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Marijuana as Medicine; Turn Your "Baseline Brain" into a "Super Brain"

Aired November 10, 2012 - 16:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Hey there. And thanks for being with us.

The dust is starting to settle from the election, but there are probably a few things you may have missed. Marijuana, right to die, a soda tax -- got some thoughts on that.

Also, this beautiful young woman, opera singer, she came back from a double lung transplant. And then she had to go through the whole thing again. The story, though, that has an amazing ending. There is a hint -- you're going to hear her sing.

I just read this book on how to train your brain to do just about anything.


GUPTA: You seem to have boundless energy. And I have written a couple of books. It takes me a long time. How do you --

DEEPAK CHOPRA, CO-AUTHOR, "SUPER BRAIN": I write every day for two hours and meditate for two hours, I exercise, and I feel boundless energy, really. I mean, I sleep very well, and when it stops, it will stop. But right now, it's a go.


GUPTA: It is a go, with Deepak Chopra, Dr. Deepak Chopra. That's just in a few minutes.

But, first, the election "Under the Microscope".

You know, beyond the race for the presidency and for Congress, there were a few things I was watching very closely Tuesday night. First up, in Massachusetts, voters rejected a doctor-assisted suicide law.

I also had an eye on California, where the cities of Richmond and El Monte reached voting on a soda tax. Now supporters out there said if you make soda cost more, people will drink less. They'll be healthier. But the voters in both cities said no tax, and it wasn't even close.

And then, marijuana. Voters in Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize for people over 21 for recreational purposes. In Oregon, they said no.

And supporters of medical marijuana went one for three.

We've talked about this before with Dr. Julie Holland. She's psychiatrist. She's editor of "The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis." And she joins me now from New York.

Welcome back to the show.


GUPTA: I'm sure you're watching the same things as well Tuesday night. Medical marijuana was rejected in Arkansas, as you know. Montana essentially tightened its law on this. But Massachusetts became the 18th state to pass a medical marijuana law.

How will it work, do you think, there in Massachusetts?

HOLLAND: Well, you know, I think they have some planning to do. They need to figure it out. They're planning on having these state-run dispensaries, at least one per county, and no more than five per county.

And you'll go to your doctor, and if you've got a debilitating medical condition like AIDS or HIV or cancer, multiple sclerosis, kind of, you know, major medical conditions -- although there is a bit of a loophole, because it does say other conditions. If the doctor thinks that cannabis would be beneficial for you, they write a recommendation and then you get a card and you can go to these dispensaries. And if you can't get to a dispensary, or there's some sort of hardship, you can grow your own. You can cultivate your own cannabis.

GUPTA: You mentioned a few of the medical indications, and people who studied this for nausea, for example, for stimulating appetite, and patients who've had chemo or HIV/AIDS. But also pain -- you and I talked about this last time, using a pain medication. In medicine, you want to know, does it work? Is it safe? Or is it more effective than other things out there?

How would you say it compares to other medicines?

HOLLAND: Well, it's different. You know, there are some pains that are just not treated very well by opiates.

For instance, you know, pins and needles. You know, the thing that's called paresthesia that you can get as a side effect of other medications. It is a sort of neuropathic pain. Cannabis is -- opiates aren't really great at treating that kind of pain, but cannabis is.

And, you know, the other issue is that you can combine cannabis and opiates and they work synergistically and this would allow the patient to take fewer pain meds, which would be better in terms of tolerance, being dependence, withdrawal. You know, you want people taking as little as possible, because it depresses the respiratory center. You take too many pain meds, you stop breathing. There is no problem like that with cannabis. You can't overdose on it. So if you can combine these two medicines, you take fewer pain prescription pain killers, which in the long run is really less toxic.

GUPTA: Dr. Holland, it's always a pleasure to have you on. A lot of people are very interested on what you say, you know, from last thing. And certainly, we hope to have you back as well. Thank you.

HOLLAND: It's my pleasure, Dr. Gupta.

GUPTA: All right. Talk to you soon.

And another thing to note as well from Tuesday's election -- you know, if you watch President Obama's acceptance speech, you may remember this particular part where he talked about this family that he had met in Ohio during one of his last campaign stops. Here's the story.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything. Had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before, the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.


