Medicinal Marijuana

How do you feel about the use of medicinal marijuana for chronic pain?

Yes, I'm considering it.

I want to hear what you think.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess I might have inhaled, once-upon-a-time, back in the day.  

If my mom is reading this:  It's okay Mom – everybody was doing it.

Even though I live in California, (the land of peace, love, and weed), it has been forever a lifetime since I've been anything but proper and law abiding.  (Concert-attending not withstanding … because if you even breathe at a concert, you're getting a little high regardless of your intentions.)

The use of medicinal marijuana is legal in California.  

A good chunk of California college students have medicinal marijuana licenses even though there's nothing physically wrong with them.  (And to be honest, it isn't just college students, California, is it?)

I've had friends with cancer and other terrible maladies and I've never blinked an eye while fully supporting their use of pot to deal with pain and/or nausea.

I've lived with pain for over five years since my accident, and I haven't thought seriously about using it to relieve my own pain.

Why not?

First of all, I always thought my pain would be going away sometime really soon - after the next surgery, or in just a few weeks …

But, of course, it never has gone away.

And now I know – it never will.

For another reason, I've had (and still have) teens in the house.  Kids I've told to stay away from drugs, abide the laws, and blah, blah, blah.  

I'm re-thinking things now though.

A few months ago, a man I knew online for a couple years died of cancer.  Gregg lived here in Orange County and he was a photographer.  We met on Twitter, and he began reading Twenty Four At Heart.  We became online friends, communicated frequently, and planned to meet up in person for a few photography outings.  

Then Gregg was diagnosed with cancer.

We never did meet "in person."

I regret it, so much.

I think about Gregg a lot.

Shortly before he died, Gregg gave me two pieces of advice.

The first was to buy the 400mm lens I'd been looking at.  (I did.)

The second, was to start using medicinal marijuana.  It had helped him tremendously with pain.  He believed it would help me too.

I've thought about what Gregg said a lot since he died.

This week, my pain management specialist prescribed Fentanyl Patches for me.

I tried wearing a patch for five hours.

It worked.  It helped tremendously with my pain.  I couldn't believe the relief I felt just to get a break from pain for awhile.

Then I took it off.

During the five hours I wore the Fentanyl Patch, I read everything I could about the drug Fentanyl.  What I read, scared the crap out of me.

If I use Fentanyl patches, I will become physically dependent on them.  

Not maybe become dependent- it is a medical fact, I will.

"Physically dependent" means addicted, but without the psychological desire/need.  In other words, a person doesn't get high off the patches, but they cause changes in a person chemically and if I were to stop using them – I'd go through horrible withdrawls.

I've spent over five years of very concentrated effort to avoid addiction to pain meds.

I can't just throw that all away.

Can I?

Do I just give up and accept I will be dependent on hardcore narcotics for life?

I am agonizing over this ….

And if you (or a loved one) is using Fentanyl Patches I'm not saying they're bad, or you're wrong …

I know the patches have helped SO many people deal with horrible pain.  (They helped me a lot for those five hours.  It would be wonderful to have that degree of pain relief all the time.)

I would never, ever, feel negatively towards anyone trying to cope with the crap life deals us.

I'm just having a hard time determining if they're right for me.

I also discussed the use of marijuana with my pain doc.

He said hundreds of his patients use it and report it helps.

Would it help me?

I don't know.

Would it help enough to cut down on the use of pain meds?

I don't know.

Is it less addictive than Fentanyl Patches?

Yes, it is.

Do I try it as my last resort before using Fentanyl Patches?

What do you think?

© Twenty Four At Heart 

31 Responses to “Medicinal Marijuana”

  1. Kristen G

    I, personally, would try anything to avoid becoming “addicted” to the stronger meds. I don’t like the idea of anything changing my body chemistry. However, since I cannot compare my 10 on a pain scale to your 10, it’s really not a question I would feel right counseling you on. You have lived with more pain in 5 years than most people would experience in 10 lifetimes. You deserve a break from the pain. What does Briefcase think?

