Cannabis is an amazing medicine with potential healing properties that are still far beyond our understanding. While we do know it is a safe substance, every person and situation is unique. Over the course of the last 2 plus years I’ve been witness to some miraculous health improvements, but I’ve also seen some cannabis inspired set-backs (including those of my own). As a cannabis community we don’t always like to discuss these - it’s taken us a long time to get to level of acceptance we have now and no one wants to jeopardize that further. But in reality, it does us a much larger disservice, in so many ways, to ignore situations like the one Sally is going to share below.
We live in a “more is better” society and cannabis comes with a euphoria that many of us enjoy. It’s so easy to blur the lines between where euphoria and therapeutic value meet - they can often overlap. It’s almost natural to use in a way where we gauge medicinal benefit by that very euphoria, or push the therapeutic window with the hopes to enjoy a high (which gets harder to achieve with tolerance). Therapeutically tolerance can be a sign that we’ve taken too much cannabis, and this sign needs to heard.
Part of the current understanding of how cannabis works in the body is the balancing of the endocannabinoid system - our homeostasis regulator. Tolerance is a sign that we’ve oversaturated this system, but instead of cranking down the engines and cooling off, most of us continue to ramp up. This doesn’t always turn out well, as cannabis has a biphasic response. This means the more we take the better we feel until we reach the peak, and then effects plummet in the other direction. This is when patients experience adverse effects, including things like anxiety, dizziness, GI upset, and an increase in pain or the very symptoms we are trying to address. Unfortunately in this situation, cannabis can also help us disconnect, so if we aren’t mindful of changes to watch out for it can be difficult to identify cannabis as the culprit.
Sally is a client of mine who has long loved the medicinal and euphoric properties of cannabis. Over time Sally found herself using more and more cannabis to achieve the same results. This worked well for her, until it didn’t. She began experiencing adverse reactions and continued using more and more cannabis not wanting to see that they were connected. It took Sally a lot of hard work to listen to her body, make this connection, and commit to turning it around. She is currently taking a cannabis break and will restart using medicinally, with much more intention, in the coming weeks. Sally asked for me to help her share her story in an attempt to raise awareness & help other patients who may be in the same spiral. I am inspired by her strength and courage and honored to be a part of her journey.
My Cautionary Cannabis Tale
A Patient Guest Post by Sally O’Malley
I've been staying out of these Facebook cannabis groups for over 2 weeks since my life crashed. I came on today to leave them for a while & saw a post about vomiting that docs were suspecting cannabis for. Of course, 75% of the responses were about how crazy those docs were to even suggest cannabis as a possible cause. Even though this is extremely hard for me to do right now, I have to share my cautionary tale & would like you to read all of it.
I've used cannabis since I was 16, and I'm now 60. While on opioids for 25 years in FL, like many of you, I would smoke cannabis for 5 days & stop so I could pass a urine test to get my pain meds every month. Started Medical Cannabis in early 2017. I chose to wean off all narcotics (Dec 2016) before I started the medical cannabis program. I wanted to know all the pain I was dealing with in advance, so I would know exactly what the cannabis was helping or not helping. What shocked & pissed me off was my pain was exactly the same ON the narcotics as it was off!
First year on medical cannabis, I had a bad issue with vaping but overall everything was very encouraging for me. I fired my primary & pain docs of 20+ years, and got a new primary that has become the best doc I've ever had. First doc I felt I could ever honestly talk to. Fast forward to about the last half of 2018 & now looking back I see that was the beginning of my decline. I didn't want to know how much flower I was vaping because I knew it was way too much. Plus the added oral doses (RSO & distillate) every day/night on top of flower. When you seldom get high anymore because of tolerance, it's hard to know when you're getting too much. The ONLY signs of overuse I was looking for were the Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) ones like vomiting & needing to take hot showers, baths, etc. I completely missed the anxiety steadily building up inside. I never felt anxiety before so had no idea that's what I was feeling.
I convinced myself that it was just probably because of so many changes for my body, stopping 15 different meds I've been on for decades & losing over 100+ lbs. My doc explained how much time had passed off those meds, & assured me that was not the case, but I ignored him. Then I starting withholding info from him.
Now my life is out of control.
Kristina Risola & Doc Scott Gebhardt were not even my cannabis doc's office, but they saw me quickly & are helping me with the road back. I've been off all cannabis products since June 14th. My restart date is up to me. When I do start back, it will be as a medication ONLY. But honestly it's not even close to being one of my primary concerns right now.
If you're still reading this & have felt unexplained emotional or physical things going on that you do not like, STOP & LOOK at your cannabis use!
Trust me, you do NOT want to be me right now!! I'm going ON meds now that I never in my life imaged I would EVER be on!
For those of you still lying to your docs because you're scared to tell them that you are a LEGAL, LEGAL, LEGAL cannabis patient, I'm begging you to do what it takes to tell every single one of them. As bad as this is right now, it scares the crap out of me to think what would have happened if none of my docs had known I was using cannabis!!! If you can't say the words, just take your LEGAL CARD out & SHOW it to them. You may be pleasantly surprised to find your doc is willing to listen. And if it turns out badly, you needed a new doc anyway. There are so many of us all over the state, there are people to help you find someone. In my area, I couldn't find anyone pro-cannabis, so I started looking for a D.O. (my preference) that had not formed any opinion about cannabis. He saw all the positives in me that he could not deny.
I remember the exact visit when my doc warned me that cannabis can cause anxiety. Of course I knew that, and preceded to give him every reason why that wasn't the case in me. I remember thinking to myself that I never mentioned anxiety & cannabis to him, so this guy's interested & doing his own research. I remember being so psyched about that. What a fool I was! Somewhere along the way, my hand picked "student" had become the "teacher," and I wasn't listening to him. I am now.
UPDATE July 10th: Since writing this, I found a post that I wrote from April 2018 where I first describe what I know now was the very beginning of my anxiety back in Jan/Feb of 2018. Today is day 26 without cannabis. This is the longest my body has been without cannabis in easily 15 to 20 years! I still have at least 2 weeks to go until I start back.
UPDATE July 15th:
It's been over a month now, and I'm happy to report that I no longer feel like my life is out of control! I've followed through with every suggestion recommended to me to try to get my life back on track. I've started Cannabis Health coaching with Kristina, and I'm already starting to feel more prepared for the path ahead. I can finally see a little light at the end of this tunnel. I'm even beginning to see that this journey will end up being one of the best I've ever taken for my own health and well being. I'm hoping to continue to stay off cannabis for another week or so. I'm looking forward to starting the slow, responsible road back to my medication of choice, cannabis.