If you can just slow your breathing-

Tana Amen: And belly breathe.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... and breathe more with your belly. More diaphragmatically, that it actually has an immediate anti-stress response in your body. Can really help with sleep. Also, on BrainFitLife, something you use a lot, something I use a lot are their six hypnosis audios. There's one for sleep. One for pain. One for weight. One for anxiety. One for peak performance. Hypnosis is so powerful.

Tana Amen: Love it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: In fact, the one for peak performance on BrainFitLife is one I did for you when you were testing for-

Tana Amen: My first black belt.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... your first black belt. People love that.

Tana Amen: It's really helpful.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We just got a testimonial about how important the hypnosis audios are. It's just so powerful. When I first learned how to do it for patients, one patient his Parkinsonian tremor went away. Another one his heart arrhythmia went away. I used it all the time for procedures-

Tana Amen: Medical hypnosis is amazing. Where your focus goes, your energy flows. It's very powerful.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, hypnosis, very powerful tools.

Tana Amen: Acupuncture.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Acupuncture, especially for pain.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Opiates, like heroin decrease blood, flow to the brain and decrease pain. Although, what's really interesting to me about opiates is they decrease pain in the short run. They actually increase pain in the long-run. There's a new study where they looked at white blood cells in the spinal cord. They would give the rats heroin. Even though it settled down their bodies and settled down their pain, it made the white blood cells go crazy.

Tana Amen: That's interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Short term benefit, long-term trouble. Whatever you can do to avoid opiates, then that's a good thing to do. You have to be out of chronic pain. If you're in chronic pain, you're going to try and kill yourself because it's a serious, negative, situation. But, I always go, "What are all the other things we can do first?" What acupuncture has been shown is it decreases pain. But it increases blood flow to the brain.

Tana Amen: I actually do experience chronic pain because of my scoliosis. So I have scoliosis and I love to practice martial arts. Probably not-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Like beating things up. Even though you have chronic pain.

Tana Amen: I do. I love hitting things. It's the best therapy on the planet.

Dr. Daniel Amen: How does that make any sense?

Tana Amen: Because it's good therapy and I love it. Anyways, probably not the best combination.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Does she listen to her doctor? No.

Tana Amen: I'm not going to comment on that. Anyways, what'd you say I'm a psychiatrist's dream actually sometimes I'm a psychiatrist's nightmare. But, anyways, I do experience chronic pain in my back because of the scoliosis. For me, it does affect my sleep. It affects my sleep a lot sometimes. But what works for me besides the meditation, some people love it. Some people don't. Just like acupuncture. Chiropractor. My chiropractor literally changes my life. I go in and it just relieves the pain almost instantly. It's more than just that pain in that spot. It's like this whole energy release thing. I can't really explain it.

Between that and the medication and prayer and stretching, I'm able to manage the chronic pain. I have to go regularly. You don't go once and expect it to away. It's a hygiene thing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: There are also supplements that can help and we have a whole group at Brain MD Health for pain. My favorite supplements and what we often used with the NFL players that we saw. Many of them had chronic pain were SAMe, capital S, capital A, capital M, little e, Adenosyl Methionine has been shown to help with mood issues but also with pain.

Tana Amen: Doesn't it also help a little bit with focus?

Dr. Daniel Amen: It can help with focus. Omega-3 fatty acids and often higher doses of [crosstalk 00:13:45]-

Tana Amen: Yeah, I take high dose.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... fatty acids because they decrease inflammation.

Tana Amen: I take 5 grams a day.

Dr. Daniel Amen: For sleep, we like magnesium [crosstalk 00:13:55]-

Tana Amen: Lots of magnesium.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... melatonin. For anxiety, there's so many things to try. Theanine from green tea. GABA which I really like a lot. Ashwagandha, brand new study on Ashwagandha shown it helped decrease obsessive compulsive disorder. One of the anxiety disorders. Also, holy basil which is an adaptogen and has evidence it can decrease anxiety. There are so many alternatives to smoking pot-

Tana Amen: I want to touch really quick on that sleep issue before we end really quickly because it's such a big issue for people who smoke pot. I have a lot of trouble sleeping because of the thyroid issue and the pain sometimes and things like that. You touched on the magnesium. I just want to really push on that a little bit. I take about 400 mg of magnesium glycinate before bed. I only have to take about 1.5 mg of a time released melatonin. I'm partial. I really like the one we make because it's time released so I don't wake up in the middle of the night.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Restful sleep.

Tana Amen: Right. You can take 3 mg-

Dr. Daniel Amen: People love Restful Sleep.

Tana Amen: You can take 3 mg of it safely if you need to, whatever. It's actually good for you because it's a very, very powerful antioxidant. So there's not a problem with it. It's not like sleeping pills which are actually going to negatively impact you.

There's a lot of things you can do. You just have to play with your cocktail. I also use tea. They're called Bedtime Teas or Nighty night Teas. Bam. I can't drive. I literally I can't drive after I do that cocktail.

Dr. Daniel Amen: As well. So On Brain MD Health we have SAMe, we have Omega-3 Power, highly concentrated highest quality fish oil. We also have everyday stress relief that people love a lot. It's got Relora in it and holy basil. We also have GABA Calming with GABA in it. I just want you to know that there are other options than doing something that potentially could hurt a developing brain or hurt your brain. Here on the Brain Warriors Way, we want you to be armed, prepared, and aware to win the fight for your brain's health because your brain runs everything you do. Stay with us.