  2. tonya cinnamon

    im not kicking the medical thing on marijuana . i do believe it can help. but wouldn’t the same apply you would be dependent on it also?
    Just as any medicine if it takes away the pain for a bit we all crave the need to be pain free. not dissing it but also per cost wouldnt the patches be cheaper vs the other?
    plus one you stick on you the other you have to smoke it.
    just giving my 2 cents 🙂
    hugs!

  3. Jenn in Tenn

    I think medicinal marijuana can work wonders. I hope that you weigh out your options and are at peace with your decision. I can only imagine what being dependent on ANY drug is like, but I have had the chance to witness people close to me who struggle with addiction to pain meds and to marijuana. I can say just from that limited experience, that marijuana, by far, is the better choice for your body/psyche. There’s my two cents…lol. Hope whatever you choose is the best choice for you AND I’m sure that we, your readers, will support whatever choice you make. Good luck!

  4. Jan

    I say yes – try the medical marijuana first. Understand, though, that if you leave California, even just for a visit, that your prescription may not be recognized so you may not be able to bring it with you. However, the worst that could happen is that yes, you’ll have to suffer through the pain it would relieve and you’ll be a bit bummed out (despite what marijuana advocates would have you believe, it *is* a habituating drug and you will notice its absence). But that sounds a lot better than becoming addicted to something that will cause you terrible withdrawal if you should not be able to use it. And, like a great many narcotics, may lose its effectiveness over time, requiring higher doses.

  5. Jo Anne

    You are such an intgelligent and aware woman. I am honored thatyou would ask me what I think (I know you have not singled me out, but are asking me as part of the group tht follows you here on your Blog). My position is that you need to do what you have been doing for far too long and weigh the pros and cons of these two choices, discuss with family and medical professionals and them move forward — all the while remembering that you can change course at any point in time. BL do what ever you can to get some relief — it has been too long for you. You are a powerful and dynamic woman and will get thru this as you have gotten through it for five years — the best you can. I pray for physical and mental relief for you — you so deserve it after this long and tireing journey. ((((((HUGS))))) and prayers.

  6. Jenn

    As someone who used marijuana a lot in my younger years (16-21), I can say that even if it becomes a habit, I’ve never seen anyone suffer withdrawal or major side effects. I would think it is a safer option than Fentanyl. You seem to have done a good job raising your children and I think a conversation with them about the difference between recreational use and legal medicinal use would help you see they know the difference. They know about the gray areas between right and wrong. Not that they won’t tease you about it some, I would definitely tease my parents about it. You have to be cautious with marijuana about driving and things like that but that’s true of any strong painkiller so I’m sure you’re used to being responsible about it. If I was you, and your husband supported the decision, I would definitely try it and see how it worked.

  7. Linda P

    From my ignorant view, (I nor anyone close to me has ever experienced the kind of pain you have for the last five years) I thought; she is in pain all.the.time. Why NOT take something like the Fentanyl Patch that would continuously relive that pain? Then, I read up on it. Oh. Em. Gee! “100 times more potent than Morphine”?? Talk about addicting!! OK. Maybe the weight loss wouldn’t be too bad but seriously hallucinations, anxiety, depression? Um, yea go with the Pot, at least try it.
    And I agree with Jenn, I hope whatever you choose is the best choice for you AND we will support whatever choice you make.

  8. Robyn

    I think medical marijuana is a better choice than fantanyl. You should watch some videos on medical marijuana. My BF watched a bunch of them on Netflix (available on instant streaming) and found them to be incredibly infomative…

  9. Denise

    I would be MUCH more concerned about the narcotics than marijuana for your level of pain. You’ve tried everything else, why not try this? People get their panties in a big bunch over the thought of marijuana, but stand by and watch people take prescription drugs or drink alcohol without a second thought. I think that’s pretty silly. But that’s just my opinion:-) Try it. If it doesn’t help, at least maybe you’ve had a little anxiety relief.