GUPTA: Well, we tracked down that little girl that he is talking about. Her name is Erin Potter. She has, in fact, fought leukemia three times. So far, more recently this year, and hopefully that's the last time.

Erin, along with her two sisters and her parents, they met the president at the campaign rally. And in case you're curious, having Erin mentioned in the president's speech, well, that was completely unexpected to the family.


JENNIFER POTTER, ERIN'S MOTHER: What I saw in the morning, it was just like a dream. You can't imagine how impactful her story has been on so many people locally, and of course, our family and friends. But now, the president is recognizing Erin's journey, and Kevin's chance to speak and introduce him. And it is pretty remarkable, actually.


GUPTA: Erin's mom says if her daughter's insurance coverage had maxed out because caps were still in place, she would have had to quit her job to be able to fall into the minimum family income allowed for Medicaid coverage. That's what they would have had to do.

The Rainbows Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland says they would never with hold the medical treatment, but the cost of the cap would have to be covered by the hospital, and subsequently by the family. Keep in mind, medical cost, the number one cause of bankruptcy in this nation.

Up next, Dr. Chopra, on his new book. It's called "Super Brain." He's got advice on how to transform your life by tapping into your brain's capacity to heal itself and be trained.


GUPTA: How would you like to have a user's manual for your brain? Think of it as a way to train your brain to be more cooperative. Well, Deepak Chopra's 65th book is called "Super Brain."

So, thanks for joining us. It was a great book. I have read it, actually. And, obviously, and it's right in my wheel house.

CHOPRA: That's right.

GUPTA: I enjoy this sort of thing.

You call the brain a "three-pound universe".

CHOPRA: Right.

GUPTA: I thought that was an interesting metaphor. What do you mean by that?

CHOPRA: Well, first of all, the brain itself is an activity of the universe, through which the universe sees itself. And it's a verb, it's not a known. You know, the brain is an activity.

Right now, as we're speaking to each other, we're actually turning on genes and neurons, being turned on to make protein to actually create neural networks. And people who are listening to us were turning on their genes, too. So --

GUPTA: Right. And so the way anybody sees or hears the same event is very individualized to that person?

CHOPRA: Right. It's that sensation, feelings, thoughts, images, that actually create the neural networks, so you can consciously change the neural networks in your brain. You can shut off the reptilian brain, which is responsible for all the stress of the world. You can turn on the limbic brain so you can have emotional wellbeing, and when you feel love, compassion, joy, equanimity, that actually restores homeostasis, or self-regulation in the brain.

So you know, our emotions regulate our self-propel mechanisms. And then you have the cortical brain, where you use it for insight, intuition, creativity, conscious choice, making inspiration. It's is amazing. We are the user of our brains. We're not the brain.

GUPTA: And I think that was a point that came through loud and clear in the book, that we are in control of our brains, as opposed to our brains making control of us.

CHOPRA: That's right.

GUPTA: This is --

CHOPRA: And genes.

GUPTA: And genes. And this is really hard to study when thinking of the brain overall. There's been papers over the years, over the last few hundred years. But you said it's like putting a stethoscope to the astrodome to actually see what's going on inside.

CHOPRA: Absolutely. And, you know, now that we have the technology, we have functional MRIs, you can track a thought, and you can see what it's doing to which part of your brain. There's not a single event that doesn't have a neural representation, and there is no neural representation that doesn't have a biological effect.

So, you know, now, I have been speaking about the mind-body connection for 25 years.

GUPTA: Right.

CHOPRA: But it's the mind-brain connection that actually creates the mind-body connection.

GUPTA: This is a pivot even in the way that you think about things. You know, when you think about the baseline brain, I think as you call it, and turning it into a super brain, which is a title of the book.

CHOPRA: Right.

GUPTA: What does it mean to you?

CHOPRA: It means that we now have insight into how we age, and how we can reverse some of the biological markers of aging, like blood pressure, bone density, body temperature regulation, self repair mechanisms, homeostasis, immune functions, skin thickness, the number of wrinkles that you have. These are --

GUPTA: That gets everybody's attention.

