Stephen Ziegler, PhD, JD: Alternative Treatment for Pain Management, Palliative Care in Rheumatic Disease


Stephen Ziegler, PhD, JD, describes the various alternative and complementary treatments available for palliative care and pain management in patients with rheumatic disease.

As a part of our Congress of Clinical Rheumatology West coverage, Stephen Ziegler, PhD, JD, discusses his presentation, “No Prescription Required? The Growth of Humor Therapy, Psilocybin, and Cannabis as Alternative and Complementary Treatments for Pain and Palliative Care.” Ziegler is a professor emeritus from Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“There are various alternative and complementary treatments available for palliative care and pain management,” Ziegler said.

Palliative care focuses on providing comfort and support for both patients and their families. Some of the alternative treatments often recommended by healthcare practitioners include psilocybin, cannabis, and humor therapy. However, it's critical to note that substances like psilocybin and cannabis, especially when they exceed the federal limits, fall under Schedule I drugs, which pose legal challenges. These substances may be legal at the state level but are illegal at the federal level, creating a complex situation.

Humor therapy, Ziegler explained, is a “no prescription required” treatment option.

“There's positive results from laughing,” he expressed. “And so, what will make people laugh is clowns, particularly in the context of children. Some institutions have implemented clown therapy when dealing with pediatrics. Others have implemented it in nursing homes for older patients.”

Ziegler encourages substances like cannabis and psilocybin to be removed from the Schedule I classification. This will allow for research to inform future use, policy decisions, and clinical practice. In contrast, however, humor therapy doesn't face legal restrictions. It has shown positive results in reducing pain and improving well-being, especially in children and older adults. While there's limited research on humor therapy, it's among the many alternative and complementary therapies available.

This transcript was edited for clarity.

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