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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, it may be able to help you too.

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.

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.

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!

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 (chemical compounds excreted from the cannabis flower, these compounds mimic natural occurring compounds in our body called endocannabinoids. Without getting too heavy into the science, the endocannabinoid system helps communication between cells. The important thing to note here is that this is already an important part of your body and the compounds from marijuana can imitate the ones that you’ve had all along). You may have heard of the cannabinoids THC and CBC, which are just two of over 85 cannabinoids that come from the cannabis flower. Each cannabinoid can have different effects on your body. THC tends to be the cannabinoid that has the psychoactive effects that people associate with marijuana, and indeed, most recreational marijuana is bred to have increased percentages of THC. You’ll find most multiple sclerosis patients benefit from a higher percentage of CBC, another cannabinoid, that can actually be very calming. I often hear people worry about being anxious or paranoid on marijuana – well, that’s only marijuana with a high percentage of THC. A strain with a higher percentage of CBC can actually have the opposite effect and aid greatly in anxiety. The big takeaway here is that different strains (and even mixes of strains) can have different effects because of the varying percentages of cannabinoids. We are now seeing more and more strains bred to have increased percentages of particular cannabinoids. 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.

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!

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 can be invaluable as a way to relieve some of our harshest symptoms. 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Birgitta
    1 year ago

    My sister has reumetoid arthritis. She was diagnosed when she was 12 and has used medical marijuana strains and one of them was this https://www.bonzaseeds.com/blog/fruity-pebbles/, along with her other meds for the past 9 years. I’m not sure how it helps if not by just taking her mind off the pain. I’ll have to ask her. She was supposed to be in a wheel chair by the time she was 15 but she’s holding on strong. She doesn’t use it all the time but Ive had to go help her roll a few joints because her joints in her hands have been so swollen. I feel sorry for anyone who has to suffer from that kind of pain on a daily basis. Even if it does help her by elevating her mood and taking her mind off the pain, I say more power to her.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks Birgitta, utilizing the right strain can make all the difference. Some strains help with different symptoms. I think anyone who hasn’t had a beneficial experience with medical marijuana, simply needs to try a different strain.

  • ConqueringDaily
    1 year ago

    Hey Devin,

    Just found your post! I’ve over- researched the whole medical marijuana option, got tangled up in trying to decide on which strains would be the best for my pain, elasticity and stiffness, and nearly gave up the whole idea until now.

    THANKS for presenting your experience with medical marijuana in such a straightforward manner. I’ll definitely reenergize my interest.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thank you ConqueringDaily! It’s very easy to get caught up on some of the details, which can make it seem too daunting. Good luck going forward!

  • Ellenmaine
    2 years ago

    I’m going to change the life if anyone who wants to cook with their medical marijuana. There is a new company, Levo, that is just launching a wonderful countertop appliance that infuses oil or butter w pot easily, effortlessly. I have one; you can order now. I only just got my card enabling me to go to a New York dispensary, which I have an appointment to do this Friday. I’ll post again afterwards.

  • Bredebunch4
    2 years ago

    Hi Devin. You speak of making your own oil. What do you use as a base? Flower? I am in the process of converting from smoking to an easier application. I suffer from pain, both muscular and neuropathic and fatigue. Getting the right combo of thc to cbd is a tough balance. Too much indica I fall asleep. Too much sativa in the hybrid and my nerves are on fire. How did you start the process to 1, make the oil and 2, producing the right balance for daytime use?
    Thank you for sharing your life experience. I only started using medical marijuana (7 years ago) after being prescribed heaps of pills that made me sleep, robbing my life of activity. Any sources you can provide to help me improve my symptomatic relief without putting me to sleep would be aporeciated.

  • jasonm081276
    3 years ago

    Very inspiring, Moved to Va the year I was diagnosed, now I think I may need to return to the HOMELAND,,,Massachusetts

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thank you jasonm081276! Times are certainly changing though and it’s becoming more and more accepted every year!