  10. Vertigo B

    I say, go for it. You have done the research. You have legitimate concerns about the addictive nature of narcotics. What’s the worst that will happen? It won’t work and you will be right where you are now, but you will have tried the marijuana and you will know.

  11. Missy

    Ditto what Vertigo B just said. Try it. You have nothing to loose.

  12. Kathleen Kelly

    I am sure you already know this, as you research everything thoroughly, medical marijuana is available in edible form. You don’t have to smoke it. No one needs to know you are eating it. You will react differently than if you smoked it. It may give better relief, or not. Trial and error, and you will find the best result. I am hoping for relief for you. I can’t imagine.

  13. deminimis

    Well, I’ve given my opinion on this before. I fully support the idea of medical marijuana. I’m not sure what the actual effect was for Karin when she used it, I do know it let her reduce the use of narcotics and it allowed the ones that she did take have a greater effect, and less physical side effects.
    She was prescribed the Fentanyl patches, they started her out at 7.5 and then tried to give her a higher dose, I believe it was 12.5. The other day I said worry about the addictive affects later, but what I didn’t say is Karin didn’t take that advice either. I still have at least half a box of the lower dose and the higher dose box is unopened… She hated narcotics and their effects, and always tried to use the bare minimum she could. Boy did we hear that she was wrong from the doctors too. She only wanted something to help with the immediate worst of the pain so she could stay as clear headed and functional as possible. The marijuana “tomatoes” allowed her to do that.
    I know all about the fentanyl warnings, side effect and risks. As someone standing on the side it’s easy to say damn the risks if it relieves the pain, but I also know and greatly respect the desire not to be dependent on something that can take over your life. Marijuana doesn’t have the addictive physical effects, and whether it’s direct effect is to relieve the pain or just push it to the back enough to allow you to live your life I am all for it myself. Living in a state where it is not permitted I would still go buy it from where ever I needed to for someone that wanted it.

  14. Karen in East Texas

    Personally I think you should do whatever you can to help ease your pain levels. Even if that ends up being the patches. My grandfather died a slow, excruciatingly painful death from a deteriorative bone disease. The last 5 years of his life were hell, pure hell.
    The did not have the pain meds available then like they do now. My Papa was raised that drugs were bad and he would not even try marijuana, even when the doctor said it was ok to do so. I wish that he would have, I wish they would have had the patches. That way he would have had a less painful life and death.
    Whatever you decide, you have my unconditional support.

  15. M

    Definitely try the medical marijuana. There is no harm in giving it a shot, and potentially avoiding becoming addicted to something else.

  16. cc

    You have done everything you can. You can’t keep on living your life in constant pain.
    I think marijuana is a better choice than the patch. It’s probably available as an organic product, which means no chemicals that you can’t pronounce, and the effects on the body are fairly well known. The patch is man made and who knows what effect it may have on your body in the long run.
    I grew up in a house where it was around, a lot. I never had the desire to use it and neither did my brother. So I don’t think your kids will feel you are doing something wrong because you told them it is bad for them. This doesn’t fall under the parenting category “do as I say not as I do.”
    I know people say it is a “gateway drug” and maybe they’re right. Maybe it is for some people. I don’t think you are one of those people though.
    You need to do what is right for you.
    (P.S. the people I know who used to grow it, never used miracle-gro or anything chemical based to aid in it’s growth.)

  17. Annette

    Spark one up! I’ll be right over…they DO help with mental pain..right? LOL! Seriously, I would give it a try.

  18. J

    As an RN and your friend, I want to respond to the fentanyl question. First of all, they have to scare the crap out of you because there is a huge abuse problem. People take and do bizarre things with them and these are people who are opiate naive. Very, very dangerous! Many people have died. Your body is not opiate naive. Fentanyl has the same dependence potential as every other scheduled drug you’ve tried, and I think you’ve probably tried them all. If using it properly gives you good pain relief, then give it a shot. You should also have less side effects due to the transdermal delivery route. I think medical marijuana is fine, but I really, really doubt it will give you strong enough pain relief in and of itself. It is a good adjunct.

