Pharma drugs  Cannabis

Bob Lobel: Medical marijuana saved me from addiction

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Patrick Whittemore

ALTERNATE REMEDIES: Former WBZ-TV sports anchor Bob Lobel, above, says he turned to medical marijuana to help deal with the pain from a variety of injuries and surgeries he has endured over the years. Lobel says he prefers to use cannabis oil to smoking marijuana.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Boston sportscasting icon Bob Lobel is one of the hundreds of patients in Massachusetts who say they have found an effective substitute for opioids by using medicinal marijuana.

The 71-year-old longtime television reporter and anchor has dealt with chronic pain for years, the result of numerous surgeries: He’s had two knee replacements, two rotator cuff surgeries, four back surgeries and, in separate accidents, fractured the tops of both femurs.

“That was brutal,” Lobel told the Herald, referencing the femur breaks. The constant pain left him taking a variety of opioids.

“My issue was strictly pain,” he said. “I didn’t want to take any more OxyContin or oxycodone or Percocet, for a variety of reasons. The biggest thing I was worried about was addiction. But they also made me tired and it was hard to function and I couldn’t go on TV all drugged up.”

Lobel said pure curiosity led him to check out a medical marijuana event several months ago at the Castle at Park Plaza in Boston. It was there he met Dr. Uma Dhanabalan of the Uplifting Health and Wellness clinic in Natick. Dhanabalan recommends patients for medicinal marijuana certificates in Massachusetts and has been a strong advocate for using cannabis as a way to treat those who might otherwise find themselves hooked on opioids.

“She told me medical marijuana could be used for pain reduction and I said, ‘Hey, sign me up,’ ” Lobel said, adding that he had been trying to manage his pain with over-the-counter meds after committing to no longer taking opioids. “I wanted to at least try it. I wasn’t interested in getting high, that’s not the goal, believe me. It was really about helping with the pain, and it did.”

Lobel’s daughter lives outside of Portland, Ore., and set up an appointment for him to consult with a doctor there this summer. He flew out and met the qualifications for receiving a medicinal marijuana card. After getting his card, he was able to buy the cannabis. He said the whole process in Oregon took three days, but he is still waiting to get his medical marijuana card in Massachusetts.

“I don’t want to have to fly across the country and deal with drug-sniffing dogs at the airport, I want to do everything legally here,” Lobel said. “I just have to wait and get my card.”

In the meantime, Lobel says, he has been using the medical marijuana he got in Oregon to “take the edge off” of his pain. He doesn’t smoke, but instead prefers to use cannabis oil, which can be orally ingested, vaporized into the lungs, or applied topically. He also has tried forms of edible cannabis, such as candies or cookies, and says he doesn’t need to take the drug every day.

Getting past the stigma of the word “marijuana” has been part of the learning process, he said.

“It’s more than a reasonable alternative (to opioids) once you get past the stigma like you’re under a railroad bridge smoking pot,” Lobel said. “It’s not perfect, and I still need to learn more about what works best for me. I just feel like it’s a positive once you get past the word ‘marijuana.’

“I am not saying it’s the be-all and end-all,” he added. “But, in terms of pain relief … it really helps.”

Lobel spent many years as a sports anchor and reporter for WBZ-TV and has called games for the Celtics and Bruins as well as the Boston Marathon and numerous other events. He’s retired, but still teaches a few days a week at Salem State University and hosts a show called “Sports Legends of New England.” He said he will continue to learn more about medicinal marijuana and use his daughter as a caregiver and resource.

“The whole range of what’s available is incredible,” he said. “When (former Red Sox pitcher) Bill Lee was talking about marijuana and his brownies back in the ’70s, he wasn’t kidding. He was just ahead of his time.”