CHOPRA: You know, we just did a study on the telomerase, which is enzyme that regulates the length of telomeres. When people meditate, the telomeres goes up by 30 percent. This is amazing insight that a mental event can actually change your biological clock.

GUPTA: So can you give me an example? So, someone listen to this and they say that all sounds good. I'd like to do that. What is a simple thing? Is there a simple they can incorporate into their lives to help make that happen?

CHOPRA: Right, get good sleep, very important. The importance of sleep is underestimated. Exercise every day. Cultivate emotional wellbeing through relationships, and of course, diet is very important. Diet that's rich in phytochemicals, which are nutrients derive from the energy of the sun, the seven colors of the rainbow in your food.

GUPTA: Right. CHOPRA: And six tastes of life, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.

And most important, social well-being. If you have a happy friend, your happiness will go up by 15 percent. But if your happy friend has a happy friend that you don't know, it goes up by 10 percent.

GUPTA: Is that right?

CHOPRA: Ultimately, the happiness of your perceived enemies is good for your well being.

GUPTA: It's always such a great pleasure to speak with you.

CHOPRA: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: I learned a lot.

CHOPRA: Thank you for having me.

GUPTA: I'm amazed by you every single time. So thanks for joining us.

CHOPRA: Thanks for having me. Great.

GUPTA: And just ahead, an opera singer that made it through not one, but two double lung transplants. And then she came back to sing again.


GUPTA: Charity Tillemann-Dick is an American-born soprano. She's performed in opera houses and concerts all over the world. But she's also a survivor of two double lung transplants, and she continues to sing professionally.


GUPTA (voice-over): For Charity Tillemann-Dick, to sing is to live.

She's performed on some of the most prestigious stages in the United States and Europe.

CHARITY TILLEMANN-DICK, SINGER: Singing gave me something that I could throw myself into that I loved, and that I could do and there was a prospect of losing that and losing my life.

GUPTA: That's because in 2004, Charity was diagnosed with a rare lung disease. It's called pulmonary hypertension. It's a serious disease that causes blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the lung to harden.

For five years, she was able to manage it with medication. But eventually, her lungs became too weak.

TILLEMANN-DICK: I was in the hospital. I still didn't think I needed the transplant until one night, my doctor came in and he said, "Charity, you can't wait anymore. You're going to die if you don't get a transplant now."

GUPTA: The operation was grueling. Recovery was even harder. She was in a coma for more than a month. Rehab for several more. But, eventually, she made it back to the stage, sharing her voice with the world at Lincoln Center.

TILLEMANN-DICK: I went on stage, and I sang, and it was everything that I imagined.

GUPTA: But the euphoria didn't last.

TILLEMANN-DICK: My body (ph) rejects my lungs just a little less than two years ago.

GUPTA: Her doctors said finding a second lung donor would be even harder. Fortunately, Charity got that second chance.

TILLEMANN-DICK: I knew that there was no way that I got those lungs if they weren't going to make me music.

GUPTA: And music they made. Charity is able to sing again.

And on this day, she's performing for a very special audience. It's her doctors and fellow transplant patients at the Cleveland Clinic.

TILLEMANN-DICK: It's such a blessing and a joy to be able to sing for people who may have the same challenges that I have and who might be facing the same challenges that I have.


GUPTA: Just imagine a singing -- after two double lung transplants, just a remarkable woman. And still ahead, find out what was once the fattest city in the country and what they're doing to get their waistlines and their wallets, by the way, under control.


GUPTA: You know, for years, I have been talking about the dangers of obesity. And believe it or not, today, I've got some good news to report. I've been waiting for a day like this.

Philadelphia has been on the front line of this epidemic, but they've also recently turned the tide. And childhood obesity there is in fact going down. The question is, how did they do it?

Well, a big part of the answer is right on the corner, the corner store.


GUPTA (voice-over): Philadelphia is known for food, after all, it's home of the cheesesteak. After all, it is one of the most overweight cities in the country. And changing that, especially in a city where poverty and violence are also high, well, that's easier said than done.

