• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • November 10, 2017 in Columnists

    Medical cannabis may ease your chronic pain

    With 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 council recently proposed some draconian rules on medical cannabis cultivation in advance of the upcoming change in California’s 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.


    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.

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • November 10, 2017 at 11:04 pm
      • Reply

      I am so profoundly grateful for marijuana. I did the medical route until recreational became legal — now I just go to my favorite pot store (two branches for convenience!) and ask for indica because just CBD isn’t strong enough for my insomnia (you got every bit of that hell right) and restless legs and oversensitive bladder that had me jerking awake every. Fucking. Twenty. Minutes. All. Night. Long. And I sleep. I sleep bonelessly, every muscle deliciously relaxed. My dreams are not surpressed — they are better than they have been in years. Dreams mean REM sleep and REM sleep is when your whole body heals.

      If I’m grateful for anything that sloshing orange pustule has done, is he’s distracted that vile little garden gnome, Sessions, from going after this nascent industry that promises nothing but good for an awful lot of people. <3

      • Agreed, agreed, agreed!
        And glad you are discovering the health benefits! Big Pharma doesn’t want you to discover these things! They don’t want us growing our own medicine!

      • Jesse Loren

      • November 10, 2017 at 11:49 pm
      • Reply

      I’m so grateful for your willingness to experiment and share your knowledge. Also, when my dad was diagnosed with fatal cancer and given 3 months to live, cannabis prolonged his life by reducing his nausea and thus allowing him to eat. He lived beyond the 3 months. I am ever grateful to the pioneers and the believers. The risk takers and the teachers willing to instruct us all how to carry on.

      • People who are prejudiced against cannabis apparently never had a relative with cancer or AIDS or arthritis or any host of pain-producing illnesses. And yet, they have no issue with alcohol or tobacco, which kill people every single day.

      • Karen Newton

      • November 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks for the wonderful column. I have used medical marijuana on and off for years with varying degrees of success. Am eager to try CBD for what’s known as Silent GERD. Mine isn’t silent — it involves no pain, rather spectacular amounts of coughing and mucus. Perhaps it will address this, too.

      • Hello Karen,
        Well, it sure can’t hurt! The trouble with medical cannabis is that it’s so hard to get direction from an actual doctor because they aren’t allowed to do so. So, you have to experiment a little. But at a good medical dispensary, there are counselors there to guide you. Even then, experimentation is required. I used “Microtabs” and dissolved them under my tongue before going to bed, and some homemade infused oil – a quarter teaspoon before bedtime. Good luck, and please come back and tell me what you discover!

      • Samantha

      • November 16, 2017 at 12:55 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, Debra. It is brave to write this. I’m glad you have received some relief. I got a medical cannabis card last week. Tried an Idica CBD tincture in Oregon and had dramatic reduction in heart palpitations within minutes. These plants are medicine and should be available to us all.

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