Medical Marijuana May Hold Hope for Some

11 Comments

There is a lot of controversy about medical marijuana’s efficacy and little research to back up claims for or against its therapeutic value. Most of the information doctors, patients and caregivers have to go on is anecdotal. While some of this information is highly compelling, bear in mind it isn’t scientific evidence. With that said, I’d like to share my late husband’s experience with this alternative treatment.

Cancer treatments can be debilitating

After undergoing an esophagectomy (a surgery to remove his esophagus) as part of his cancer treatment, my husband, Michael, experienced severe cramping and nausea every time he ate. It severely diminished his quality of life. Watching him turn pale and perspire in agony with every snack or meal was horrible.

He was prescribed Reglan, which made the pain and nausea more bearable, but then Michael went through a major health crisis and developed dystonia as a side effect of the drug. Dystonia is a disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions, which can be permanent. Michael was lucky that his dystonia resolved, but he was no longer able to take Reglan. At every doctor’s appointment, he begged for some kind of relief, but there were no other options available to him.

A medical marijuana card

While catching up with an old acquaintance one day, she mentioned that the office building she worked in was “weed central.” Of course, I had to ask for an explanation. She said there was a drug lab for testing the potency of marijuana products and a non-profit organization that helped low-income individuals afford medical marijuana (MMJ) in her building. I was especially interested in learning about the non-profit.

Although MMJ is legal in Colorado, Michael and I hadn’t considered trying it because we assumed we couldn’t afford it. Health insurance doesn’t cover MMJ, and we were already struggling to pay for his conventional medications. Michael applied for assistance from the non-profit, and he was eligible. But, before he could use his discount, he had to obtain a medical marijuana card from the state.

I had worried about “what kinds of people” we would find in the waiting room at the doctor’s office we went to for Michael’s medical evaluation for the card. It turned out they looked like the average people you would see at any suburban mall. The doctor was professional and thorough and felt that Michael might benefit from trying cannabis. Unfortunately, the non-profit closed its doors the day after he got his card.

Edibles, experimentation and relief

Even though he was no longer able to receive a discount, Michael had become committed to trying MMJ. We found a dispensary that specialized in candy and food infused with marijuana, since he was not able or willing to inhale smoke. Michael ventured in to select a product to try while I waited outside in the car, feeling like a character in “The French Connection.”

He started with a small dose of a chocolate toffy candy—about half of what is considered a standard amount to take. The effects of edible marijuana can be intense and long lasting, so it’s best to be very conservative in establishing an effective dose that doesn’t cause unwanted side effects. Michael didn’t want to deal with the psychoactive effects, like feeling “high.” He was trying to feel normal in spite of all the prescription drugs he took.

We did some research and found that he needed to focus on products with high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), the cannabinoid second only to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) when it comes to average volume. Some scientific research suggests that CBD has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties without the psychoactive effects that THC is known for.

We were merely hoping MMJ would reduce his cramping and nausea to a more manageable level, but it turned out to be a miracle drug for Michael. A small daily dose provided complete and total relief from his suffering! It led to a huge improvement in his quality of life. Better yet, we were able to afford the small amount that he needed to be effective—an $8 candy would last him eight days. A dollar a day was a cheap price to pay for the immense benefit it gave him.

Who should consider MMJ?

People’s physiologies vary greatly and respond differently to drugs, conventional or otherwise. I don’t believe that MMJ is a snake oil that can remedy any condition. However, if all conventional pharmacological options have been exhausted and a patient is desperate for relief, it might be worthwhile to explore MMJ.

CBDs look promising for conditions that are difficult to treat, such as Crohn’s disease, PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety disorders, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms, especially those associated with paralysis and Tourette syndrome. Just be sure to keep your doctors in the loop. They may not approve, or, as employees of a national healthcare system, may not be able to talk about MMJ as an option with their patients. At that point, you may have some difficult decisions to make.

