You Know What REALLY Grinds My Gears?

The DEA’s Decision…

Cannabis has been approved on the state level for medicinal purposes… but on Thurday August 11th the DEA refused to loosen any restrictions they currently have on medical marijuana leaving it as a scheduled 1 controlled substance. Now what does this mean? This means that our DEA refuses to acknowledge that cannabis has medical benefits as a scheduled 1 substance is defined as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” REALLY?!?!?!?!?!!! Something that has been proven to treat symptoms from epilepsy to alzehimers, slow progressive illness such as parkensons, and improve anxiety/depression/PTSD is being willfully ignored in order to leave this substance in the same classification as heroin.

Now lets THINK about this for a minute…

Their statement reads “The DEA and the FDA continue to believe that scientifically valid and well-controlled clinical trials conducted under investigational new drug (IND) applications are the most appropriate way to conduct research on the medicinal uses of marijuana,” and I am not trying to argue that is incorrect but I have a hard time understanding why it they refuse to accept trials already completed showing medicinal benefits of cannabis. By leaving cannabis as a scheduled one substance they are completely ignoring the fact that it has already shown to be medicinally benefical for multiple studies and multile illnesses. Why is that just disreguarded?

Additionally look at who is funding the majority of the current research being done on cannabis, a federal agency called the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the NAME of this agency is has the word ABUSE. What does that mean?? It means that the majority of the funding of cannabis research is being done to determine its harm and abuse potential, not to focus on its benefits. How is that ethical? Well when you think about it its not, its a skewed view to keep this medicine from the majority of people because we are researching the worst of this medication instead of looking for its potential. We are turning a blind eye to the possible people this could help and instead looking for the side effects.

Lets Compare for a Minute…

        Its not bad to recognize the negatives but we shouldnt be searching for them, we dont do that with other medications. We should follow other drug trials where we look for the potential and then note the side effects and weigh out the positives and negatives of the medications with each patinet use. Think about chemotherapy, think about how fucking awful it is to make a person go through chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is used for a few different reasons: to cure, to treat symptoms or to prolong life depending on the patient and the agressiveness of the disease. Now cannabis doesnt cure but it does slow progression, it has been seen to decrease the size of tumors, it treats symptoms, and helps prolong the life of cancer patients. Now chemotherapy doestroys all cells in patients not just cancer cells but becuase it has been shown to be effective it is given to patients daily to treat cancer. Side effects of chemotherapy include from hair loss, lack of apetite, nausea, immune system suppression and more while side effects of cannabis include drowsyness, increased appetitie, and the giggles. Now I will acknowledge that cannabis has been seen to have worse side effects such as stunted brain development, or an increased respiratory workload but seeing as that is as bad as it goes, how is it that chemotherapy has been given enough research and funding so that it can poision your body to treat you but cannabis is still being considered as bad as heroin. 

Final Contradiction…

While the DEA continues to keep the Schedule I status, ignoring all medical benefit, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concurrently holds a patent on cannabinoids for a wide range of medicinal purposes. How can the DEA continue to turn a blind eye to the benefits that are currently patented by other government agencies for specific medicinal purposes? DOES THIS NOT BOTHER ANYONE ELSE?!?!?!?!? With as many people as this medication can help why is it continued to be held in such a negative reguard? The longer it remains classified as schedule 1, the longer the majority of the United States will remain in the dark about the benefits of this medication. 

*Sigh* And the world goes on…

I am Not a Sterotype

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There is a huge sterotype of cannabis users as lazy, obese, unproductive people. But this is JUST A STEROTYPE!!! These actions are also seen in people who have never tried cannabis but I am not this person. When I have a dose of cannabis I am able to get up and do simple things like dishes and laundry and grocery shopping. When I don’t have cannabis in my system I am in bed, or in the bathroom, or on the couch close to the bathroom. There is a huge difference in my mental clarity when I feel better. I was able to study a few chapters at a time, which in nursing school was over 100 pages, and actually retain the information and have organized notes. When I felt shitty I didn’t even attempt to study.

