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Medical Marijuana/Cannabis – The Taboo

Everyone has heard the claims of medical marijuana (cannabis) helping their pain or the various symptoms associated with the disease they have. Many people with Multiple Sclerosis make the same claims. But if it helps people so much why then is it still such a taboo?

In the late 1930’s a film (Reefer Madness) was released to sway people away from this drug by depicting the many supposed horrors associated with this “deadly menace” “with it’s roots in hell”. The trailer is hilarious even if you have never tried marijuana, just search for it on Google! I have never seen the full film but the trailer seems to illustrate responsible alcohol users at the worst and not people using the “vicious weed” covered in deadly adjectives called marijuana. I think that this is where a lot of the taboo stemmed (pun intended) from. People believe what they see and don’t investigate various claims, especially when they are made on TV, I mean, TV just doesn’t lie right? Most the people who have made and upheld the laws about cannabis probably grew up seeing this propaganda.

In 1970 President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act, which categorizes drugs into 5 different categories. Marijuana/cannabis was placed in category I (called schedule I) alongside heroin, LSD and Ecstasy. Schedule I is the “worst” of the 5 categories and is defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence”. Now let’s put this into perspective; cannabis is a schedule I drug yet cocaine is a schedule II drug which is defined as “drugs with a high potential for abuse, less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous”. Other schedule II drugs are often prescribed like candy for chronic illness, drugs such as Vicodin, Norco, Percocet, Ritalin and Adderall. Methamphetamine is also a schedule II drug. Now I am pretty sure a huge percentage of the people reading this right now with Multiple Sclerosis have been on or currently are on at least one of these drugs (hopefully not meth). So think about it. According to this law, cocaine and meth have more medical uses than cannabis! Oh and the Norco you just took for that nerve pain? Well by law it is just as bad as cocaine…


So is marijuana really the demonically addictive plant that it has been portrayed as? Personally I would say no even though there are many studies that directly contradict each other saying it is and isn’t but I want to share my interpretation. Anything can be addictive if you have an addictive personality. Technically junk food containing sugar is addictive but not the same way a heroine dependency is. So if cannabis helps me sleep then yeah, I might feel addicted but probably more so to the good sleep than the nasty tasting medication itself.

Before I go on I should first share my personal experience with medical marijuana. As I am currently at the end of my rope awaiting Lemtrada I decided to give it a try. I have seen so many amazing stories (whether they were cherry picked or not) about how cannabis has helped so many people overcome so many different illnesses such as chronic pain, epilepsy, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer (to name just a few). Now they are constructive members of society and no, they are not stoners lying around all day getting high. “OK, so what if it could do even a fraction of that for me?” I thought.

I live in California where it is currently legal for medicinal use but honestly? The process of getting a medical marijuana “prescription” is such a joke. In and out in like 10 minutes. Next I went to the dispensary (which is like the “pharmacy” for cannabis products) and tried a few things. Now first I need to explain; marijuana contains 2 main chemicals, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is psychoactive meaning it gets you high. CBD is non-psychoactive meaning it doesn’t make you high. Marijuana is just like any other plant in that it has different species or “strains”. Different strains are said to help different things. When you go to a dispensary there are basically 3 categories of products (which all strains fit into) you can buy; indica (CBD products), sativa (THC products) and hybrids which are a combination of THC and CBD. These products can be smoked (though that doesn’t seem to be recommended), “vaped” (inhaled using a vaporizer device), eaten as a premade product such as a cookie, candy or as a few drops of oil added to food, a sublingual (under the tongue) drop, a transdermal (through the skin) oil that is rubbed on the skin and probably available through other delivery methods I am unaware of. You can even buy pills that just have CBD in it for a more controlled amount of CBD.

These products have shown to be anti-inflammatory and are claimed to help all sorts of ailments such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, nausea, spasticity and so much more. I tried both a THC product and a hybrid consisting of mostly CBD. The THC did absolutely nothing for me. I didn’t even feel high! So much for the psychoactive drug that makes you all crazy! The hybrid product I tried did make me a bit “high” but not like I thought a “psychoactive drug” would. People describe edible products as a “body high” and at first I didn’t understand that but now I do. In my experience, it seemed to “relax” my body but do nothing to my “head”. I couldn’t walk well (OK maybe I took too much) but mentally I felt fine. Maybe a little slower in the head but I am not really certain. Now this didn’t last long because it knocked me out better than any sleeping medication I have ever used! I also didn’t have to get up 3 times throughout the night to use the restroom even after drinking a full glass of water right before bed and I usually try to cut off all liquids about 2 hours before I plan on going to bed.