  19. Cathy B

    My nephew works for a medical marijuana dispensary in Vancouver and has told me about the clients whose conditions include chronic pain, glaucoma, cancer treatment and other issues, that are helped in one way or another. I’m 100% in favour, though I know there are those using dispensaries that shouldn’t be. And as another commenter mentioned, it could be used in conjunction with other pain relief drugs. There are many different forms you could choose,(oils, tinctures, capsules, various foods, you name it),smoking is NOT required. I think it’s absolutely worth trying. I’m sure you’re checking everything out, but here’s a link to the organization in Vancouver, their site has links to all sorts of information if you need more:
    http://www.cannabisdispensary.ca/node/2

  20. Tracy Lang

    I have found great relief from a little nibble of the (very much stronger) medicinal pot at night! Smoking gives me major munchies…not good for the thighs LOL! Try it and enjoy a fabulous sleep without any fears of addiction…consider it another great reason to live in So Cal…LEGAL!!!

  21. karen

    I’d give the marijuana a chance first. You’ve got nothing really to lose, and perhaps significant relief to gain without the narcotic risks. You can always decide to go that route, but you don’t have to start there.

  22. Jason

    Yes. Yes. Yes. You’ve gotten some very good advice in these comments. Hopefully it will provide just enough relief that you won’t need to worry any more about the stronger, more dangerous stuff. It was good to read that you don’t have to smoke it, too. With teens in the house, it will be much more subtle if you can nibble it instead of inhale it.
    Good luck.

  23. unmitigated me

    I’ll bet you know my feelings on this. If I did not have the “highly addictive” pain medication that I take every single day, with the only side effect being mild constipation, I would no longer be on this Earth, I’d be under it. I have never needed to be noble about it. And really, who cares if I’m physically dependent on it for the rest of my life? If I had life-threateningly high blood pressure, I would be physically dependent on that medication, too. If a miracle happens and they find a way to control the pain without medication, there are clinically safe ways to get off the addictive meds.
    To each his/her own, but I can’t imagine living with debilitating pain if I didn’t have to.

  24. Kathy

    A couple of things no one has mentioned. There is a difference between addiction and dependence, okay? You probably know that, but the words have been used interchangeably here. And once you become dependent your body will adjust (eventually) and you’ll need increasingly stronger doses. It’s kind of an endless cycle. And that’s why those patches are a last resort. That said, you know that pain changes the way you think, feel and act. It makes changes to the brain.
    I tried medical marijuana when I lived in San Diego. I didn’t have the great experience that everyone else had, but that’s just ME.
    But if you want my opinion, try the mm. Why not? It might work. But I would suggest really talk to your pain management doctor about your fear of dependency, and what constant pain does to the brain.

  25. sandi

    So funny to read this today… Just this week, I found out one of my good friends gets high every night with her vaporizer full of medical marijuana. I about shit a brick when I heard this. She has no medical condition or pain, but she swears by it. She is in the medical field and can get it without needing it and according to her, anyone can get it in CA. She has a full time job, a busy life, two kids, and she can do it all as long as she sits with her vaporizer before bed…..
    HOLY SHIT!
    I say go for it! The patch scares me. I lost a friend ten years ago from an overdose with the patch. She orphaned three kids.

