There’s something I’ve noticed throughout my years of participating in MS projects – a recurring theme no matter the brand or organization: it’s not cool to talk about my use of cannabis for my chronic pain. Talking about chronic pain is not usually an inspiring topic. And for national brands, talking about cannabis might not even be an option (until it’s made federally legal). So I’m talking about it here and now. This is part of my cannabis story.
Chronic pain is isolating, demanding, and unrelenting.
As a young person – and before my MS diagnosis – I dealt with chronic pain. The doctors thought I was just looking for pain pills and didn’t take my complaints seriously. After my MS diagnosis though, they were practically throwing pills at me. My tolerance grew and when I told them I was still hurting, they would just up my dose. This was their solution for nearly 8 years.
During that time, I started seeing a MS specialist in Seattle (shout-out Dr.Kita) who was amazing at encouraging patient-led care and very supportive of me trying cannabis to help with my pain and spasticity. This was back when medical cannabis was still a legal “gray area” and dispensaries were being raided all over the state, so I had to wait for the dispensary to contact me with their address after they verified my details with the doctor. Y’know, to make sure I wasn’t a nark. It was a shady process and a huge contrast from getting a quick opioid script from the doc.
One Friday before a long holiday weekend, there was an issue transferring my pain pill script from one doctor to another; so I felt like it was the right time to make cannabis my go-to pain relief. Plus, I didn’t really have a choice; going an entire weekend without the high doses I had been used to was an excruciating process. Coming off opiates was hard, but it’s the best decision I have made.
Chronic pain is hard to live with; from the second you wake up to the second you fall asleep, you hurt. It’s not even the same hurt day-to-day; and not just some days, but every.single.day. It isn’t usually very inspiring, it’s not pretty, and it’s not easy to sell. In most of the MS awareness projects I’ve worked on, the topic of chronic pain (and how I manage mine) is barely mentioned or sometimes avoided altogether. But it’s a reality for most people with MS, so how can we keep ignoring it?
Does cannabis totally eliminate my pain? No. But it dials it down to a much more tolerable level. For me, it’s a muscle relaxer, a mood enhancer, a stress reliever, and eases a lot of the stiffness and burning in my legs. It’s hard for me to express just how much this plant helps me. MS is heavy. The way I see it: I’ve got MS forever, and it’s gonna get worse. Why not get stoned?
I recognize that cannabis doesn’t work for everyone, but for me and so many like me, it is medicine – especially for chronic pain. I think it’s a crime that so many people in this country still don’t have legal and safe access to it, and the lack of cannabis conversation in the mainstream MS world is only perpetuating that. I think patient advocacy is a great place to start. So let’s talk about it.
And to all the organizations who reach out for their MS Month projects: I dare you to feature the full story – chronic pain and cannabis included.
Photo credit Meghann Prouse indie photographer
One thought on “Let’s talk about chronic pain and cannabis”
Great article man! I will definitely share it. People need to hear the truth about the impacts of MS and how patients really deal with them and not just the “censored” version shown by big pharmaceutical companies.