We found Michael’s doctors to be compassionate and supportive, if not somewhat skeptical. However, once they heard of his incredible results, they were either neutral or quietly supportive. Don’t forget to include MMJ on your loved one’s medication list as you would any other drug. This will ensure that all care providers are fully informed when reviewing or altering their treatment plan.

Where do I start?

First, consult your state laws to establish if medical marijuana is legal where you live. If it is, you’ll need to meet local regulations for approval to purchase and use MMJ. Once that’s squared away, you can make your first visit to a dispensary and start to titrate an effective dose.

I recommend not smoking MMJ. There are obvious health issues with inhaling hot smoke, and it’s unnecessary. The dispensary my husband went to had just about every food you could think of, many of which infused specifically with CBDs. Pizza, soda, baked goods and candies were just a few of the options available. There are also tinctures that can be administered sublingually and patches and creams that can be applied topically.

As I mentioned earlier, start with a small dose. You can always administer more later on if needed, but the effects last a long time after ingestion. Even though CBDs are emphasized, the edible products still contain varying amounts of THC and could cause unwanted feelings of being “high” or “stoned.”

If you or a loved one decides to try MMJ, I wish you luck and hope it will be as effective as it was for Michael.

Sandy Morris was married for 32 years and was her disabled husband's caregiver for the last 15 years of their marriage. Working in the senior services sector for the last three years, her experiences on both sides of the caregiver equation allow her to provide valuable information on everything from VA benefits to common caregiver challenges.

War Veterans Association of Colorado

View full profile

You May Also Like

Free AgingCare Guides

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!

11 Comments

As an RN working at an HMO hospital in the late 1980's, Pharmaceutical companies had made their Patented version of THC.
They singled out only the THC, no plant co-elements, and manipulated the molecules to patent it.
...And it failed to alleviate anything...not pain, nausea, muscle spasms...nothing.

Fast-forward to the last 10 years:
#1 Client, an elderly alcoholic 83 y.o. elder with D.I.D., bipolar, paranoia, history of some head injuries, and possibly some dementia, and pain. She really wanted to keep binging on ETOH, but, it caused her to act-out very badly. A lot.
There was a host of emotional issues wrapped around her alcohol use, and much manipulation to keep getting more.
There are Caveats re: using Medical MJ for those with mental ills.
However, the risk: benefit ratio for her continuing to use alcohol was far worse. Smoking weed..also not good.
But using MMJ drops or "medibles" which had a balance of THC and CBD's, helped her with most of her problems....including stopping her suicidal ideations....and, she felt she was "getting away with no-no's" at the same time...total win, for her.
#2 Client is middle aged person with ASD, with spikes of serious anxiety and difficulties dealing with sensory overload, etc. Also has Asthma, which gets nicely relieved.
With MMJ, this person now gets good quality sleep [a treasure of it's own], far fewer muscle spasms,can be up during the days and functioning better.
It helps handle stresses that otherwise send that person to bed.
It helps control the minor subclinical seizure activities that have plagued for most of his life.
It has NOT been able to get him to be able to hold a regular job, but he has some improved quality of life, and the potential to get to where making an income happen, MIGHT.
#3 Client is a senior who had subclinical seizures all her life, decades of chronic pain, frequent [used to be several per month, now is occasional] migraines, and deteriorating neurological issues. Also has allergic asthma, some cardiovascular ailments including transient chest pains.
MMJ has made a great difference: no bad muscle spasms, much less pain, less nausea, less vertigo, far less migraines, and almost zero subclinical seizure activity, and relief of asthma tightness and chest pain, since beginning using MMJ.
Sleep quality is much better for taking MMJ with THC in the evening, is out of the system by morning, allowing restorative sleep, and better days.
Daytime coverage, when needed, uses Sativa/High CBD products, and is able to function to do her ADL's.
This has allowed her to again participate in social activities she'd let go due to the ills she'd been plagued by for almost 35 years.
Her comment: "It's the First Real pain relief I've had in over 30 years, and I've tried many."
#4 Client has been battling skin cancers for years, using various alternative methods, after one horrific surgical experience.
The RS oil products have kept a few small spots nearly totally controlled [if diet was better controlled, the RS oil would have totally got rid of them by now].

