Falmouth practice thrives on medical marijuana
FALMOUTH — Bob wakes up every day in excruciating pain. He can only get out of his house in Gray a few days a week. And one of the reasons he gets out of the house is to see his doctor in Falmouth.
But it's not an ordinary medical practice.
Integr8 Health, at 170 U.S. Route 1, uses medical marijuana and other non-traditional remedies to treat patients. Headed by Dr. Dustin Sulak, Integr8 has a staff of 10 doctors and nurse practitioners doing integrative medicine and medical cannabis consultations.
Sulak has another practice in Manchester. He said he opened the office in Falmouth in 2011 simply because there was a need. He said he was turning hundreds of patients away each week, so the practice targeted a population-dense area, eventually settling on Falmouth.
"We see people from all over the state, literally," Sulak said. "I do think that people that have debilitating medical conditions hear about us because they talk to other patients that get results with this type of medicine."
"We don't take all the credit for the beneficial effects of cannabis, but we do have integrative protocols that use lifestyle change and herbs and other supplements, and other promoting activities, to help the patients get better," Sulak said.
Bob, who agreed to talk only if his identity was protected, said this is exactly how he heard about Integr8.
"The pain was so much I couldn't get out of bed half the time, I never left the house," he said. "And a friend of mine, he's actually got stage four cancer, I was talking to him and he told me he uses marijuana. It just wasn't a thought in my head. I was actually pretty ignorant about the stuff and thought anybody who did anything with marijuana was a hippie."
After never smoking in his life, he said he tried Integr8 with skepticism.
"I figured it was one more thing to try, I didn't think it was going to do anything," he said. "I didn't have much faith in it. And then I tried it, and for the first time I had a clear head."
Bob, 53, said he had been using about 320 milligrams of Oxycontin a day, as well as Vicodin. But he said the medications stopped working after a while; he was in even more pain than before, and his quality of life had deteriorated.
He has now been a patient of Sulak's for more than a year and a half. He pays for the treatments out of pocket, because insurance won't cover them.
"The only reason even I come here at all, I was at the end and I didn't know what to do," he said. "My doctors didn't know what to do, we'd been through every type of therapy there was. I tried types of things I didn't believe in like acupuncture, anything to relieve some of the pain and help me work through this."
According to Integr8 CEO Brad Feuer, over 14,000 patients are treated each year between the practice's two locations.
"There were no other doctors in the state doing this type of work," Sulak said. "This movement came to me and I met the demand by doing the research, training providers, growing the practices, and offering this service to Maine which is badly needed and still in very high demand."
Bob said he was shocked by the results after he tried it.
"I was actually functioning," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I never left my house when I was on that much Oxycontin. I still wasn't healthy enough to get out, I couldn't do anything. My mind was very clouded, and the pain level was just horrendous. For the first time I was actually able to get out and go to a cookout."
"I was able to go to my daughter's graduation," he continued. "I wasn't able to make my son's, so (before) I missed out on a lot of family things that I just wasn't able to do. So I had pretty much no life on those prescriptions, and with this I'm able to function enough to get out once in a while and to move around."
Sulak said there are a variety of ways to use medicinal cannabis, including what he called "non-psychoactive preparations" for people who don't want to get high or euphoric.
"Now, looking back on these last five years, I see that cannabis is an invaluable tool for any type of medical provider that wants to use a safer alternative to many of the dangerous prescription drugs that are commonly used in a conventional practice," he said.