But let me be clear about my experience. It did not make me all happy and giddy, it didn’t even make me feel as high as Norco would! Maybe it was just the particular strains I was using but that just goes to show that it is very unlikely that someone with MS will get high on cannabis, hop in the car and go speeding the wrong way down the highway killing a family of four. No, the legal alcohol users can keep that one because you often hear about drunk drivers killing people but have you ever heard of a stoned driver killing people? Marijuana seems to make you mellow out so most likely if you did decide to hop in the car? You would probably be busted for doing 20 in a 40 zone even though you feel like you are doing 95 on the wrong side of the road. The high you get from Marijuana is not like the high people seem to get from cocaine or ecstasy. Again, I don’t know if there has ever been a case saying otherwise or not but I can’t seem to find one.

Anyways, nothing I tried did anything for any of my symptoms except it gave me the best sleep I have had in years and helped my constant need to use the restroom all night. But here is the thing, anyone with Multiple Sclerosis knows the disease effects everyone differently and that when it comes to medications what works for one may not work for everyone. So I know that just because what I tried didn’t do much for me it may do wonders for someone else. All the claims cannot be ignored and it obviously did something to me which is much more than a lot of the “safe” pharmaceuticals I am used to popping or injecting. Plus, you could look at all the strains of cannabis as different medications because they all are made to treat something different so maybe I just have not tried one that works for me.

But as great as some of the claims are for medical purposes people are still very hesitant to give it a try. Even I was hesitant (purely because of the taboo) and only tried it because I am running out of options here. Luckily the taboo associated with marijuana is starting to die. 23 states have legalized (or decriminalized) marijuana whether for recreational use or medical use and many more states are expected to follow suite. Though the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and not the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) still regulates marijuana there are medications such as Sativex (which is a cannabis extract that is sprayed into the mouth) that have been approved for medical use in parts of the UK that will surely make their way to the states when the FDA starts to see that there is a medical use because people seem to respond well to the medication.

I personally think I will try a few more strains to see if they give me any sort of immediate symptom relief and then, further down the line, I will try a CBD oil; almost a pure CBD extract which looks like a nasty black oil in a syringe that you ingest. This is what seems to have the best anti-inflammatory properties and can even cross the blood brain barrier! When I look at it I think “eew, I have no desire to eat that” but if it helped? It would be worth it. And if it doesn’t help? Well that is just me. Copaxone didn’t do anything for me but for other people it works. So my own testimonial is not enough to judge a medication.

If anything I have said is actually true, why then is marijuana a schedule I drug alongside heroine, LSD and ecstasy? Not to be a conspiracy theorist here but the way I see it just makes sense from a monetary point of view. If people started using cannabis to treat various ailments think about how much money would be lost if people started growing their own medication instead of paying for pills? Now pharmaceutical companies would be “hurting” and the government can’t tax what it can’t 100% regulate right? So everyone is loosing money. Some states like Colorado have legalized it for recreational use and the amount of taxes they have made are insane but money grows greed and greed says “yeah I am making a lot of money but I am not making as much as I could and if I can’t make it all then I would rather wait till I can” except there is no way to completely manage whether people are growing this stuff on their own.

Hopefully more states will realize how much money they can bring in if they just let go of the fact that some people will end up growing their own “medication”. Colorado brought in around (I can’t seem to find an exact figure) 50 million dollars (maybe more, maybe less, again I am not 100% sure) in 2014. If more states jump on the band wagon then the taboo associated with marijuana use will eventually die and patients who respond to it well as a medication to treat symptoms and diseases will have easier access to it and not have to try to keep it a secret like they are doing heroine or something. It will be less taboo to use cannabis as a medication then it is to drink alcohol recreationally. One can hope.

Also, just for the record, I don’t really like to drink and I do not smoke. When it came to cannabis I was only interested in the edibles and maybe the vapor because I really do not like marijuana for my own personal reasons. So I am not defending marijuana because I am some pothead, in fact, I strive to get as much as my mind back as I can so I really don’t want anything that is going to impact my intelligence. No, I defend this because it really seems to help people and who am I to say “you shouldn’t be pain free and a functional member of society because the taboo associated with cannabis that is based on really old propaganda and misconceptions makes me uncomfortable”. If it helps improve your quality of life I am all for it so I simply think we should (medically) be looking into this more as a possible treatment option.

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

  • Lisa
    4 years ago

    Matt,
    I have enjoyed reading several of your articles. You have a great command of the written word. Your ability to communicate in a clear, succinct way is so helpful. Nicely done. Thank you.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Sorry for the late reply, I am not getting email alerts, I was starting to think people had grown tired of my writing haha. Thanks!

  • jenne
    4 years ago

    I use mmj and it helps me with pain, leg spasms and sleep. It’s effectiveness does vary with the strain. I am still experimenting to find the ideal one.
    I am curious about the oil you mentioned that crosses the BBB. I would like to see a study on that, although that is unlikely to happen given mj’s current classification.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Well it’s not the oil that crosses the BBB, it’s just THC and other cannabinoids like CBD. For me, almost pure THC eliminates my insomnia and allows me to sleep through the night without getting up 2-3 times to use the restroom which is all a big deal for me haha! Sleep is important!

