One year ago next week, I made a 21 day journey from Atlanta, GA to Colorado Springs, CO. and back. My family had the opportunity to move and we had to jump. During that time, I found an awesome house that would prove to be a phenomenal choice, hung out with my West Coast Mum (yes I have 2 awesome Mums on both US coasts), and lost 15lbs. We moved because my lupus was flaring and getting worse, and the quickest solution would be to flee the humidity. We were medical refugees in a sense, but not for cannabis – for weather. During the 21 days I was here last May/June, my RA symptoms disappeared mostly. In almost 30 years of diagnosis, that has only happened when I was in the Mediterranean.
Coming here, my medicine consisted of Actemra 360mg (biologic), Arava 20mg/daily (YAY CHEMO – insert rolling eyes here), 60mg Opana daily (oxymorphone), 30mg oxycodone daily, 4 Immunoguard daily (natural supplement, saved my lungs), 24mg Zofran daily (nausea), 1200mg gabapentin daily (nerve issues), lisinopril 20mg daily (BP), and 50mg Coreg daily (tachycardia). My sleep pattern was anywhere between 90 minutes and 3 hours of sleep every 3-4 days. I was literally a zombie. There were times I didn’t sleep for 7 days straight, and that was a regular occurrence. My lupus had started to show its ugly face 4 years prior and my lungs, heart, and kidneys were really damaged. We were hoping for a miracle as far as my health went. In addition to the stress of traveling, living in a hotel, and preparing to move, we had many other major stressors. When I returned from the last of the major trips in January, 2 last key body traumas hit. The boys were sick, and NO pharmacy had my Opana. Opana is oxymorphone and when abruptly stopped can cause seizures, respiratory arrest, and cardiac arrest. Not good news for a Lupie with uncontrolled lupus. I ended up running out waiting for a refill, and turned to the newly legal cannabis. So this all started by accident!
Sadly, I can say that my views on cannabis were still strongly shaped from my experiences with the illegal market and propaganda. That night, the cannabis actually didn’t help the withdrawal, and it was a very long night. I was able to get my medicine two days later, so the cannabis went on the shelf. I did try it both nights though, and the second night (I found a hydrocodone we had so no severe withdrawal) I slept like the dead. I had not slept that good in YEARS. YEARS! But, I was worried about my teens, being perceived as a pothead, and all sorts of crazy things. Cannabis is an illegal drug, and people go to jail for that! So like I said, the pot went back on the shelf for another month.
February brought the same issue with the Opana, only this time it wasn’t being shipped to the pharmacies. I had to drive 60 miles, only to find half my prescription. That was the last straw. I was so sick of having to constantly call my doctor and ask for alternatives because I could never find this stupid medicine! So I started to read. Bare minimum, the cannabis helped with the insomnia, so I talked with my husband. Then I talked to the kids. Medical use is something that really can’t be hidden, so I opted for a more open approach. By then, I had read 3 books on medical cannabis and done my homework. For me, this was an opportunity to educate as well. Last thing we need is more kids growing up with the blatant false propaganda! Teaching moment!
The process began. I was so skeptical. The cannabis I bought at a rec store actually made my bone pain worse, but there was one strain that worked OKAY. Just okay. Went to the same dispensary (rec dispensaries have different stock/rules than medical) and got more of a mixed strain and still not great results. But I was sleeping. That made such a huge difference in itself! Finally, I made my way to the rec store (60 miles from my house) where I found Alien OG and Cannatonic. That was the turning point and around the time I started my Facebook page. These first 6-8 weeks were very iffy. I had a hard time adjusting to the concept of medicating with marijuana (only gets you high right?) and had to find my groove whilst in flare and withdrawal. Balancing that sucked honestly, and I did almost give up a couple of times. But once those 2 came in, the game changed for me.
Alien OG was the perfect sleep aid. Yes it was strong, but Ambien makes people sleep function. Yeah, I think I will deal with stone. (insert smirk) I slept like the dead and woke up completely refreshed for the first time. This strain not only cured the insomnia, but didn’t give me a morning hangover! This is the point in the story where the clouds part, the rays of sun single out the Alien OG, and there is a heavenly chorus. Fantastic! Now for the Cannatonic! With kidney issues, I can’t take NSAIDS anymore. Well, Cannatonic is a 1:1 THC/CBD strain used as an anti-inflammatory! YAY! Vaporized it and waited. Mild buzz for 10 minutes, then went about my day. I had found some base strains that actually made me feel better! Not stoned, not filled with munchies, but my pain dulled! This is definitely not your hippie’s cannabis! This is when my experiment began in earnest, and I had hope it would work. I got my medical license and things completely changed!
This story began in January with some serious pain, flare, stress, and fear. It is May now. Today is day #3 COMPLETELY WEANED OFF ALL OPIATES. Let me say this again, just incase you didn’t catch that – I AM COMPLETELY OPIATE FREE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 5 YEARS! No withdrawal anymore, no excess pain, and I am sleeping. Looking back, this was a very difficult adjustment. There were times the withdrawal was bad and I had to increase my opiate use occasionally. There were times I felt this was never going to work and I had too much damage to ever be off opiates. There were times I had to reconcile that I was sitting in my space, vaporizing marijuana while I have 2 teenagers in the house. All of those things had to be dealt with while finding my “right” combo of cannabis vs. pharma.
Flip side – even if it takes you a year, this is worth it. Let’s be real here. As Autoimmuners, we know there is a terminal side to these diseases. We know that eventually we will need these medicines, and they do have a valuable place in this world. No one should ever be treated like an outcast because they need opiates. I could not imagine having to deal with some of this disease without them. This whole weaning issue would not be possible had I not moved. BUT, if you can manage it and live in a medical cannabis state, it is worth a try. I don’t know if this will work for you. It is medicine and needs to be treated as such in every way. It won’t be for everyone. My new medicine regimen is: Actemra 720mg (raised last June when I moved), 200mg tramadol ER daily, 50mg Coreg daily. Yep I just ended that sentence! I have replaced my opiates, chemo (will go back on during my bad season), nausea meds, nerve meds, and sleeping aids. In addition, my BP has improved and I have started to lose weight now that the opiates aren’t causing me to retain water and gumming up the system. My kids also report that I am perkier and more relaxed! UM, FANTASTIC SIDE EFFECT OF CANNABIS! ***new update. I am on less Actemra now because I am losing weight, and my BP stabilized. As of August 2014, I am only on Actemra and an occasional tramadol er 100mg.***
I am really hoping that moving to something natural will help my body preserve some of this life. I truly want to be there for my granddaughter (5 months old!) when she has kids. I know eventually I will need these meds again, but that time is not now. Let’s hope the future holds a cure. Autoimmune arthritis may kill, but I am its worst nightmare!