DOCTOR & PATIENT CHRONICLE - MMJ & CHRONIC FACIAL PAIN
"The pain of TN is comparable to severe burns, childbirth and even the bite of a bullet ant. I’ve had multiple surgeries to try and fix it, along with expensive medications, therapies, treatments, injections, acupuncture's. Then I found Charlotte’s Webb...."
How Medical Marijuana Treated My Chronic Pain. My name is Kelsey and I suffer from a neuropathic chronic pain condition known as Trigeminal Neuralgia or (TN).
The Trigeminal nerve is a nerve located within the brain. It’s primarily responsible for transmitting sensation from the brain to the face. TN is a type of neuropathic pain; a type of pain that can occur when nerves are damaged or injured. In the medical field, Trigeminal Neuralgia is considered to be one of the worst pains known to mankind, sending excruciating pain throughout the face, head and jaw.
"The pain of TN is comparable to severe burns, childbirth and even the bite of a bullet ant."
At one point, TN was nicknamed the suicide disease. because people who suffer from this would take their own lives because of the severity of the pain. Because of the pain, I’ve had multiple surgeries to try and fix it, along with expensive medications, therapies, treatments, injections, acupuncture.
“I just had Botox injected all across my forehead, into my scalp and jaw line to try and help with the pain. You can kind of see the bruising. I mean that costs $1,200 just to get this area done.”
Illustration of the trigeminal nerve
You name it, I have tried it. Well I have tried almost everything. Recently I’ve heard news stories and read articles about marijuana helping chronic pain. I am at a point in my pain and in my life where I can’t take it anymore and I’m willing to try anything. I don’t smoke weed. Anymore.
“Something you should know about me, I smoked weed back in high school and then once I got older, I kind of like started having really adverse reactions to it, and just quit.”
Though I may not be a smoker anymore, I know that there are hundreds of strains of cannabis, so I needed to know exactly what I was looking for. So I decided to go to a really smart place at UCLA and talk to a really fancy Doctor about it.
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: "There’s pretty strong evidence that whole leaf marijuana or extracts of it can be helpful for nerve pain. Chronic pain, but specifically nerve pain... is the strongest evidence."
Patient Kelsey: "Wait a minute there Doc. Just how far back does this evidence go?"
There are records from 2900 BCE of Chinese Emperor Fu Xi stating marijuana possesses Yin and Yang. Around 1000 BCE in Ancient India, cannabis was combined with milk to drink as an anaesthetic. The ancient Greek Doctor Galen would use cannabis to treat flatulence and pains. The Mexican Revolution of 1910 brought many Mexican immigrants to the US who introduced Americans to recreational use of weed. The great depression increased racial tension, which caused the public demand for government to crackdown on marijuana use. Marijuana was associated with lower class communities.
So basically for forever, marijuana use wasn’t seen negatively until an influx of immigrants and racial tension caused it to be criminalized, causing it to lose its historical association with medicine.
But back to Dr. Strouse telling me something that blew my mind.
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: It’s not at all clear that THC alone has much pain relieving effect. Going to be on the hunt, not for weed, but something called CBD oil which is actually THC free.
Kelsey: What is the difference between CBD and THC?
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: The psychoactive part of marijuana, the part that gets you high is THC.
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: CBD does not tend to make people feel high or intoxicated, that there’s a balance there that a roughly one to one mix sort of makes it easier for people to get a pain relief without that highness that at least some people experience unpleasant.
What?! Why don’t they teach us this kind of shit in high school? That there’s a weed out there that I can smoke and not get high.
Part One: Getting a Medical Marijuana ID - The Card
Today I’m going to go try and get my weed card. I’m actually walking to a place that’s on the corner of my street, because in Los Angeles these places are everywhere.
So you can’t just go to your regular Doctor to get a marijuana card, you have to go to a Doctor that specializes in medical marijuana evaluations.
Human brain, with cranial nerve
So got the paper, and the card. It took how long? Like 5 seconds.
So literally, I sat in a room and a nurse brought in a computer screen and a guy on the other side was on Skype and I told him what was wrong with me and he said, “Great, I’m going to give you a recommendation.” It was very sketchy, but super easy. So I had my card and now I knew what I was kind of looking for, so now I just needed to go to a dispensary.
Dispensaries just like a store for weed.
Part 2: The Goods
Allen Bakshif: My name is Allen, we’re at WHTC in Studio City. You know we’re not Doctors so we really work with the patients to see what’s bothering them, what their ailments are, and how we could help them.
Kelsey: So I notice you’re using the word “patients.”
Allen Bakshif: Yes.
Kelsey: Explain what that means.
Allen Bakshif: A lot of people say customers, it’s that, now we’re a medical marijuana dispensary. Everyone here is a patient, they went to a Doctor, and they have a…
Kelsey: A medical marijuana card, I just got one.
