Cannabis and Pain: Soothing a Soft Society
surgery this past week has me thinking about pain, true tolerance, and
why so many Americans are bent on being anesthetized.
The Institute of Medicine
states, 100 million Americans suffer from some kind of pain at a cost of $635 billion a year.
reported in January of 2012, 80 percent of the world's pain meds are consumed in the good old U.S. of A.
site our increased life expectancy, cancers, and a soft, sedentary
lifestyle as the cause, but what of the rest of the world? Why are
Americans suffering so? Or are we?
Woolf, who suffered from mental illness that eventually caused her to
end her life, said that people in pain are "forced to coin words
himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in
the other (as perhaps the inhabitants of Babel did in the beginning), so
to crush them together that a brand new word in the end drops out."
In other words, a person's pain is their own and relative to their experience, and putting a meter on it is illusive at best.
up in the 1960s and 70s, I only remember simple aspirin as a remedy for
everything from headaches to fevers. And really, even aspirin wasn't
always the answer, as a headache could be quelled with a glass of water
and nap - it still can, but most today run to the medicine cabinet for a
during the time between 300 and 400 B.C. Hippocrates discovered that a
powder from the bark and leaves of the willow tree held healing
properties for headaches, pains, and fevers. According to an entry in About.com
, by 1829 scientists named the active compound, "salicin."
more chemists would experiment with the compound, but it wasn't until
German chemist Felix Hoffmann, who worked for a German company called
Bayer, rediscovered Gerhardt's formula for his father who suffered from
Arthritis, declaring it the "wonder drug."
story of Aspirin is simple, but important, as it shows the lineage of
plants to medicine, to market. It also tells the story of our relativity
of tolerance to pain.
Dulling the Pain
knew aspirin was created for arthritis? Today, the average arthritis
suffer pops from a list of meds often associated with accidental death,
liver failure, and other side effects too lengthy to list - numbing much
more than the area affected.
sufficed until 1953 when acetaminophen, the active ingredient in
Tylenol, was marketed, soon followed by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs or NSAIDs, opening the door into the 1960s for more brands in pain management
than I can list here.
Our bodies are the same, why the increase in pain medication?
Americans as Marketing Lab Rats
In the film Love and Other Drugs, Big
Pharma reps are taught to suggest pharmaceutical drugs for other than
originally developed uses, i.e. anti-depressants for pain. In my mind,
this demonstrates how marketing and profits have surpassed true need or
even morals when it comes to medicating the masses.
liken it to a chemical company telling me I don't need to scrub, that
simply spraying and wiping will get everything clean. This is insulting.
Do they really think I can't put a little elbow grease into it? Do they
think I can't handle a little discomfort?
think they do, and often - to the point of negative influence - hiring
marketing companies for billions of dollars to tell the public what they
want for us, not what we need.
The bottom line is profits, not people.
Would you like a seizure with that?
deciding to continue the trials begun with my breast cancer scare, the
first synthetic elimination from my medicine cabinet was the Valium
typically needed for pre-medical procedure phobias. Two doses of Nternal
cannabis oil prior to surgery was all that was needed to calm me.
relaxed without being wasted (Valium is given to rehab patients in
recovery and mimics alcohol), I was in charge of my own dose and kept
the bottle with me up until I was put under.
Nurses and attending staff were fascinated by my choice, and I was happy to lead by example.
under the influence of the anesthesia, I'd be adding this other pain
killer to the mix, further lowering my heart rate, causing me to feel
light-headed, be further constipated, possible seizure, problems with
urination, stomach pain, itching, jaundice... the list goes on
surgery I continued taking Nternal cannabis oil - one to two doses
(droppers full) every one to two hours was all that was needed for
breakthrough pain. But I must say, the pain wasn't that bad. It stung,
really, and in my humble opinion, didn't warrant a heavy prescription
pain killer - surely not one that would numb more than my knee, and
wreak havoc with my liver.
night I continued using RSO (Rick Simpson Oil, or Phoenix Tears), which
gave me a good night's sleep, continued to aid pain during the day
-- and being a natural non-inflammatory -- there was no swelling to
speak of from day two.
also continued my daily regimen of ingesting raw leaves daily in a
green smoothie during the day, something that began with my cancer scare
This also eased constipation caused from the anesthesia, and anyone who
has gone through anesthesia, then pain killers, knows the discomfort of
after-wound care I used a gifted cannabis salve that included Burdock
Root, Chamomile, Comfrey, Dandelion, Lavender, Plantain, Red Clover, and
Rosemary, among other healing herbs.
Big Pharma: Drug Dealers to the Masses
I opted for the Vicodin, the outcome would have been much different. I
would have been swollen longer, constipated for sure, and completely
wasted the first several days.
taking the highly addictive pharmaceuticals for the required amount of
time -- one to two tablets up to four times a day for up to two months
after surgery -- chances are, I might have wanted more. Kind of like the
"If you give a mouse a cookie" syndrome. This seems to be a given, as
you can't search for Vicodin online without finding withdrawal
information at its side. It's as if they expect you to become addicted.
A quick search found a plethora of stories describing desperate pain patients addicted to prescription drugs -- robbing banks to get their fix -- with one man declaring relief when arrested with the hopes of getting clean.
docu-drama on television tells the story of a young woman who went from
being an injured college athlete on full scholarship, to turning tricks
in a motel for heroin when her health insurance and subsequent
Oxycontin prescriptions dried up. Did she begin her pain management with
Oxycontin? No, she started with Vicodin - gateway drug to heroin.
Surgery = Party Time!
A friend used to say, "My drug of choice is Midol... with a glass of red wine."
The problem is, according to television personality Dr. Sanjay Gupta, someone dies every 19 minutes due to prescription medicine abuse
- and often it's done with alcohol added to the punch.
said for years, as a species, humans aren't the sharpest tool in the
shed. We put things in our mouths before fully realizing dangers. We put
things in our mouths when we know something is bad for us, and if it
tastes good or feels good, we keep on doing it.
For me, the key to good health is being informed of all my options.
legalization approved in both Colorado and Washington state just this
past week, it seems that public perception may be turning around sooner
than later on cannabis as good medicine. Hopefully, it will at least
open the doors for real research.
surgery was a cake walk due to my cannabis use, with no pain to speak
of, no swelling, no constipation, no fuzzy head, and no looming
the rest of America quells the daily pain of living through the colored
glasses of modern medicine, I'll continue to use the green, encourage
others to do the same, and pray for the rest of the country -- and the
world -- to follow suit.
Editor's note: Sharon
Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her
mother's side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.
24, Sharon hung her shingle, "Secret Garden," planting flower beds for
dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television
with "Secret Garden Productions."
Sharon makes her home in Humboldt County, cannabis capitol of the
world, where she continues to write about gardening and all that
implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines,
including Toke of the Town.
series, "Humboldt Stories," is a fictional account, based on fact, of
the Humboldt grow scene. Tag line: "It's not Weeds, it's real."
She also pens "Road Trip: In Search of Good Medicine," touring the Golden State, following the Green Rush.