  • Valeriem2220
    4 years ago

    My daughter works in a dispensary and wanted me to try cannabis vapor. I wasn’t sure of the treatment since day one but have had enough of the pain for so many years that I was ready to try anything for even the slightest relief. I tried it once and has no relief. She told me most people don’t get relief right away and to give it a chance a few more times. On my third try I was amazed. Approximately 80% of my pain in my legs, which has been severe for years, was replaced with an enjoyable warmth. I was comfortable for the first time in a very long time and actually enjoying what I was feeling in my legs. I didn’t have a high feeling, but I was more relaxed. I was able to go about my daily activities at home, probably even more so because of the relief of my pain and spasticity. I truly believe this works for some people, maybe not all as no treatment ever does. I personally would prefer putting something natural in my body than a chemical produced in a lab.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I agree, something natural appeals to me way more than marinating my liver in codeine that barely takes the edge off. Plus different strains seem to help different thing which to me is way better than a handful of pills that also barely do anything…

  • Kelly McNamara moderator
    4 years ago

    Glad you found something that works for you! Thanks for sharing your experience and for being a part of our community! – Kelly, Community Manager

  • Dan
    4 years ago

    My problem isn’t the taboo so much as it is the irrational advocacy and unproven efficacy and obvious potential for side effects that we would simply not accept from any other “medicine” that was not under the hippie glow of “it’s natural”.

    If Pfizer made these sorts of unproven claims – the FDA would shut them up.

    If Anheuser-Busch made these sorts of unproven claims – the FDA would shut them up.

    But, increasingly commercial, marijuana advocates get to brazenly make unproven claims (to sick people, creating false hope and depleting their resources) without oversight or consequence.

    If you want to use marijuana for fun – I am a lot more supportive of that than I am of the “medical marijuana” crowd as it exists now.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Well, of course all the claims are unproven, it’s federally illegal so no one even does testing/clinical trials. I went into this a total skeptic but wow, I was amazed. I have cut the amount of pills I use way down. I don’t want to get high, MS already makes me feel loopy and dizzy, so I really have no desire to use it for anything but medicinal purposes

  • New to me
    4 years ago

    I to have recently been doing hours of research on mm the market has exploded with edibles, oils, even soft drinks although I get a kick out of some of the names it can get quite confusing on which gene strain/type helps a particular ailment/pain I am leaning towards a high CBD low THC I honestly think it’s just now receiving the attention from the scientific & medical community it was not long ago everyone was only concerned with THC but now realize there is more to the mystery including CBD even the chemical that gives it it’s taste is important to potential pain control..

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    What is unfortunate is finding something that has high CBD and low THC that does not come from HEMP is really hard… at least in California because most people just want to get high it seems so everything is high THC and low CBD which really sucks when you don’t want to feel high.

  • Lisa
    4 years ago

    Thanks for this post. I recently decided that mmj might help with sleeping and with some of my pain issues, so I took the plunge and got my medical marijuana(mmj) prescription. My results have been similar to yours although I would say that I am getting some nice daytime pain relief as as some actual sleep. Most of us who decide to give this a shot will discover that there is lots of research to do. You’ve clearly spelled out some of the important stuff — like the differences between CBDs and THC.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Well you hit the nail on the head. Even after this I feel like I know so little because there is no clinical research out there. It is so hard to find reliable information that you can trust, at least that is my issue. I never can stop learning something new about this, it’s like exploring uncharted territory!

  • Shantami
    4 years ago

    Thank you for your post about marijuana (mj) and ms. Re mj and pain: I lived in the Amazon jungle fom 1995 to 1997. While there I got a typical amoeba from the water called pereba. It’s very painful and penicilin will kill it. I wanted to be heroic and bear with it until it went away and took mj to kill the excruciating pain. I eventually welcomed a shot of penicillin, but until then I was very grateful for mj because it WORKED! I can’t speak more highly (no pun intended) of it.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    haha no pun, I am disappointed in myself for not thinking of that line haha! But wow, that sounds horrible, I never had much desire to go to the Amazon for that very reason and now that I have done Lemtrada? Never. But glad you experienced good results with cannabis!

  • lynettebear
    4 years ago

    thank you for an informative article. i have been seriously considering trying marijuana for ms symptoms. i am allergic to anything that comes from or is based on poppy plant and motrin doesn’t always cut it. i’ve been reading and researching on this for several months. when i return from vacation, i will try it out. we all try meds that don’t work so why not marijuana?

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    That was my thought exactly, “why not?”

  • Constance
    4 years ago

    Matt,
    I just want to commend you for explaining all the facts so well. CBD works on some, especially if you are not prescribe anything but baclofen by your neurologist for spasms and spasticity and pain due tO PPMS.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    I have heard (and experienced” that certain medications like Norco (narcotics in general) have an enhanced effect when used with cannabis. I wonder if that applies to other medications like Baclofen? I’ll have to look into that!

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