Its a Choice

Yes I could CHOOSE to be lazy and sit on the couch all day eating cookies, but I have spent so many days in my own bed because I don’t feel well enough to stand, or in hospital beds when I haven’t been healthy enough to be home, that it seemed like a waste if I spent my healthy day on my ass. Why would I not take full advantage of feeling like a normal person? Wouldn’t you want to go out and take a walk, or play with your dogs in the yard? If you felt good enough wouldn’t you want to go out to the movies, or go play a pick up sports game? When you know what is like to not have the option of leaving the house, and all of the sudden you have the ability to not only leave the house feeling well, but also have the confidence that you will continue to feel well until you return?! That was a game changer!! Now don’t get me wrong I will still binge watch Netflix on Remicade days when my energy is shot but it is no longer a daily occurrence.

What I expected Cannabis to do…

Before I actually tried Cannabis I had expectations in mind about how it would work. I expected it to have a similar effect as pain medication typically does. I expected it to numb my pain but give me just enough euphoria that I felt well enough to function. I expected it to work mainly on mind similar to the feel of narcotics that many Crohn’s patients are prescribed. I had been told to expect to feel fuzzy or sleepy, that might be giggly, and relaxed and so that was what I was expecting but that has not been my experience.

What Cannabis actually does…

Now my experience has been different then I thought it would be. Cannabis for me relieves my pain so yes my muscles do relax, but not to the point where I feel like I should just sit somewhere without the desire to move. My muscles get the feeling of just waking up in the morning where the want to be stretched and then exercised. In fact I have found myself much more active since starting the use of cannabis. I do not experience mental fuzziness in fact I think more clearly. Because my pain is no longer clouding my vision, and my anxiety that my stomach my change at any moment is gone I am actually able to focus better. I have been able to go to classes and retain the information no matter how long they last, I have better recall during an exam, and actively participate in class. I was able to graduate from nursing school and become a nurse because I can think now that the pain is finally gone! Crazy right? Cannabis also decreases the inflammation of my gut which helps keep the pain away as well as increase its effectiveness of digestion which also helps my body feel better. With cannabis my body works better then is had ever before. And yes I am a happier person with the use of cannabis but I think that is also due to the lack of pain and not something that the cannabis may add. Now that I am not in pain I smile more, I laugh more, I enjoy my life more and ultimately that makes me happy.

Navigating the Path Unknown

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Finding my Passion

My push for cannabis use has slowly increased the more I have discovered its benefits for myself. It started with the decrease in the Crohn’s symptoms but as it found its way into my mental health it decreased my anxiety and improved my general mood. The many benefits I have experienced have helped develop my love for this surprising medicine and my excitement to share my experience with others but I am still a novice trying to figure out what exactly works best for me. Its been an evolving process that I feel I am getting better at.

My Tour Guide

Luckily I am in a state that has a large medicinal base allowing me access to multiple dispensaries with handouts,  pamphlets and bud tenders who look forward to question and answer sessions; I also have the added bonus of a more experienced “cannoisseur” by my side who can answer questions. The man in my life also happens to have Crohn’s as well as ADHD and anxiety and has been using cannabis to treat the symptoms of all three. He has five additional years experience and even though his journey is still evolving he can give advice or recommendations based on how I am feeling.

One thing that I am extremely grateful for is the man of my life understands the importance of this medication in my life and feels the same about it. Not being able to share how I feel about cannabis with my family or my friends has always been a challenge but having my man understand perfectly makes it better. Sorry but not really for that little bit of “cheesyness” but he really has been a huge help as I try to figure out what works best for me without overdoing it.

Learning to be Patient

This process of finding what healthy means to you is not an easy one and it hasn’t been easy for me so it is important to remember to BE PATIENT. Crohn’s symptoms don’t go away with one dose of medication, one change of script. Medications are trialed, changed, and increased to fit the person who needs them. So if one form of intake doesn’t work try another, if one strain doesn’t work try another! There are so many different options to try to find what works best and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. Its really hard to remember that changes don’t happen in a day so you don’t get frustrated along the way.

