Can a Naturopathic Physician Prescribe Xanax in Washington State?

Naturopathic physicians are licensed by individual states, and abide by their state prescriptive laws. In Washington state, Naturopathic physicians have relatively similar prescribing rights as MDs and ARNPs, except for some important distinctions.

In Washington, Naturopathic physicians can use many of the same medications as MDs excluding the DEA Schedule of Controlled Substances I - V. The DEA list is based on how likely a substance is to be abused and it's potential for harm, from Heroin to Robitussin AC. Within that list, only some types of codeine, marijuana and testosterone are allowed for those who are specifically licensed with the DEA. So while we can prescribe medical marijuana, Naturopathic physicians can not, and do not prescribe Xanax.

Naturopathic physicians try to use the least invasive, and most natural treatments possible. Our first line of treatments is always based in diet, lifestyle changes, herbal medicine or nutritional supplements. As primary care physicians on a small island, we find ourselves using more synthetic medications than other Naturopathic physicians might, such as antibiotics or asthma medication, but only when absolutely necessary.  

Naturopathic physicians do not prescribe medications that have a high potential for abuse, and believe strongly in the power of nature to heal. We know that when the body has everything it needs and obstacles to cure are removed, it can heal itself, and so we try to replace deficiencies rather than mask symptoms.

MDs and ARNPs have a slightly different perspective, and are trained to use medications, such as Xanax, Adderall, and Ritilin. They do have full rights to prescribe them. At Vashon Natural Medicine, though our practitioners have different perspectives and training, they are all highly qualified and skilled in their knowledge and use of prescriptive medication. We have over 70 years of combined experience in primary care, and work collaboratively for our patients. We each treat disease by working with the patient as an individual, spending time with them to understand their issues and circumstances, and establishing a plan focused on healing for each person.

How Does Vashon Natural Medicine Work with Our Teen Patients?

Since Vashon Natural Medicine started in 1998, we have been honored to work with hundreds of teenagers to help them navigate health challenges as they mature. While it is a parent's goal to have a good relationship with their children that will help them navigate the teen years, all families and situations are different. As children grow up, they encounter many issues that challenge them. Despite the best intentions, teens do not always feel comfortable talking to their parents. Sometimes this is because of fear of judgement, or even abuse - but under specific age conditions, Washington State law allows teenagers to seek outside guidance on their own.

At Vashon Natural Medicine, we ask teens to sign releases that allow us to speak with parents when they come into our office for care. However in Washington state, if a teenager asks their medical provider for help, state law gives them protection through confidentiality. This means a doctor cannot speak with the parent or guardian without the teen's permission. It is a highly effective law that has worked well for prevention, and is even implemented in many Washington high schools. King County has a Best Starts for Kids initiative which provides on-campus health clinics in public schools to provide mental and reproductive health care services to teenagers when they need it, without fear of judgement. 

At Vashon Natural Medicine, our goal as practitioners is to spend time with our patients, and only after assessing each individual's situation do we make a determination on treatment. This is true for our teenage patients as well. Is it a situational depression from a parent's divorce or death of a loved one? Anxiety from homework and finals? Panic attacks from being in an abusive relationship? Distress over sexual identity? All aspects of a patient's life are taken into consideration before any treatment is given. 

Vashon Natural Medicine providers start with counseling, diet and exercise, nutritional status and identifying barriers to health. Further treatment may include botanical medicine, nutritional supplements, and even prescription medication depending on the situation. Only when a patient has been fully evaluated do we provide treatment, and always with guidance and follow up. 

The providers at Vashon Natural Medicine believe in treating the cause of disease, that prevention is the best medicine, and in using the least invasive and most natural treatments possible. Our job is to educate our patients and empower them to heal and care for themselves. And sometimes that process requires confidentiality.

What is Naturopathic Oncology?

As the field of complimentary medicine expands, more people are familiar with Naturopathic medicine. But lesser known is the field of Naturopathic oncology, which is the application of Naturopathic medicine to the field of cancer care. Lifestyle changes, nutrition, herbal medicine, vitamins, homeopathy, physical medicine and counseling are all utilized by Naturopathic physicians in assisting cancer patients to live longer and healthier lives. Regardless of the type or the staging of cancer, Naturopathic medicine has the ability to improve outcomes.

At Vashon Natural Medicine we work in conjunction with our patients and their oncologists to help minimize symptoms from cancer treatment, enhance the effectiveness of treatment, increase survival rates, and improve quality of life. We are lucky to live in an area of the country with excellent oncologists, including Cancer Treatment Centers of America, but for our rural medical office, it is wonderful to have advanced training to assist cancer patients in their journey for health.

In 2004 a group of dedicated Naturopathic physicians established the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians, Inc (OncANP). They initiated a credentialing process for NDs who specialized in oncology, and a separate and independent board, the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (ABNO) was established to oversee the process of Fellow status. The goal of OncANP is to advance the philosophy, science and practice of Naturopathic oncology.

Through OncANP and continued training, physicians at Vashon Natural Medicine provide cutting edge treatment for our cancer patients. Naturopathic oncologists across the US work both in hospital oncology settings and in private practice, bringing their wisdom, perspective and experience to aid oncology treatment teams that seek the best positive outcomes for their patients. To find an OncANP trained Naturopathic physician in your area, the OncANP Directory can help you find the right doctor for you.

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Suicide Prevention and UW Forefront

Since 2007, Vashon Island has had an unfortunate increase in suicides for our population density, compared to the rest of King County. As a primary care office on a small island only accessible by ferry, both our practitioners and patients have been affected by these deaths in one way or another. 

In an effort to help them navigate the incredible grief that we have all faced, and to try to prevent further tragedies in our community, Vashon Natural Medicine wanted to do more. Our office was fortunate enough to host a training for health care professionals by the University of Washington this last winter on Suicide Prevention. The UW has a group that provides these trainings called Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention.

The trainings are designed for professionals who are working with persons at risk of suicide, to help "accept the client’s suffering while simultaneously conveying a commitment of healing and hope". It was a very successful training with 18 providers in attendance, and we were all very impressed with the new knowledge and skills we were able to take with us. We gained knowledge as individual practitioners, and the ability to refer to each other as professionals to support our patients as needed. 

Having grown up on Vashon, I remember the challenges of feeling like an isolated teenager, and as a health care professional I understand the lack of resources we face to reach those with mental health challenges. And knowing the victims and survivors of suicide, I understand how hard it can sometimes be to prevent. The most important thing that anyone can do, is to simply ask someone you are concerned about. Ask, and listen. The simple act of caring through communication cannot be underestimated when trying to prevent a needless tragedy like suicide.

Forefront is an amazing organization that works with communities across Washington. They work to educate, and even to help create legislation to further protect those with depression from harming themselves before they can get help. For more information on their efforts, please visit their web site: www.intheforefront.org

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