  • Deborah
    3 years ago

    A few things: If you live in a state where you can legally buy MM, try Mary’s Medicinals (http://www.marysmedicinals.com) I use their CBC Topical Compound on my legs and neck which are constantly in spasm. It is a salve that you just rub on the area that hurts. It is supposedly not mind-altering but it does make me feel relaxed and sleep and all my pain is gone! They also sell patches that time-release MM through your skin. I also use Charlotte’s Web Hemp Oil twice a day. You can buy this online and it can be delivered to most states since it’s just Hemp Oil. It doesn’t have an immediate effect but after a few months, I am stronger and ready to work again after 2 years of retirement. You can check it out here: http://www.cwhemp.com. I had a 2-hour session with a consultant who explained everything about how to use it and what to expect. I will never be without it again! One more thing that I mentioned on another thread – check out 5-HTP which is a natural supplement amino acid has helped me sleep and lifted my mood out of my MS-related depression. I read all the reviews on Amazon before I tried it and it’s changed people’s lives dramatically. These three products have made my life pretty fantastic, despite having PPMS. Best to all on your journeys!

  • labsrspecial
    3 years ago

    Well said– I wish I could write as well as U!! Are you in CO?? I felt when I read this it was my story!! When I got my card-3 years ago now- I still want to stand and the roof top and scream how much it helps me!! thank you for putting into words how I feel!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks you! I wish I was in CO, I imagine it’d be even easier and more accepted there! I am in Delaware!

  • Susan
    3 years ago

    I asked my doctor if he would prescribe medical marijuana for me and he absolutely refused. He is of a generation that is very narrow minded about it. So I changed neuros and the new one did not even hesitate to write it for me. It is legal in my state. He said he hopes it helps me. Finally got my card and have to find a caregiver now. This can be a problem since the state government shut down dispensaries here. The federal government needs to legalize it for so many reasons. It’s almost impossible to do clinical trials since it is still illegal under federal law. I saw an article about it being a cure for cancer too. Get with the program Washington! I’m hoping it will help with muscle spasms, stomach pain, and insomnia. The list of possible side effects of other drugs for these problems really disturbs me.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    I 100% agree with you! I’m so glad you were able to find a more open minded doctor too! Thanks for sharing your story, very much appreciated!

  • repp8x
    3 years ago

    I will confess I smoked in College, and am wondering if the oil is expensive to make. Also is eliminating the side effects of hunger, sleepiness, etc mainly trial and error? Are prescriptions harder to get in states where it is illegal?

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    The oil isn’t that much more expensive to make, just takes some time. I use alcohol (everclear) in my process and reduce it down via heat, evaporating some the potentcy of the alcohol. As far as side effects, if you learn about the strains or go to a good dispensary, it really isn’t that difficult to figure out which strains have which effects. We’re living at a time when more and more info (and acceptance) is popping up everywhere. As for prescription, that can vary state to state. Getting a script usually requires going to a doctor that prescribes it (in most states, not every doctor can), sometimes (like where I got my script in NJ), you are required to have an “existing relationship” with the doctor. That often means you need to have at least two visits before they can start the process. So it’s not that it’s difficult, but it does take more time than it should.

  • falcionem
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting this. I was on Rebif for 7 years and then Copaxone for 2 when I decided to stop my medicine totally. I could not stand the side effects.

    As a daily pot smoker, I had noticed the calming effects it had on my spastic legs at night. It also had a positive effect on any stomach upset I had. I asked my MS Doctor to do some research on this as a medicine. She wants me to go back on traditional drugs for my symptoms but I live in a State where Medical Marijuana is legal. That is my medicine of choice. My husband has CMT (a form of MD) which is similar to MS and he finds relief with his pain from that. Its a plant that God put on the earth for us to use to ease pain. I’m all for it.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for reading and sharing your story! More and more doctors are starting to come around to use it’s use. Hopefully that number continues to grow!