Learning about the Guilt

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Last Resort!!

Now be warned that there have been many changes I’ve made to my life to try to find my version of healthy but I will be honest with the fact that I took my body much more seriously when I started my cannabis use. Cannabis to me was seen as a last resort and something I initially wanted to use until I was healthy enough to stop but my opinion has since evolved into the idea that my body was meant to need a bit of cannabis in it and when it has some it is able to function efficiently. Now reading this mindset I immediately flash back to nursing school and the thinking of an addict how I need a substance to feel “normal” and that used to make me feel extremely guilty. I was selling myself short in a lot of ways.

What is Normal?

Now to unravel this thinking and to get at the heart of the context I wanted to examine exactly what I felt normal was. And it was simple. Normal to me is being able to live: to go to work, to go to class, to be a functioning member of society but to do it without the fear that I am going to either puke, shit my pants, or feel like I cant breathe because of stabbing pains. Before cannabis I was never sure that I felt good enough to actually participate in things. I was afraid to go running outside because of the worry I wouldn’t be able to find a bathroom when I needed one. I was afraid to go out with friends because I was worried that I would have a stomach spasm and have a hard time moving. I had days when I had to call out from work because I was stuck in a bathroom for hours at a time. I have missed classes because I am shaking from not being able to keep food down. And as small as it may seem I had an extremely hard time finding a place to go out to eat with other people because I was afraid to eat anything and not know the effect it would have on my body. And that was when I thought I was “feeling good”!!! Anyways one day the man in my life made a comment that how I feel on a daily basis is not how everyone else feels on a daily basis and that’s when it really hit me…. they don’t know. Other people don’t know the fear of trying to find a bathroom or the panic of being told I cant use a facilities bathroom. “Normal” people don’t have to worry that their stomach is going to spasm and they will spend the next hour bent over a toilet emptying every single content that was once in there. So why exactly should I feel guilty for wanting to feel normal?

Overcoming the Guilt

Now my guilt lasted quite a bit longer then the initial epiphany that its alright for me to want to be normal in fact it came up every time I felt I needed it. Of course it didn’t help that I happened to be learning about mental health at the time and the other half of me was trying to convince myself that I was an addict. We all battle with ourselves because we all our own worst critics but its important to lean to the side with reasoning. There were days when I would avoid the cannabis because I felt like I was feeling “good enough” and I should only use the weed if I absolutely needed it only to wake up in the middle of the night with awful stomach pain. And this happened multiple times. One particularly bad morning about 4 am after calling into work I was stuck in the bathroom with my head in the toilet bowl just trying to breathe in between the dry heaves I had enough.

I am done letting myself feel like shit. I am done avoiding something that I know makes me feel better because I have a feeling someone else might judge me. I am done living my life for the eyes of others who have no idea what it takes for me to get out of the house. I am done worrying that I may not be as perfect as I want to be. I am done knowingly choosing to avoid something that makes me feel normal just because it doesn’t make others feel normal. And that was when I started seeing more permanent change.

Part of My Chemical Makeup

Now this last piece is my own philosophy of how my body uses cannabis and not really based on much else so take it with a grain of salt. I have started to view cannabis as part of my maintenance medication that is necessary to function as needed. Like those with Diabetes need insulin because their body cant make insulin to bring down blood sugar, or how people with hypothyroidism need synthroid in order to keep their T3 and T4 levels in check, my body needs cannabis to keep the inflammation down. When I ingest cannabis, especially orally, my inflammation levels in my gut maintain at normal so my body can digest food. Additionally the cannabis relaxes the stomach muscles and keeps them from spasming so I can actually keep food down. As an added bonus weed is an appetite stimulator and allows me to eat when I first wake up nauseous. I do believe I use it as needed but my body just needs it every day and I have come to peace with that. Cannabis is no longer a last resort that should be used for a temporary basis. Yes I may need a large dose during flare ups or other moments of extreme stress but ultimately I need a daily dose of cannabis to be a functioning member of society. And that is more then ok.

