Saturday, December 3, 2016

Judging By Everyone's Reaction...

You may have noticed that I avoid controversial (especially political) posts on Facebook. I am confrontational by nature, so it is not that I am a shrinking violet, but wisdom has taught me that online arguments are rarely beneficial.

Today I tread into controversial territory, prompted initially by my daughter who thinks I should become an advocate, and then by my frustration with the medical and legal establishments.

Judging by everyone's reaction, you would think marijuana is a bad word. Medical cannabis, to be exact. In Illinois, the governor signed the "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act" on August 1st, 2013. It has been over three years since cannabis became a legal option for several medical conditions, and a viable alternative to the normal pharmaceuticals that doctors prescribe.

As someone who is in a lot of pain, and has a qualifying condition, I have wondered if cannabis might be helpful. Just the fact that I have thought about trying it has filled me with shame and embarrassment. Now, three years later, I finally worked up the courage to ask one of my doctors in a quiet voice, for fear of judgment. Here is what my experience has been like.

In the past decade, I have been offered the following prescription medicines to help with pain, neuropathy, sleeplessness, and migraines. (I am not sure this list is exhaustive, as there as SO many for me to try and remember!)
Fentanyl (pops)

Out of this long list of drugs that I can remember being offered, I actually received a written script for about half of them. Out of those prescriptions, about half were shredded and never filled after I read about side effects and addictive qualities. I opted rather to remain in pain. Of the 25% of the list that I actually did get filled, many ended up in the garbage after a couple days. For example, on the third day taking Cymbalta, I was driving down the street feeling zoned out and had an overwhelming feeling that I should let go of the steering wheel and drive off a bridge. It scared me so much that I promptly went home and destroyed the rest of the bottle, avoiding all prescriptions for a while.

If you read about some of these, I would hope they would scare you too! Like the Fentanyl pops the doctor gave me to take at bedtime to help with pain and sleeplessness, along with a warning that someone should monitor me, since it can cause you to stop breathing! Wh-what!?!! Needless to say, I did not fill that script!

Doctors are so quick to offer these kinds of drugs to me, but when I inquired recently about the medical cannabis, here are responses I got:

  • One doctor told me it would be helpful, but doesn't want to get involved. Referred me elsewhere.
  • The doctor I was referred to said I that the first doctor really should take care of it.
  • Another doc said that if I take illegal drugs (wait, but it is legal in Illinois if I am qualified!), he would not see me again, and then requested a drug test.
  • Still another doctor thought I could benefit greatly, said it doesn't "get you high" and that it is so much safer than narcotics, but because federal laws prohibit it, he was afraid to lose his license. He did offer me a new pain medication if I wanted that instead.

I have been embarrassed during this process, and made to feel like an addict or criminal, which is sad. I am not even sure if I would like it, or if it would help me, but it seems like a less harmful drug than most of the ones listed above. There has been some promising science behind the many benefits of cannabis. Unfortunately, since it is still illegal at the federal level, there haven't been many legitimate clinical trials. So, why would it be so difficult to get marijuana legalized for medical reasons, if it could truly be helpful and less harmful? Why would doctors not want to study it and prescribe it?

A documentary I recently watched, uncovered the powerful lobby against legalized marijuana. The federal government classifies marijuana as a "Schedule I Drug" putting it in the same category with heroin. You might find it interesting that the same plant heroin is derived from (Opium), is the SAME plant that many of the narcotics above are made from.

The documentary investigated what groups are behind those powerful lobbying efforts. I was just as surprised as the person in the video to find out, that although "Big Pharma" does lobby against the legalization of cannabis, they are NOT the largest group of lobbyists behind the movement.

First, are the police and prison guard's unions. Police departments benefit from seizure laws, and that money pays for a lot of their equipment needs. Prisons are full of people serving time for marijuana-related offenses, and there is a fear many guards will lose their jobs. Second, and perhaps most surprising to me, was the alcohol industry. Their fear seems to be that people only have a certain amount of expendable income, and they don't want it spent on cannabis instead of alcohol. 

Putting away my soap box, and hoping we can all figure this out without condemnation. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below (keep it nice), and tell me do you think marijuana should be legalized? Should the medical community embrace it, study it and make it more available?

Resources (just so you know that all those meds haven't cause me to dream this all up!)