Medical cannabis may be the answer for your chronic pain

Medical cannabis may ease your chronic pain.

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blankWith a big gulp… I’m coming out of the closet.

The cannabis closet.

I am a medical cannabis user.

I haven’t gone public with this before, but our city staff last week proposed some draconian rules to the Winters City Council on medical cannabis cultivation in advance of the upcoming change in cannabis laws that were so steeped in prejudice and utter ignorance, I just couldn’t remain silent.

Why? Because it might help someone else.

Somebody has to be brave. It might as well be me.

First, some history.

Let’s dial back to about the time I turned 50. At the half-century mark, if you’ve had a lifetime of pushing your body, your body will push back. Hard. Stuff starts to hurt. Get stiff. Break. Take five times longer to heal than it did before. After 50, pain no longer means “push through it.” After 50, it means “stop.”

Unfortunately, even after you stop, stuff keeps hurting. At first, it was joint stiffness. Driving for long distances or sitting at my desk too long turned me into the Tin Man: I need an oil can! This isn’t anything unusual, just garden variety wear-and-tear arthritis, and believe me, I’ve put this chassis through some serious wear-and-tear. If your chassis is still in showroom condition when you exit this life, you’re doing it wrong.

I was talking about my aches and pains with a friend who was undergoing breast cancer treatment and using medical cannabis to help her tolerate chemotherapy. She told me that there are cannabis strains that ease arthritis, and others that could even alleviate my lifelong dance with chronic insomnia.

End my insomnia?

I’m listening.

If you think chronic insomnia is lightweight stuff… just shut your pie-hole. Insomnia wears you down to the nubs. It erodes your life. I’d already tried every method to deal with it, with zero effect, and finally resorted to Trazadone, which gave me blood-curdling nightmares, and Lunesta, which made me completely cray-cray. I’m one of the “less than two percent of patients have these symptoms” folks you read about in the small print. Three weeks on Lunesta and my doc yanked me right off of it before I became a harm to myself or others or both.

I remembered what my friend had told me about medical cannabis, but I remained hesitant. For one thing, I didn’t want to get high. Unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale in the ’70s, and don’t enjoy that sensation anymore. It feels out of control. If I need chemical relaxation, I’ll stick with a nice, predictable Napa Cab.

Secondly, smoking anything is a deal-breaker.  My lungs are about as hardy as a newborn’s. Smoking anything triggers really impressive full-body coughing convulsions. You’ve heard of “ugly crying”? I have “ugly coughing.” However, I also remembered that my friend told me you don’t have to smoke cannabis. There are teas or candies or skin salves.

Hmmm.

Interesting, but… I found it hard to believe that I wouldn’t get high. I’ll just keep muddling along.

And then came the tendon problems.

Tendonitis in the knees. The forearms. And worst of all, in the upper arm tendons that attach under the deltoids — so bad and so chronic, particularly at night, that I’d have to pick one arm up with the other just to turn over in bed. Pile chronic pain on top of chronic insomnia, and trust me, it’ll wear you threadbare.

My doc ordered a blood test for inflammation. Boom. There it was. Highest number she’d ever seen. Physical therapy and cortisone injections helped, but those are temporary fixes. NSAID medication worked, but after three weeks, my stomach was hamburger. A year later, the inflammation number hadn’t budged. The next step would be opioids, and I just didn’t want to start down that path. At best, opioids turn you into an addict. At worst, a corpse.

And so, I asked my doc about medical cannabis, and she gave it her blessing. Off I went to a medical cannabis dispensary, completely ignorant of pretty much everything they sold, relayed my symptoms to them, and purchased some CBD oil to put in drops under my tongue and some chewable tablets for my insomnia.

No smoke at all! Know what else? No high either. Absolutely none. And, the results were immediate. The first night with the tablets, when my stubborn biological alarm clock rang at 3 a.m., and I bolted wide-awake, I was able to deep-breathe my way back to sleep. That’s a miracle, people.

But wait, there’s more!

After several months using the CBD oil, my doc redid the inflammation test. The number was cut in half. This is not an anecdotal story. You can’t argue with bloodwork. Numbers are numbers. And my tendon pain? Gone.

If you also struggle with chronic pain, here’s the good news: You don’t have to become a drug addict to cope. There’s another answer, and it’s all natural, relatively cheap and infinitely more safe. There are no known cannabis overdose deaths on record. Zero. Opioid overdoses? You mean just since I started writing this column? Multiple.

But wait, there’s still more!

My acid reflux problem disappeared after using the CBD oil. That was a surprising and welcome bonus!

All in all, my experience with medical cannabis is 100 percent positive. If your doc won’t cooperate, come January when recreational usage becomes legal in California, you won’t have to play “Doctor May I” to find relief.

All that said, researching medical cannabis information can be overwhelming, so I started a Facebook page, “The Cannabis Crone,” where I post medical cannabis information exclusively. I take no responsibility for it, view it at your own risk, and should you choose to try medical cannabis yourself, that’s all at your own risk too. But in my opinion — why not? Either it’ll work or it won’t, and at worst, you’ll be out some money. At best, you won’t become another opioid statistic.

And if it does help… maybe you’ll be the next one to be brave.

(Footnote: A shout out to city council member Jesse Loren for valiantly defending the rights of medical cannabis patients here in town at the Nov. 14 meeting, and kudos to Winters City Council for having the good sense to return the proposed ban on outdoor medical cannabis cultivation to the planning commission, where more public input will be included.)

 

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