Allen Bakshif: A medical marijuana card which is actually their prescription or their Doctor’s recommendation, saying that they can come in here and that they have an ailment that requires medical marijuana. We see a wide variety of patients dealing with all sorts of ailments. Anywhere from Crohn’s, Diabetes, Neuropathy, Fibromyalgia, and Chemo and Cancer patients, absolutely.
Kelsey: Right and people know about cancer, a lot of people don’t know about, like anxiety that it can with, or depression, or other “invisible illnesses.”
Allen Bakshif: CBD’s very helpful because it’s an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-arthritis.
Kelsey: So, what is the most popular medicine you sell here?
Allen Bakshif: Between flowers, edibles, and concentrates…
Kelsey: Wait, flowers?
Allen Bakshif: Flowers as in medical marijuana. The plant
Kelsey: Okay, I was like, what?
Allen Bakshif: So yeah, we refer to that as flower. Then you have concentrate, which is also known as oil. Then we have topical and tinctures and edibles. So there are top sellers within every market. There’s just a wide variety.
Now it’s time to get smoking.
Part 3: The High
I just left the dispensary and I’m actually feeling like, insanely optimistic. I’m in the parking lot at work, and I’m going to just try one of these things now because I can’t wait to get home. So I’m going to use this stick.
Allen Bakshif: Another popular method, especially for neuropathy is topical.
Allen Bakshif: Lotion exactly.
Oh. Wow, that’s very nice. Oh God that feels so good. It definitely smells like kind of, Icy Hot. It has this weird cooling.
So it’s been about two hours since I used the roll-on stick. My muscles feel so relaxed. I still have a lot of tightness where the nerve damage is. As far as the muscles in my actual jaws and temple, oh my God, it’s like no amount of physical therapy has given me relief for this long.
Allen Bakshif: When people hear CBD, they don’t know what CBD looks like, but if you’re looking at it from a raw for. This would be our Mai Tai Cookies and this has actually won first place at the High Time Cannabis Cup for best CBD flower.
I was also really nervous to try the flower.
It tastes like pot.
Because it reminded me of what I smoked in high school to get really high. When I used to smoke weed, I just knew about two kinds: Mids and Dro.
How much do I smoke? This is weird. I don’t know, I don’t trust this. Jesus Fuck. Okay, so I’ll let that settle in.
But I was nervous for nothing. It turns out it was really great, and the thing I loved most about the flowers was that it helped me the most out of all the methods with my headaches, so anyone who suffers from chronic migraines, I would highly recommend this product.
Kelsey: we see those things on Facebook, those videos where someone is having some sort of seizure or convulsion and they’re given some weed, whether through a pen or a dose, and then five minutes later, they’re totally normal. If we have proof like that why is the research still so, I don’t know, underfunded, or shunned upon?
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: I’m going to sound like a nerdy Doctor and try to answer this question…
Kelsey: Please do. That's why we’re here.
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: I apologize. But you know, I’ve seen some of those amazing video footage to begin, for example, the kids with these horrible epilepsy problems who go to Colorado, who get Charlotte’s Web.
Kelsey: Right we all heard it.
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: That looks very compelling, and I think that the fact that it’s so compelling and there’s so many really nerving testimonials by parents is why there are now clinical trials being done with CBD by major University Medical Center Neurology, epilepsy specialists.
Kelsey: So we’re moving in the right direction?
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: We are, we are.
Okay, so it’s 6:30 on a Friday night and while everyone else is going out and doing shit, I can barely function as a human. The only thing that I can equate it to is like red hot fire ants just biting your face and no matter what you do, you can’t stop it.
So, I’m going to try Black medicated Rub. One CBD to THC, it doesn’t really say how much to take, so I just took that. Oh my God; it smells so good. Let this settle in. It kind of looks like I just have a really popping’ gloss on.
Allen Bakshif: It’s a process. Start very small the first night, see how that affected you. Take note. Moving forward, you adjust.
So it’s been about 30 minutes and I don’t feel anything, so we’re going to take it up a notch. Oing to use this pen.
Kelsey: What do you find to be the most popular?
Allen Bakshif: The vape cartridge, which is really quick.... this is like almost instant relief. You vape it, and within a minute you’re going to feel the effect.
Yo, I still cannot get over the fact that I’m a vaper, bro. It’s also considered to be one of the healthiest ways to ingest cannabis because you’re not smoking any chemicals or papers. It was fast, it was easy, it was by far the most convenient way to ingest cannabis, but its effects didn’t last very long. So if you’re going to try this method I would suggest bringing it with you wherever you go, or getting a higher concentrate in the pen.
I’d read online that people had a lot of success with tinctures, so I bought a variety of kinds with various amounts of CBD and THC.
It is a bit pricey at $60, but hey, willing to try anything.
They were the most expensive method that I tried, and none of them really worked for me.
I don’t feel shit.
About halfway through, I think after repeatedly failing with the tinctures, I really started to get depressed.
(Week 3- Kelsey has a check-in with her neurologist. He tells her about a new implant that could possibly help treat her Trigeminal Neuralgia. This option would require surgery. It would mean Kelsey’s 5th surgery in 2 years.)