DR. GIRIDHAR MALLYA, PHILADELPHIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: What's really easy is doctors to sit with patients and say that you need to eat more healthfully. You need to be physically active. But people live in environments where unhealthy stuff is readily available. It's cheap, it's heavily promoted.

GUPTA (on camera): When talking about the issues of overweight and obesity in this country, people point their fingers in lots of different directions. But here in Philadelphia, a lot of fingers get pointed at stores like this, the corner store or the bodega. This is where they say battles can be lost and won.

(voice-over): Enter Yael Lehmann and her nonprofit group, and the food trust.

(on camera): Corner stores, these bodegas.


GUPTA (voice-over): In Philadelphia, I mean, is this the front line?

LEHMANN: This is the front line -- children were receiving the majority of their calories every single day at corner stores like this.

GUPTA: To the tune of some 700 calories a day, according to one study. That's more than a pound a week.

So Lehmann and her team approached local store owners, and helped them to start replacing some junk products with healthier options.

(on camera): Before you had this, what were the kids eating? What would they buy after school?


GUPTA: Cakes?


GUPTA: A lot of junk food.


GUPTA (voice-over): That stuff is still here, but now they also carry fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. And both store owners and customers are eating it up.

(on camera): How about you as a business owner? Is it a money-losing proposition? I mean, you got to store this stuff. You got to get it fresh.

RODRIGUEZ: No, no, it is not losing it at all. We sell it all.

GUPTA: You sell all? RODRIGUEZ: Yes.

GUPTA (voice-over): And get this -- there are hundreds of stores doing this in Philadelphia, and they just may be helping. There was a recent story that found Philadelphia bucking a national trend, with obesity down nearly 5 percent over a two-year period. And Yael's group didn't just stop at the corner store.

(on camera): These are all strawberries?

(voice-over): Now the kids have a taste for the healthy stuff, she's helping them actually grow it in their neighborhoods.

(on camera): People watching think that, I want to do something like this in my community. What would prevent them from doing that?

LEHMANN: You know this is a model that works. We're doing it in 600 stores all throughout the city of Philadelphia. And we would like to take it to other cities. If we can do that successfully in Philly, we can do this anywhere.


GUPTA: And to that point, since I visited Philly, they've added an additional 50 stores to their network. If you want to find out more about the corner food initiatives, you can go to the

It's time now, though, for "Chasing Life".


GUPTA: When it comes to sodium, we simply eat too much -- on average about four grams per day as an adult. We really need about half that, about two grams per day.

There is a study that says if you get down to that two grams a day, we could potentially save about 150,000 lives a year, simply from that one thing.

Frozen foods, they're going to have a lot of sodium in there for lots of different reasons, but mainly because sodium is a good preservative. That's why it's in there. But also, canned foods, you know, a lot of parents, again , like me, will go to canned foods. You get almost a 950 gram, almost a gram of sodium just from something like this, far too much for an adult, and far too much for most kids, as well.

Cereal is also an important food choice, for many homes, make sure to read those labels again.

One thing about reading labels as well, when you're reading labels, try to find foods like this that have less than five ingredients. That's really going to help.

When it comes to the sodium, one thing that we do in our house, we never leave crackers or cookies sitting out in a big box. We'll pour a little bit into a small table, and it's really important to try and find some salt substitutes as well. We don't leave salt shakers out there.

But if you find a substitute like this, no salt, for example, or just flavorings, you can both cut down on the sodium and increase the potassium and possibly solve a lot of those problems.


GUPTA: So how much are people eating? Well, just this week, the American Heart Association put out this list, calling it the "Salty Six" -- six popular foods that may in fact be loaded with excess sodium, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Some of this may surprise you. The top sources of sodium in today's are: bread and rolls, you see there, cold cuts, cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup and sandwiches.

Now, the AHA, the American Heart Association, recommends looking for the heart check mark. That's it right there. This seal means that the meal has been, in fact, certified to meet the nutritional criteria for being heart healthy including low sodium.

So eat that heart healthy diet and chase life as well to a hundred.

That's going to wrap things up for SGMD. But stay connected with me at Let's keep that conversation going on Twitter, as well, at SanjayGuptaCNN.

Happy Veterans Day.

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