A Negative View From the Beginning

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A Little Bit of History

Raised in a Religious Household

My entire life I was raised in a very strict religious household. This meant that not only did my family not smoke or drink but I had no relatives I knew that did either. I was taught that all forms of tobacco, alcohol, or any illegal substances were considered a major sin and not to be tolerated. Unfortunately this included cannabis. For me that meant that I grew up thinking that with weed there was this only black and white possibility for its use. You either do not use it and you are a good person, or you “do drugs” and are a bad person. But there is so so so SO much more to it then that.

Medical Benefits

Cannabis has been helping the medical community since the 1850s despite being classified as an illegal substance in 1970 when we really still didn’t know much about it either but in the past few years we have seen it used to treat neuropathic pain, decrease seizures, treat anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic pain, muscle spasms, eating disorders, and of course IBD which is where I come in.

Crohn’s has Never been an Easy Thing

I was diagnosed at age 10 with a chronic disease that I realized I would be living with the rest of my life. Just think about that for a minute. A ten year old whose life has just been altered with a disease name, being told there is no cure, and then being told they dont really know how to treat it especially because it isn’t typically a child illness. What a bombshell. I thought he had really just told me I was going to die. Luckily that wasnt the case but it has been years of hell trying to figure it out myself with a little help from the doctors. The problem with Crohn’s is that it is different in every single person so its hard to find something to treat everyone. So I bounced through medications about 6 months at a time until they would stop working and I would be switched to another one. In between this mess of medication management I would get sick enough to have a stay in the hospital and then healthy enough to be discharged but it felt like an endless circle. One medication has had a lasting effect throughout my journey though and I will give a shout out to Remicade as it has prevented worse surgeries in the past and helped maintain a pretty decent baseline for the current days. But that is slightly off topic… Anyways the summer of 2011 I had an obstruction that needed to be surgically fixed in my lower colon and my sigmoid colon(right before the anus) was showing sign of cancer so I needed to have a colostomy placed. This I was certain was the end for me. Imagine a 21 year old girl being in an emergency room being told you were going to have to have a colostomy or you were going to die. Heavy shit. So at 21 years old I got to experience the pleasure of having a colostomy bag. The very bright lining to my cloud was the fact that after 8 months of this colostomy my lower colon had healed enough that it could be reconnected. So while I am missing the part of my colon that was looking cancerous, the rest was healthy enough to be reconnected. This was not the end however because Crohn’s does not simply go away, it is a lifetime of effort.

My Introduction to Cannabis

Up until 2013 I had managed to still never run into Cannabis as an actual option for treatment, and it actually was not a doctor to first give the recommendation. Having a chronic illness meant my best friend also had a chronic illness whose parents were more focused on natural remedies to treatments so she had gotten a green card a few years previously in order to treat her EDS/POTS and had noticed how much better she felt using cannabis in her medication regime. In 2013 I moved to Arizona to go to nursing school and my Crohn’s was getting out of control. I was sick from the stress and exhaustion of working and going to school both full time and trying to obtain the career of my dreams and I was starting to break down. I was dangerously close to a hospital stay and knew it. Its funny how you get to learn your body but I knew I was close to fully breaking down and I knew I needed a change. It took one particularly bad night when I was curled up in the fetal position crying because my stomach felt like I was being repeatedly stabbed. I couldn’t take deep breaths because it made the pain worse and all I could think about was how I had to be in class for an exam at 0900. I vividly remember the instantaneous relief I felt from the stabbing pain in my stomach after I had my first experience with cannabis and how I was able to breathe like a normal person. The speed at which I felt relief, the lasting effects of the relief, and the minimal side effects made me curious as to why it wasn’t being recommended to more patients in states that had been medicinally approved.

My Journey Continues

My journey started here and is continuing to develop the more I learn and try to find what really is the best for me. You are welcome to read on with the hope that you might find something that may work equally well for you. It is not an easy path as it is still seen as quite controversial but I can honestly say that Cannabis has changed my life for the better and I hope it can help others who have yet to find that relief.