My Experience with Medical Marijuana
Last updated: May 2023
Disclaimer: this post is simply about my own personal experience with cannabis products. I am not a medical professional and am not trying to give direction or advice on how you should use this substance. Always consult with your doctor before starting or stopping any kind of medication.
I have read many articles online (even here on MultipleSclerosis.net) describing how different people have used medical marijuana (cannabis) to try to help treat their Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms. As this topic has become less taboo than it was even just 3 years ago, I feel like I should share my own experience with giving cannabis products a try. Now please keep in mind, like any other medication, it may work for some but not at all for others, especially because there really isn't a consistent dosing guide for the many different cannabis products available. Some people even find that it affects them negatively. With that said, let's move on.
Why I tried medical marijuana for my MS
Growing up, I never did drugs or alcohol. Like a good little boy, I waited until I was 21 to have my first drink. Because of where I grew up, I actually despised marijuana. I hated the smell, and I found all the stoner “kids” to be unbelievably annoying. I say kids, but many of these people were actually adults... adults in age, not behavior. Eventually, I was diagnosed with MS and my life became overwhelmed with pills. Pills in the morning, pills at noon, and pills before bed. Doctors handed that stuff out like candy, so I had quite a collection going.
A few years ago I switched to the MS therapy Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). So for me, the worst side effect I experienced was nausea, and it didn't just present during the actual infusion, it lasted for days. First, they gave me an oral medication to help treat this symptom, but that did absolutely nothing. Next, they gave me that same medication via IV, and it sort of took the edge off, but I still felt pretty terrible. Now, about a week earlier, because I thought this might be an issue, I had got my medical marijuana card (in California). I bought a tube of thick sticky cannabis oil, because I had read how well it had worked for some people.
How did it do?
OK, I once again have to preface this by saying that just because it did this for me does not mean it will do the same for you. It's just like how some people find Tylenol with codeine to be extremely helpful, while others get really sick on it. Everyone is different. That being said, in my case, it was amazing. After days of taking pharmaceutical pills and IV medication to try to help mitigate the nausea my treatment was causing me with no success, I took a tiny drop of cannabis oil, and about an hour later the nausea was gone. It didn't take the edge off, it didn't make it easier to deal with, it completely eliminated it, and I was even eating just the same as I had been before starting this medication.
Because I was using an oil which has to be digested (unlike smoking or vaping), the effects lasted much, much longer. People often describe edibles as causing a "body high" and can be (if dosed wrong) incredibly intense. I'm not a doctor, but I'll just say, based on my own trial and error and what I later learned online, dosing can be important. Sometimes the effects can take longer to kick in, depending on what you use. I had no idea how the dosing thing worked at first, so let's just say that advice is based on personal experience.
What else can this stuff do?
After realizing just how well it worked for my nausea and my steroid-induced insomnia (they pumped me full of Solu-Medrol before each infusion), my interest had definitely been piqued. For years, I had been taking a handful of pills several times a day that didn't always even work that well and often induced side effects that required even more pills to counteract. So I wondered, could I use cannabis oil (and other cannabis products) to reduce the number of prescriptions I was taking each day? I started reading testimonials online and joining conversations about it in Facebook groups for people who used medical marijuana to help treat their MS and for those who were simply curious about trying it.
Experimenting with different forms, doses, and strains
As I learned more, I started experimenting with different forms, doses, and strains (there are many different strains of the cannabis plant which can have different effects) to see what (if any) medicinal value they had. Unfortunately for me, many of these different products did not affect me the way other people said it affected them. I did not find it to be a "cure-all" like many claimed it to be, but instead a really good replacement for many of the prescription medications I was on.
I have always had really bad insomnia, especially when I have to keep getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. But with a little cannabis oil? It didn't matter if I drank a full glass of water before bed! I would sleep the whole night through and still not even feel like I really had to "go" when I woke up in the morning. I am sure many of you reading this who also suffer from insomnia and a constant urge to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom can imagine how much of a positive impact this alone could make on quality of life.
I don't feel depressed
Being able to get a full night's sleep completely uninterrupted is amazing enough, but among a few other things it has helped me with, it quickly became obvious that it was also greatly helping me with my depression. I have had terrible depression since my late teens and have always been on some pill for it. I wasn't ever really depressed about anything in particular, I would just wake up with a heavy feeling/pressure beneath my sternum that would sometimes lead to emotional breakdowns. Because I had lived with this feeling for so long, I had become really good at hiding it behind a smile, but on the inside, the torment was still there even when on medication. At times I may have been joking and laughing with you but in actuality, I was probably pretty miserable.
It became easier for me to function
After taking a small drop of oil each night for a while, I noticed that feeling was gone, and not just when the oil was actively doing its thing. I would wake up feeling fine, and my levels of stress were greatly reduced, so it became a lot easier for me to function and actually get stuff done. I wasn't starting my day completely miserable for no reason, and was even starting to develop a positive outlook on life. I don't know the science behind it, but the fact of the matter was it seemed to have a lasting effect, and because my depression had always been so debilitating, I was more than grateful for having the opportunity to try it. Now, this isn't something I would recommend doing without the supervision of your doctor, but I, for the first time in years, stopped taking my anti-depressants.
Clinical research on marijuana
I'm not 100% sure how this works, but I know it's really hard for researchers to do actual clinical trials on Marijuana/Cannabis, because while it may be legal in certain states, it is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. I know there are groups who have somehow got permission to research certain aspects of it, but it's not enough. Medical researchers should have full access to this stuff and be able to conduct double-blind studies like they would with any other experimental drugs that pharmaceutical companies are working on.
While it doesn't help me with many of the MS symptoms like spasticity, I can still see the incredible medicinal benefit this substance has, and I feel so terrible that there are people reading this right now who do not have legal access to any of these products. Because of my own experience with medical marijuana and the experiences that other people with MS have told me about, I really do feel this should be researched more, because in my experience marijuana treats a lot of the symptoms I live with ten times better than some pill.
Do you use medical marijuana or hemp oil to help treat your MS? How do you take it and what symptoms does it help? If you feel comfortable, share your experience in the comments below.
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