By Vanessa Orr
Now that the state of Florida has legalized medical marijuana, many patients are using it to find relief from a number of conditions, including cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD and more. Despite this, there are still many people who could benefit from its use but who may not know how to get a physician’s recommendation or how to sign up on the state registry.
DocMJ is helping to streamline this process. The practice’s 15 physicians located in 14 cities throughout Florida provide risk-free evaluations, as well as walk patients through the sign-up process. In addition, they work closely with patients to determine the type of medical marijuana that will give them the best result.
“Most of the patients we see are looking for alternatives to traditional medicine, better treatment options or perhaps symptom relief for the first time in their lives,” explained Dr. Nicholas Bottaro. “They are often hesitant and nervous because they don’t know what to expect. While they are desperate for help, they are afraid of the stigma and worried about what the physician will think. We work to create a very relaxed, comfortable environment so that they don’t have any reason to be anxious.”
According to Dr. Bottaro, the majority of the patients that DocMJ sees qualify for medical marijuana. “Most of our patients already have a diagnosis from their own doctors, for example, they have been diagnosed with a disease like multiple sclerosis or cancer,” he explained, adding that during an appointment with a DocMJ physician, a patient’s medical records and symptoms are reviewed. “In a smaller number of cases, we diagnose the patients ourselves.”
Dr. Bottaro gives the example of a person with a severe anxiety disorder who may not have seen a doctor for years out of fear. “If we believe that the person could greatly benefit from medical marijuana and that it would provide relief in some way, we will recommend it,” he said. “We don’t want to turn away someone who needs it.”
All DocMJ physicians have taken the state-mandated course that is required to be able to recommend medical marijuana and to enter a patient into the state registry. “While some general practitioners have taken the course, most have not because it’s just too much work to add on to an already busy practice,” said Dr. Bottaro, adding that even physicians who have taken the course may not have the time to stay up-to-date on the different strains of marijuana and other changes in the industry.
DocMJ makes it a priority to educate each patient. “We spend a lot of time talking about the different types of marijuana and what will work best for them, depending on what we’re trying to treat,” explained Dr. Bottaro. “You wouldn’t recommend Sativa for a patient with an anxiety disorder, for example, because it has been known to induce or worsen anxiety. If you’re just signing them up without going through the different options for, say, PTSD or bipolar disease, you’re leaving them at the mercy of the dispensary selling the product. We want to steer them in the right direction.”
Once a patient is approved, their name is entered into the state registry along with information on the maximum daily dose and the appropriate route for its ingestion—for example, as pills, drops, creams or by inhalation. The patient then completes the state part of the application online, and pays $75 for a permanent ID card. Within roughly two weeks, they receive an email with their approval and can go to a dispensary to buy their medicine.
Florida law requires that patients see physicians every seven months to check how they are progressing before the recommendation can be renewed. In order to save patients time and money, DocMJ offers a package for $169 that covers the first visit, paperwork for monthly refills, and follow-up visits during that time as needed.
“Some places are taking advantage and saying that patients have to come in monthly for their refills, and charging them every time,” said Dr. Bottaro. “I think that hinders people from getting good care. We’re not in it for the money; we’re here to help as many people as possible.”
To learn more about DocMJ or to make an appointment, visit www.DocMJ.com or call 888-908-0143. You can also visit them on Facebook to talk with other patients, the physicians or the support team.