So...smoke it? Nope.
That old excuse for smoking it to have short-acting control of the levels, is kinda bogus.
Smoking weed only helps continue smoker's habits, Imho, trading one bad inhalant for another...because smoking weed can also injure airways.

Now days, there are high-CBD drops, creams, medibles that give great relief.
Creams put a dose local to the body parts that hurt, and can give relief [if it's a good product] within about 15 to 30 minutes, and might last between 4 to 8 hours.
Oral drops can begin to relieve symptoms within about 30 minutes, depending on strength and variety of plant used, and can last between 4 to 8 hours.
Candies and other Medibles, can start working in 1 to 2 hours, and can last 4 to 8 hours.
How well a product works, or for what, depends on what variety of the plant, how it was processed, the form it's made into, and the individual's personal biology.
But overall, this stuff works.
And it's NOT restricted to using only CBD's.
There are some VERY good reasons to include some THC, and every reason to include all the plant co-components, which help the body use it more effectively.
How long they last in a person's body, depends on their overall individual conditions.

Can someone get "stoned"?
Absolutely. That condition is person+dose+type-dependant.
But, not always...
Can this interact with other drugs/pharmaceuticals? YES...take this under advisement, and get Knowledgable professional support to help sort this out.
Unfortunately, most Docs and Pharmacists, are at best clueless about Marijuana use concurrent with pharma drugs, and at worst, obstructive of process.

Sativa/CBD-heavy products can allow many users to keep awake, alert and functioning during their days, with very decent pain control. But, if one needs higher doses, it will likely cause sleepiness, and possibly other "stoned" symptoms...in which case, rest is a good thing!

Indica/THC-heavy varieties usually cause sleep.
These can cause, if dose is large, slowed breathing....therefore, if someone has respiratory issues, it's a good idea to monitor the breathing.
But these make great sleep happen; sleep is restorative, if one gets good enough quality and enough sleep.

Different plant breeds can cause some unwanted effects too....these are generally NOT used to make MedMJ products. But...it's a Gonzo business...there are a few unscrupulous product makers, still causing trouble.
For instance, some varieties can cause unwanted increased paranoia, anxiety, or other mind-strangeness. Therefore, it's important when trying a different variety, to start with small amounts, and see how it does for the individual.
SOME preparations can cause issues related to the chemicals they were extracted with, for instance, RS oils. The original recipe called for using Naptha or Butane to extract the concentrated resins from the plant substrate. There was NO WAY to assure all that got removed from the end-product. Others used food-grade alcohol to extract the resins...far better, but had issues with spoilage. Now, good processes use newer methods to extract the resins, which don't leave chemical residue. RS oils are very good for cancer problems, used by mouth, and/or, directly on affected skin.

It's about being more humane; it's about stopping abuse of medical patients by a medical/pharma industry which has NOT been helping, and has often been doing Harm, to chronically ill patients, for many decades.

Medical MJ is NOT a panacea for everything.
But it goes a good, long way towards helping a great many people with a great variety of conditions, who lived without help or hope, for years.
NOTE: helping reduce symptoms, does NOT necessarily mean it has "cured" the illness; it's still often a "bandaid", same as most Pharma drugs are. But it can make the symptoms get so small, it's very like curing the problem, for some things.

It's important to keep asking questions, and getting information from many sources, to finally come up with real information pertinent to your own circumstances.
An alternative to inhaling smoke is to use a vaporizer. Electronic cigarettes and other vaporizers works very well with MMJ. I use the Magic-Flight Launch Box, and it allows for a more controlled dosage. I use it for chronic pain and muscle spasms.
Sandy, thank you so much for writing this article. The experience with your husband must have been devastating and I am so sorry for your loss. My wife and I have advised many people online about how to safely use MMJ and I have rarely seen such a well-written and comprehensive article as yours. Best always!