Troubleshooting the Human Condition to Solve Cultural Problems: Philip Blair, MD
It might have been the carpeting, but when Tara Coomans introduced me to Dr. Philip Blair at the Cannabis World Congress and Expo at the LA Convention Center last week, I got a little static shock in my fingertips. I would have forgotten the little ‘pop’ if this engaging gentleman didn’t give off such serious energy during our conversation. Even at rest, Dr. Blair seems to hum from some kind of internal flywheel. He looks 20 years younger than men his age, and when he gets going on the results of CBD in treating a wide variety of ailments, his electricity is palpable.
Philip Blair, M.D. (U.S. Army retired) graduated from West Point in 1972, served as an artillery officer, then attended the University of Miami School of Medicine and trained as an Army Family Physician at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center. He continued his career as family physician in five world assignments including the Iraq Gulf War and retired as a Colonel in 1996. As a primary care doctor, he specializes in the full range of family medicine from childbirth to combat medicine. Since 2011, his company, Pro Health Advisor, has provided innovative disease management by telemedicine to clients in all 50 states. Dr. Blair is a CBD advocate and an Advisor to Elixinol, which derives CBD products extracted from hemp.
American Cannabis Report (ACR): The diversity of your resume is quite interesting, Dr. Blair, and since we’re here in LA we’re very interested in the “arc of your story”. Can we start with your military experience?
Dr. Philip Blair (Blair): I went to West Point at 17, and majored in Mechanical Engineering. I served as an artillery officer for two years, then went to medical school. After that, I did my family medicine training and took assignments to many areas of the world before I retired from the Army in 1996. My love for mechanical engineering is a theme throughout my career, but we’ll get back to that.
ACR: We’ve read that you spent time as a family practitioner above the Arctic Circle.
Blair: After I left the Army I was enrolled in a program where I filled in for doctors in remote locations in the US and around the world. Through this program I practiced family medicine in Newfoundland, in Alaska above the Arctic Circle, and with the Muckleshoot tribe near Seattle. During those missions I was able to observe some deep and persistent problems that I tried to fix.
ACR: In these remote communities, you must have had the opportunity to get to know your patients very well.
Blair: Working in small communities helped me to understand their culture and special needs which, as you might imagine, are also universal needs. As a family practitioner, I am primarily focused on relieving suffering and preventing illness. But my training as a mechanical engineer – and my aptitude and passion – is to try to fix things. I think in terms of troubleshooting the human condition to solve cultural problems. As a doctor, that means solving the underlying health problems. I’m looking for things that work.
My first foray was kidney disease. Surprisingly, I found that diet was the key factor in preventing kidney disease and its progression. Whole, fresh, unprocessed foods reduce inflammation, stabilize blood glucose and improve circulation issues. Improving diet helps control obesity, which affects respiratory systems, as well as swelling, chronic pain, and depression. It was pretty successful with diligent coaching, but many people were not getting results fast enough to really alleviate suffering. So I tried whole body vibration. I use a small 1-person platform with a mechanism inside that you stand on – a little like a teeter totter.
ACR: So this strategy was about… exercise?
Blair: Exactly. The device rapidly stimulates reflexes, causes contractions to maintain balance. I chose this device because it provided a passive form of exercise for anybody, just by standing on it. Still, that was not enough to restore everyone’s health. Again, I was trying to alleviate enduring problems in a community. And diet and exercise are two big areas that are universally problematic.
ACR: Are these problems acute in aging populations?
Blair: Yes, but it’s wider than that. The videogame culture has really reduced the amount of exercise that younger people are getting. The problems this causes, at a much younger age than we’ve seen before, are profound.
ACR: So you’re you’re working with multiple age groups, with a wide variety of ailments, but you’re fighting against their natural inclinations, technology…
Blair: Yes, although those are still only part of our nation’s health problems, so my search continued… which is how I came to learn about cannabidiol – CBD oil derived from hemp.
ACR: I’d like to stop for a moment to acknowledge your journey from the US Army (formal, regimented) to medical school and practice (process-oriented, highly regulated), to becoming a cannabis advocate. That’s way outside the box, Doctor… help us connect the dots.
Blair: Well, the connection is quite straightforward in my case. When I am confronted with a problem, I don’t accept things as they are, I try to improve them. As a mechanical engineering student, in targeting artillery, in medical practice, I’ve tried to figure out how things work, and try to fix the things that don’t. And again, the communities I was serving were facing some universal problems. Chronic pain is another big one. Opioids are a typical treatment protocol but it’s clear they are causing major health issues in themselves.
ACR: There’s a lot of bad news lately about opioids.
Blair: Yes, but opioids are an approved treatment protocol for pain. And that’s how we were trained: learn a patient’s symptoms, try to determine the underlying cause, and prescribe treatments that are approved for that symptom. A big problem with opioids is that they also potentiate chronic pain by sensitizing the body, causing the patient to increases dosage to maintain the same effect. Now, one problem has become two… and the ultimate result of a patient increasing opioid dosages is respiratory depression, which is how so many of these folks die.
CBD can stop this. Instead of a drug that makes the patient need more, CBD actually reduces the amount of opioids needed by 75%. When properly combined in a treatment regimen with an opioid, the need for the opioid goes down, and can be eliminated in many cases.
ACR: Is that the only advantage of CBD?
Blair: Not at all! CBD stops withdrawal from the drug dependence. It does not enhance respiratory depression. And it can be used with opioids until the patients can wean themselves off. CBD is non-addictive, so it’s a very good replacement.
But far beyond opioids, I’ve found that CBD provides answers to widespread cultural problems: anxiety, depression, sleep issues, loss of physical fortitude, worsening respiration and blood circulation, even dementia. I have 6 patients who previously had dementia who are completely clear now.
ACR: CBD can clear up dementia!? This is potentially huge news.
Blair: It sure is! I see people get younger using CBD. Cognitive issues get better… really get better. Their skin even gets younger – CBD has an antioxidant effect and prevents destruction of the mitochondria. Here’s a funny thing: Guess how old I am.
ACR: I don’t know… 52?
Blair: I’m 67. And look, the Greatest Generation is in their 80’s and 90’s, and the Baby Boomers… the window of opportunity to get ahead of these conditions is NOW.
ACR: The look on your face tells me there’s more…
Blair: Oh, there’s much more that CBD does. There are no cravings or dependency with CBD: it interacts with addiction brain pathways and the natural opioid receptors in the body (that serve addictions) and regulates them, helping people control the use of nicotine, benzodiazepines, carbohydrates…
There are many uses for CBD in athletics and military. It’s a known neuroprotectant, it helps muscle recovery and improves sleep. In sports we find that if we give athletes CBD prophylactically so it’s in the system when an injury occurs, its speeds healing. If CBD were used in the same fashion (preventatively) in the military, we could reduce effects of brain injury. When used up to 5 hours after an injury, CBD can prevent many consequences including PTSD. The heart and all organs respond to CBD.
ACR: Is your CBD extracted from indica strains of cannabis?
Blair: Neither. Industrial hemp is the source we use. “Industrial hemp” being the category of the plant that has less than .3% THC, yet the entourage effect is still in play.
You know, I don’t mean to sound trite, but a while back there was a military slogan: “Be all you can be”. For me, that’s what CBD provides. It gives you a healthier life in all respects, and brings the whole body back into tune to restore normal functions. “Be all you can be” – that really sums up my experience with CBD.
ACR: Outstanding, Dr. Blair. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to speak with you today.
Blair: Thank you very much, I’ve enjoyed it.