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Meet the Experts: Medical Advisor Dr. Kevin Frey

Written By Adrian Crawford Nov 10th 2022
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Here at CBDistillery®, we know that taking charge of your health and wellness is a daunting task and it's sometimes overwhelming to know whose recommendations to rely upon.

Transparency is key to our approach in every aspect of our business, which is why we wanted to introduce a series of conversations with CBDistillery® staff as well as other experts in their fields. We hope that these conversations will offer more information about our company and products and help foster trust in our products.

For our second edition, Medical Advisor Dr. Kevin Frey sat down with Content Strategist Adrian Crawford to discuss his inspiration to pursue medicine, how he came to be interested in cannabinoids in the treatment of patients' ailments, and his viewpoint on the future of the cannabis industry.

Update, Oct. 2023: This piece was written while Dr. Frey was serving as CBDistillery’s Medical Advisor. He is no longer affiliated with the company.

Adrian Crawford: First things first. Can you give me, an absolute medical layman, an idea of what being an internal medicine specialist entails? 

Dr. Kevin Frey: I would be delighted to! Actually, this is a very common question. Internal medicine is a medical specialty primarily focused on patients 18 years of age and older. During training, internists are exposed to and rotate through all the major internal medicine subspecialties (e.g. cardiology, gastroenterology, etc). These broad training experiences allow me and other internal medicine physicians to have a detailed understanding of human physiology and associated pathology. In many ways, internal medicine is similar to being a detective. When I see patients, their ultimate diagnosis is not always clear and you really need to listen to and observe all of the clinical clues your patients provide you. 

AC: Next up, the origin story. What made you want to pursue medicine and, in particular, the discipline you ended up in? 

KF: My inspiration to pursue medicine was my father. He was diagnosed with type I diabetes as a child and unfortunately suffered many complications of the disease as he got older. He ultimately developed kidney failure and underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant when I was in high school. Due to the excellent care that he received, he was able to go back to a normal life and was able to work and care for our family for another 20 years. Without modern medicine, this simply would not have been possible. 

I decided to pursue medicine for multiple reasons. First, it gives me an incredible opportunity to help other people in need, just like the team of physicians that helped my father. Second, learning the multiple disciplines of science that makes medicine possible (anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, etc) is just incredibly interesting to me. 

I chose internal medicine as a specialty because I love how broad the specialty is. On a typical day, I could be managing common diseases (heart attacks, strokes, various infectious diseases, etc) or even more rare diseases that have more subtle presentations that require more thorough evaluations. 

AC: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and training?

KF: I received my undergraduate degree in Microbiology from Miami University in Ohio and attended medical school at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. I then went on to complete my residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the Department of Internal Medicine. I am currently the Medical Director of Quest Recovery Center LLC and also serve as the Vice Chair of the General Medicine Section, Internal Medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University.

AC: I understand Mayo Clinic, where you completed your residency, is one of the top hospitals in the nation. Can you tell me more about what sets the Mayo Clinic apart?

KF: Mayo Clinic is a hospital system based out of Rochester, MN. They have branch campuses in Arizona and Florida. I trained at the main campus in Rochester. The reason why they are consistently ranked as the best hospital in the nation all comes down to the philosophy of the Mayo brothers, which is captured in the following memorable quotes from the Mayo brothers:

“There are two objects of medical education: To heal the sick, and to advance the science.”

- Charles H. Mayo, M.D.

The culture of Mayo revolves around this principle and their emphasis on clinical research at all levels of training helps to shape the future of medicine. I am very proud to have been a part of it.

AC: How did you come to learn about CBD as a potential wellness benefit? 

KF: I first took notice of CBD in 2017. At this time, almost every patient I saw in the hospital was struggling with heroin use disorder and complications related to it (i.e. endocarditis, etc). I ended up working part time at an addiction treatment center to try and help my community deal with the raging opioid epidemic. I met with one patient who said that CBD had helped him tremendously with his recovery, claiming that it helped control his opioid cravings and helped to stabilize and improve his mental state. I became very interested in learning more about CBD and spent a lot of time reading all of the relevant research available at the time. After I completed my assessment, I felt that my patient was on to something potentially game-changing in the field of addiction medicine. 

AC: How did you come to be involved with CBDistillery? 

KF: Once I completed my initial research on CBD, I began searching for a company that produced high quality CBD that I could recommend to my patients. When I discovered the CBDistillery, I immediately noted their commitment to quality and safety. Lab testing data was readily available for review. In addition, the CBDistillery also had (and continues to have) a strong focus on education. I also felt that their products were reasonably priced at a level my patients could afford. 

I recall being extremely excited after I discovered the CBDistillery. I reached out to the company and explained how I became interested in CBD and wanted to collaborate on potential research projects. I ended up meeting with multiple excellent executives within the company and was able to forge a great working relationship with the CBDistillery. My current role is primarily in scientific content review to make sure all of the educational material on the website is accurate. My ultimate goal is to help design research studies to help learn more about CBD and other cannabinoids’ potential health benefits. The CBDistillery has been extremely supportive of this, which I am grateful for. I look forward to hopefully increasing my footprint here as time goes on. 

AC: Would you say there has been an increased take-up in natural or alternative medicines and remedies over the past few years? If so, why do you think that is? 

KF: Absolutely. I would say most of my patients have tried or are currently utilizing natural/alternative therapies for a variety of conditions, with CBD being the most popular. These alternative therapies are likely gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. First, I think people generally want to be empowered to make their own healthcare decisions. If safe effective medicinal plants or extracts are available that can help meet an individual’s wellness goals, I think patients should have access to them. Second, I think modern medicine has a particular bias against natural and/or alternative therapies. Many doctors unfortunately just aren’t well-read on alternative therapies and unless it comes in a pill produced by a pharmaceutical company, most won’t recommend them. So – patients choosing alternative therapies might also be a natural response to a healthcare system that doesn’t necessarily put the interests of the patient first. Let’s not forget that over 40% of prescription pharmaceuticals available today have their origins in plants. I think a hybridized approach is best. Natural therapies should be available to patients but, if ineffective for that particular individual, prescription medications should then be utilized. 

AC: From the viewpoint of a medical practitioner, what do you think the future holds for the cannabis industry when it comes to healthcare applications, FDA regulation and issues like that? 

KF: I think the future of the cannabis industry is very bright. Depending on which poll you read, between 60-90% of Americans are in favor of legalization of cannabis for recreational and/or medicinal use. The era of prohibition is ending. It’s more of a question of when, not if. 

Despite these numbers, many physicians remain extremely skeptical of its medicinal benefits. For instance, in Ohio (where I live), medical cannabis has been legal since 2016. However, the vast majority of physicians I know and interact with have not underwent the appropriate training to even recommend its use. If we are going to change their opinions as related to medicinal cannabis, high quality, randomized control studies will be needed. However, this has proved extremely difficult due to its status as a schedule I substance. Once this barrier is removed (and hopefully this will happen soon), research will be a lot easier to perform. 

AC: Is there anything that existing CBD users or potential new entrants to these types of products might want to know that we haven’t covered? 

KF: I think CBD is an excellent compound that can help many achieve their health and wellness goals. However, CBD is just but one of the many cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis. Synergistic blends of CBD with other cannabinoids (CBN, CBG, and THC), adaptogens, and nootropics could add additional therapeutic benefits. CBDistillery has a number of excellent blends that are worth your attention. I think these cannabinoid blends are the future of the industry and can help empower consumers/patients to take charge of their health and wellness.