MS and Marijuana: The Story of a Skeptic Turned Believer

I’ve waited to discuss a certain topic because it can be a rather sensitive issue to some folks. This issue is the use of marijuana to treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis. While some people still scoff at the idea of using this plant as medicine, I’m here to tell you that it’s been life-changing for me. With the legalization of marijuana becoming more and more prevalent across the country, I want to share more about my experience.

Initially skeptical of marijuana

First off, I want to say that I was never really into recreational marijuana. I’m a guy who has always liked to party, but weed was just never my thing - my recreational intoxicant was alcohol. I never had anything against marijuana, it just didn’t “do it” for me. I’ve always held a strong dislike for smoking in general (though I was much more likely to give someone a pass if it was marijuana). So while I’d been around it enough, I didn’t really pursue it.

I’d heard of medical marijuana before but didn’t really think anything of it. Like many, I thought, “oh sure, your ‘medicine’” about people who proclaimed its greatness. Even when someone would tell me that it really and truly helped their ailments, I took that with a grain of salt. In the past, I tried doing the whole diet and exercise thing alone to treat my MS, and while I felt great at the time, I ended up with some disease progression that didn’t really manifest itself until later. Because of this, I tend to be extra skeptical of treatments that fall into the "alternative” category.

My doctor prescribed medical marijuana for my pain

Then, about two years ago, I found myself on disability, with severe pain and spasms in my legs (amongst other symptoms). I had a doctor who had me try a number of things to help with my issues: Gabapentin, Cymbalta, Baclofen, etc. We all know the long list of drugs they’ll try out. Most of these had zero effect for me. Finally, my doctor suggested I give medical marijuana a shot.

When you are in pain almost constantly, you’re willing to try anything. So I said, “Sure, let’s do it,” and we went through the process (which, sadly, is long and drawn out) of getting my prescription set up. The process itself can take several months, and not every doctor can prescribe marijuana.

Eased my pain and spasms

It took a while to get everything in place, but finally, I was able to get and use medical marijuana. Mind you, I was still skeptical - if some of the strongest drugs available couldn’t help me, how was this going to be any different? Well, it turns out I was wrong. It was helpful, very helpful. Did it cure me? No. Did it ease my pain and spasms? Yes. I say ease because it doesn’t rid me of them, but it sure makes them bearable.

I was suddenly able to walk much better when I used it. Was I going to be running a marathon again? No way. But it certainly makes a difference when I can use just a cane instead of a walker, or even at times skip the cane altogether. That may not seem like much, but to me, that’s a very big thing. I still have pain and spasms while using it, but they are considerably less than when I am not. Being in less pain makes a massive difference in terms of quality of life!

The side effects

One of the big issues I’ve had over the course of my disease is the large number of side effects that traditional medications can cause. So many times I’ve thought that maybe something was helping me, but at what cost? My pain may be less, but I feel nauseated all the time; how is that a help?

I find that with marijuana, I just don’t have negative side effects. You are probably thinking, “Well don’t you get ‘high’? Don’t you have the ‘munchies’?” The answer to that is occasionally yes, but mostly due to a misuse on my part. Let me explain.

Not all marijuana is the same. Different strains contain different percentages of cannabinoids and can have different effects. When you go to a dispensary, you can typically tell someone what your symptoms are, and they can help you pick out the appropriate strain or mix of strains. So if I have a side effect like paranoia or the “munchies,” it’s because I didn’t select the right strain.

Alternatives to smoking

I mentioned earlier that smoking anything is not up my alley. I’ve even heard people say they’d never use medical marijuana because they don’t want to smoke. Fortunately, there are methods to use this treatment without smoking!

In my case, I create an oil out of it and carry it around in an eye dropper bottle. I place drops under my tongue when I am expecting to need some relief. This is my preferred method. I also have a vaporizer that looks just like an asthma inhaler that I will sometimes use to inhale a vapor. Both of these methods are free from the issues associated with smoking. They are very discreet, too!

A skeptic turned firm believer

I went from a skeptic to a firm believer in marijuana as a medicine almost overnight. I want to reiterate that it is not a cure, but it has definitely helped me. In my case, I still take a DMD but marijuana is my primary treatment for symptoms. I can’t stress enough how big of a difference it’s made in my life. The relief of my pain, spasms, and tremors has helped me tremendously. As the social stigma of marijuana continues to erode, I believe we will see more and more people turning to this plant for treatment.

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