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My Experience with Medical Marijuana

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 people looking to give cannabis products a try. Now please keep in mind, like any other medication, it can work great 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 marijuana

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.

Switching to a new MS therapy

A few years ago I switched to the MS therapy Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) which you could argue (though many would disagree) is a minor chemo agent. It’s actually a monoclonal antibody, and at full strength, it was used to treat B-cell type leukemia. Because all the paperwork I had to sign before receiving this medication referred to Lemtrada as a “chemotherapy,” I just refer to it as a “chemo agent” which sounds a little less serious than “chemotherapy”. But don’t quote me on any of that; in fact, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that when used as Lemtrada for MS, it is given at a much lower dose than it was for Leukemia, and for an extremely short period of time in comparison. But despite all the technical stuff, a lot of the potential side effects were what you would expect from a drug like this and that is the only point I am trying to make here.

Fighting side effects

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) and bought a tube of thick sticky cannabis oil because I had read how well it had worked for people treating their cancer and the side effects of their chemotherapy.

Cannabis (marijuana) vs. hemp

Before I go on, let’s get some of the terminologies down. Many people will talk about CBD oil, which you can legally buy online because it comes from hemp which is just another species of the cannabis plant (aka marijuana), but is not illegal because it can’t get you high. Now if you have heard about “CBD oil,” you have probably heard the term “cannabis oil,” which is a term that many people use when describing CBD oil, but it’s not the same stuff. Here is the absolute basic difference: hemp oil is full of CBD and only has trace amounts of the well-known THC in it, so it doesn’t alter your state of mind at all. Cannabis oil, which is what I bought and is sometimes referred to as Rick Simpson oil (RSO), is full of THC and contains very little CBD so it will definitely induce feelings of euphoria. Because this oil is from cannabis (marijuana) and not hemp, you can only buy it from a medical dispensary in states that it is legal.

Cannabinoids

So, why choose one over the other? Cannabis and hemp contain many different substances called cannabinoids, and different cannabinoids produce different effects. CBD is the cannabinoid you usually hear about when it comes to stopping seizures, and THC is often great for pain relief and insomnia. You can look up charts online that show what symptoms each cannabinoid helps with (there are over 100 cannabinoids including THC and CBD), and while hemp oil contains a lot of cannabinoids that many people will tell you definitely helps their MS, I was trying to treat very specific symptoms, primarily nausea which generally responds well to THC.

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.

Appropriate dosing

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, when first taking this stuff you should only take a drop the size of a grain of rice, which may not seem like much but trust me, it is pretty potent stuff. Now here is the thing, when you smoke marijuana, the effects are pretty instant but when you use any kind of edible (which has to traverse your digestive system), it usually takes about an hour or two to kick in, so don’t keep taking more every 20 minutes because “you still don’t feel it kicking in,” because if you do, it will all come in and hit you out of nowhere and probably cause you to have a terrible freak-out. I had no idea how the dosing thing worked at first, so let’s just say that advice is based on personal experience. If you do end up taking too much my best advice is that you go lie down and just enjoy your nap while it wears off.

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 all contain different amounts of different cannabinoids, which means each strain produces 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.

Great sleep

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 your 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

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 that many people with MS do find relief from, 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 and even offered as an alternative to many of the prescription medications we have all grown so familiar with, 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.

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

  • Mike H
    3 months ago

    Hello. I’m soon to get my card here in NJ. Medical is legal now. Although we all know that there’s no two of us completely alike, my WORST symptoms are an unbearable burn in both legs from mid-thigh down to my toes. It’s there 24/7. This brings my mood down & it’s tough to keep the “happy face” mask on all the time. Levels of depression are in me as well. I do not want to be like this (who does? with the depression factor anyway) Hate being like this around my wife & kids. Hard to stay upbeat around them. Not looking for high THC levels cuz I need my mind working. Am looking for suggestions on what strains to try & in what forms to do it in? Any help with this would so much be appreciated.. Thanks……..Mike
    ( I see some similarities in us Matt)

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 months ago

    I wish there was a website for people with MS to see reviews on different strains and products by others who also have MS. All I can REALLY tell you is that Sativas are considered a “daytime strain” that allows you to treat something like pain but still be able to function and Indicas are usually considered a “nighttime strain” but that’s just what I have come to understand the consensus to be.

  • bunruy1
    7 months ago

    Thank you for your story. I too was treated with Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) but when I took it the name was Campath (alemtuzumab) I was in a research study before it became FDA approved. I have been dosed three times since 2008. I have started researching medical marijuana but I also had those thoughts of marijuana is bad and I don’t want to be considered a “stoner” even though it is “medical” the stigma is there and hard to get past. I am tired of all the pills and just looking at other avenues to try. Thanks for you honest experience. Kelly

  • Matt Allen G author
    6 months ago

    I hate the stigma thing because really what’s the alternative? Pills that are less effective and often addicting and sometimes even detrimental to your health (cough cough opioid epidemic) but because a doctor prescribed it to you it’s ok… Even if you pop them like candy and eventually die from an overdose, at least you weren’t a pothead. Right?.. Ugh…

  • Peter2
    12 months ago

    I’m a patient representative here on the other coast and I hear a lot of stories like this among people with MS. A little CBD can help moderate the effects of the THC and make it more “comfortable”. I personally find that strains with a lot of CBG ( yet another cannabinoid) help with any anxiety I might get with THC and reduce headaches. In any case, do your dispensaries have lozenges in addition to cannabis oil? The oil can be so strong that it is easy, initially. to take too much. The lozenges are a way of getting precise dosing. My dispensary has them in various strengths so you can start low and work your way up to an effective dose. You can dissolve them under your tongue for a faster action.

  • Matt Allen G author
    12 months ago

    Here in California I only buy “lab tested products” so I have the best chance of finding accurate dosing. They sell it in every form imaginable; Baked good, candy, oils, inhalers (like for asthma), coffee k-cups, etc. They pretty much all come with packaging information on how much THC/CBD are in it so I know if something has 10mg, 50mg, or 250 mg of THC in it which I find really useful.

  • Dimitri
    1 year ago

    Interesting.

    I’ve smoked pot recreationally before, but I never experienced that anti-depressant effect. Perhaps I didn’t smoke enough. Once the pot market is established in Canada perhaps I’ll look into it. Like you, I have been on SSRIs what feels like my whole life and quite frankly I hate it and am sick of it. I don’t know, I just hate the idea of having to take a pill just to feel sane.

  • Matt Allen G author
    12 months ago

    It depends on the strain. Some strains don’t really do much for depression while others work great because marijuana will have different effects based on the amounts of different compounds (cannabinoids) in them like THC, THCV, CBD, CBN, etc.

  • Blondww
    1 year ago

    I’m glad you are talking about other ways to take cannabis than smoking it. There’s a negative stigma to smoking it even though I understand it works for some people. Thank you for talking about THC too. The public does not understand that a lot of the drugs the docs give us also have psychotropic effects. Gabapentin and Lyrica give me hallucinations. Cannabis has saved me from going crazy from chronic arm pain and Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia caused by MS. I was on NBC Dateline in May. You can find a link to the show on my blog blondwonderwoman.com

  • Matt Allen G author
    12 months ago

    It’s definitely the stigma because in my experience prescription medication has messed me up way more than Marijuana. ALCOHOL turned me into a different person and has probably done more damage to my body than anything! Marijuana just makes me want to take a nap… such a terrible substance, I know…

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