  • Lorraine M.
    3 years ago

    The oil takes two hours to affect me, both high CBD and the high THC versions. Can you provide the best means of administering the oil? The vapor affects me immediately, however I do not like that format due to the smoke, and I seem to inhale incorrectly. I am desperately seeking relief from freezing, stabbing MS and neuropathy pain.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    The oil will often take a while for me too. I typically put some drops under my tongue. If I hold that liquid there for a few minutes, I’ll often start to get some relief faster. For the most part, with oil, I try to anticipate when I’ll need it, which can be tough.

  • Matt Allen G
    3 years ago

    I was never into it either but while I was getting ready for Lemtrada I decided to try, the oil though, not really smoking. Anyways, medication for things like nausea barely took the edge of the EDGE off. Then I took a tiny drop of oil and it was 100% gone for me and instead of trying not to puke I was eating. This is just one small example, it helps with a lot of symptoms and it is just a plant!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    It really is amazing. I used to have pretty bad nausea too and this really helps with that too! Oil is definitely my preferred method too!

  • AZStevo
    3 years ago

    Dude, donde esta mi coche? Just kidding, I found the same thing to be true after a long time of searching for relief from the cramping and spasms. I couldn’t finish my post, it cut me off. Regardless, my doctor didn’t want to hear about it so I told her anyway, it works and without it I have a tough night what with the spasms and associated pain. I laughed at people when they told me use it for medical reasons until… Beats all the muscle relaxers and there is no side effect. Woo hoo as my kids would say.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    Sure does! The side effects from those muscle relaxers are just awful! I find this more effective and much easier on the body. Thanks for reading!

  • AZStevo
    3 years ago

    Dude, donde esta mi coche? Just kidding, I found the same thing to be true after a long time of searching for relief from the cramping and spasms. To quote

  • Stacey
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this Devin!
    I have a lot of pain in my hips, legs and shoulders. I’m on pain pills and muscle relaxers 24/7, but it doesn’t help near as much as it used to.
    A friend of mine knew this and brought me a little of his wife’s medical marajuana to try. All I can say is WOW!! I did not get the ‘high’, my pain was almost gone and I could move and walk much better. I felt almost human again!
    I’ve now taken it three times, when the pain got to be too much. I am not sure if it’s legal in Texas or not, but I am definitely asking my neuro if he will prescribe it.
    Again, thank you. Have a good, pain free day! 🙂

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for reading and sharing your story too!

  • 1q47htm
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Devin…Your story is exactly as I would have written…I can’t believe the relief of pain in my legs after I use marijuana.. It is instant too. Last for about 4-6 hours too. No liver damage either. I would like to use the oil or vaporizer. I dont like to have to smoke it (lungs). Also, my walking is so much better-balance.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thanks for reading and sharing! It still amazes me the difference it can make!

  • Lisa
    3 years ago

    I use daily, it has been life changing. I agree, explore strains, explore consumption methods – we do not have to live in pain or be addicts.

    Cannabis. “Marijuana” is slang and a term rooted in racism and Reefer Madness paranoia. It isn’t helping to educate or letigitimize pharmacuetacal benefits referring to it as pot, dope, weed or marijuana. It is a flower off a plant. The true crime that should be illegal is keeping relief from sick people.

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa! We truly appreciate your input. We are so glad that you’ve found cannabis to be so helpful with your MS. Thank you for being a part of our community!
    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Michraf
    3 years ago

    I would try it in a second. My doc will not prescribe it. He believes it does more harm than good. I respectfully disagree.

  • 1q47htm
    3 years ago

    I would insist on a prescription. I think sometimes things are just too much trouble and time for doctors, you don’t have to smoke it.

  • Meagan Heidelberg moderator
    3 years ago

    So sorry to hear that Michraf. Some states don’t allow it either – do you think that could be why your physician won’t prescribe it? We are hoping that maybe he has a change of heart!
    Best,
    Meagan, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

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