I just got done with one of my Doctor’s appointments. The appointment is $195 for a 20 minute appointment for someone to tell you its trial and error and shit may or may not work. These specialist kinds of Doctors aren’t covered by insurance and they have to get paid because the work that they’re doing is so underfunded, like of course they have to charge a bunch because all of this shit is so experimental.
The idea that medical marijuana is something that you can keep in your home, it’s at my disposal whenever I want it. I can take it whenever I want it. That would be like a fucking miracle. Because I’m so sick of these fucking Doctor’s appointments. But then I think medical marijuana maybe that is the best option to even try first. I don’t know, it’s starting to really fuckin’ fuck with me.
Kelsey: Is the legalization of marijuana kind of undermining the use of it as medicine, too? Like, are people afraid that if medical marijuana becomes kind of the norm, will people stop going to see doctors, will people stop writing prescriptions, will the pharmaceutical world collapse? Is that a concern?
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: Though yes, my hunches may be - there are people concerned about that, at another level people, many people are worried about what is the, how responsible is big marijuana going to be, right? Big marijuana, like big tobacco, which until whatever year it was, 1982, was telling us the cigarettes didn’t cause lung cancer. So it’s a huge business opportunity here and they’re going for it and so on, in whose interest will that business development be?
Marijuana still illegal according to the Controlled Substance Act of the Federal government. It’s simply to work with the organizations that the Federal government sustains is really complicated and bureaucratic and that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much anger.
Kelsey: Right around it. Because then it becomes like a government thing. We’re letting the government control whether or not people can get better.
While there is research being done in the US is so far behind compared to other countries. There are still so many states where this is illegal, and there is a stigma of that hippy, stoner, vibe attached to this medicine.
I could not imagine living in a state where I needed this to function and then potentially having to go to a job where they drug test and not being able to take my medicine. I want people to watch this video and rethink their relationship and their opinions on marijuana.
To cheer myself up, I decided to take an edible which I heard so many horror stories where people have eaten it, don’t feel anything, they eat more, and then like 2 hours later, they’re melting into the wall. So I made my roommate, try it with me, and guys, this was the one time that I got super high. And we also made some brownies, and just laughed and I got nothing done, I couldn’t even blog about it. I just realized that that method is not practical for my lifestyle.
Last minute I decided to add one more thing to the test. This was a medication that I had talked to Dr. Strouse about, it’s called Charlotte’s Webb. So they can actually sell it into any state in America because it’s considered hemp, and not cannabis. This one I’m really excited because this is the kind of strain that we see in those Facebook videos. They recommend that you use this and kind of integrate it into part of your diet so they’re saying it might not work the first time, maybe it does for some people, but it’s something that you should do daily.
Mmm, it tastes like mint chocolate chip.
Charlotte’s Web. Oh my God, Charlotte’s Web.
I promise, despite the look of my hair I’m doing much better today. I actually slept, like some of the best sleep I’ve slept in a long time, which, to have a pain free sleep night is pretty rare. So I’m going to start using this a lot more.
It took a couple of days of tinkering with the amounts to figure out what was most effective, but I highly recommend any chronic pain patients to try this first. Even though it’s a $150 a bottle, which lasted me about a month, it was worth every penny.
When I started this journey, I think the thing I was most afraid of was, would ingesting the cannabis affect my energy or my ability to function or my personality? When in reality, I was able to sleep better, and my headaches were less frequent which gave me more energy.
I just so badly want others to be able to have the chance to experience what I did.
Kelsey: What’s it going to take for that to happen? Is it like a big company backing medicinal marijuana? What is it going to take? Is it money? Is it more signatures? I don’t know. What?
Dr. Thomas Strouse MD: Well, I think for us to do, for example; this kind of research in the VA, a federal entity, would probably require a repeal of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
If you get anything from this video know that it’s, chronic pain sufferers don’t just want your sympathy. They want your support and your action. I put some links below to organizations that are working all across the country to reform medical marijuana laws as well as some resources for chronic pain sufferers. I want to give a huge shout out and thanks to WHTC, UCLA and the Facial Pain Research Foundation.
And if you’re a sufferer, I just want to say, don’t give up. Keep trying different methods. Talk to your Doctor, make them listen to your concerns. Tell them about cannabis. Talk to them about cannabis.
I am happy to have found an alternative to prescription pills or opiates because a lot of times that’s the first option chronic pain sufferers are given, and for people like me, whose condition doesn’t even react to opiates this has been an incredibly life changing experience.
I’ve been so happy to be educated about this and learn more about how my body reacts to medical marijuana so that I’m not so nervous or afraid of it anymore.
I’m going to keep using CBD roll-on stick and I use the Charlotte’s Webb everyday, but I’m not going to stop trying things. This is definitely not the solution. It’s not over. And just seeing the widespread acceptance of this plant as medicine, makes me feel incredibly excited and optimistic about chronic pain. For the first time ever.
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