  26. Anonymous

    I had emailed you about trying this and I’m glad to see all the comments in favor and support of your decision! A small piece of advice would to do VERY LITTLE to begin with, especially if you’re not familiar with the “high” state. It can be quite nerve-wrecking the first few times if you are not ready for it. I assure you that despite being nervous, NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN. Sure, there have been reports of people getting ridiculously high the first time they smoke it and they feel like they’re going to die, but none of them ever did. People underestimate the power of the drug, and I would heavily advise doing little by little. (If you are smoking, 1 hit and wait 15-20 minutes. The high continues to grow for about 30 minutes, so just because after 10 minutes, you aren’t as high as you’d like to be, just keep waiting before taking that next inhale.
    As many have said beforehand, you DO NOT HAVE TO SMOKE IT. There are vaporizers that can heat the THC in the Cannabis to it’s Evaporation point, and it will evaporate out of the plant. It will then fill up a plastic bag and contain all the vapor! (No vapor is lost.. therefore it is the most efficient way to intake THC) It is also edible. Generally one would mix the plant in a type of oil-based solvent (generally edible such as butter), and that would also extract the THC. Then you can make some delicious cookies/brownies or refreeze the butter! This type of high generally lasts a lot longer depending on how much you intake. It would take a bit longer for the effects to affect you though.
    I’ve heard of people eating a brownie, and then taking 1 or 2 hits and they’d be set for the next 12 hours. (I wouldn’t recommend this until you are fully comfortable with being really high)
    One major reason that cannabis affects our bodies so much is that our receptors for our nervous system and a few other organs, are mostly Cannabinoid receptors! The cannabis plant’s THC is a Cannabinoid, and we ourselves make a certain type of Cannabinoid (actually some are found in Human Breast Milk). There are 2 major receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB2 is generally related to pain perception by the brain. Therefore, if we can have the THC bind to this (which it does very effectively), we can help our brain perceive the pain less!
    In terms of addiction, it can have psychologically addictive (but so can anything else that gives major relief, or extreme pleasure). In terms of physical addiction, there are no withdrawal symptoms noted, or any deaths related to the withdrawal of the substance. In terms of tolerance, I’m sure that as time goes on you might need more doses to get a similar effect, but the only downside to this is the $$$. There are no reported overdoses on Cannabis, so intake as much as you’d like! =]
    Basically, try the harmless drug as others have said by trial and error, and if none of them work for you, you will be right where you started. Just remember to intake a little at a time. (And wait 30 minutes before each dose to allow it to reach its maximum effect!!)

  27. LindaSalem

    I’ve thought about medical marijuana myself. I haven’t talked to the doc about it yet though.
    Compared with you, I am a total pain-pussy. I threw my hands in the air at the first nightmare back pain. I started taking percocet just before the back surgeries started. Like you, I thought it would end soon. Five years later, I’m still waiting for the nightmare to end. Like you too, the docs finally said, “Live with it.” Some days, I’m sorry I started taking strong medications so soon because now I need more medication to control the pain than is healthy for my body to handle. My pain docs solution? He added Oxycontin, 10 mgs, 2x a day. So where am I suppose to go when that doesn’t work. I’m 64 and most days, I hope to live quite a few more years. (Some days, I just pray for death.)
    I guess I’m advising you to take what works. Yes, you will be PHYSICALLY addicted. You will NOT be able to just quit the medication; however, your doc is not going to drop you on your ass. He/she will slowly withdraw your system from the mediation which isn’t pleasant but if done right, it’s not horrible either. I think the major thing you should talk to the pain doc about is your body “acclimating” (I guess you’d say) to the medication. Are you going to need more and more over time and what are his plans for you WHEN (not if) that happens? I think it’s important to function with minimal pain. You and I know there aren’t many days where there’s NO pain but if I can get it down to four or five, I can function without crying all the time or wanting to kill half of humanity (LOL).
    Trying the marijuana may be a good option for you (and me;I’m determined to talk to him about it now). I’ve heard it helps a lot of people but I don’t think I’d throw the patches in the can yet either. I know you trust your pain doc. Talk to him about your concerns. Keep us posted too. You’re my hero, by the way. When I’m drawing down a ten day, I think of how brave you are in handling your pain and I know I can get through the day. Thank you for sharing with us. I can’t begin to tell you how much it helps me.

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