The following transcript is of a conversation with a 73-year old woman who has been using medical marijuana legally in the state of Missouri for going on three years. Prior to that she had been hooked on dangerous prescribed opioid drugs to deal with lifelong pain.
Q: Let’s talk about some of the pain you’ve experienced in your life – your physical pain. You were in a car accident when you were a teenager?
A: Yes, and it wrecked my whole body – after your bones have broken that hard…comminuted open fractures of both feet and legs. Our feet drug on the pavement at 90 miles per hour. Our feet were splintered. For most of my adult life I had a great deal of pain in my feet, legs, and knees, and it just got worse the older I got. This all led to me being prescribed opioids, sleeping medications and anti-depressants.
Q: And how did these things work out for you?
A: Terrible. They made me feel like I had no control over my emotions. Like I had no heart, no emotions. They do that to you, I think – or they did to me, anyway. I just didn’t like that feeling. Plus all the pain meds, the combination of all of that made me not a good person, I think. I just didn’t feel good. It’s hard to communicate with people when you feel like that.
Q: How long did all of this last?
A: Gosh, all my life. But the real pain started in my 40s. But earlier in my life I worked in a Doctor’s office, so I was always on my feet. My feet hurt all the time but back then I didn’t take anything for it. I just kind of suffered through it and maybe took Tylenol. But it wasn’t enough. Then I went to a rheumatologist and found that I’d developed fibromyalgia – deep bone and muscle pain, and that’s when he put me on the anti-depressants and the pain medicine. I was about 50 at that time. I was on them for maybe 10 years or so and I just didn’t like the feeling so I asked for help to wean off of it.
Q: Let’s talk about cannabis and what it has brought to your life or changed your quality of life.
A: My cousin Ralph told me what it has done for him and his liver cancer, so I thought that might help me with all my pains – I have a lot of back pain, too – I have a bad spine. So that cannabis cookie – you feel better and you can sleep better because your pain is less. So that’s what it helps me with. I didn’t do much for my pain for close to ten years until that cookie came along.
Q: So you went through a lengthy period where you were taking nothing. How was that?
A: Terrible. Just too much pain to be human and civil to other people. You regress into yourself because you feel so bad you don’t even want to be around people. And that’s where I was.
Q: So, now you’re legal and licensed by the state of Missouri to use cannabis for the third year? Has it made your life better?
A: I feel it is because I can sleep better. Then I found out this summer I had breast cancer and the chemo treatments made me feel extremely shaky…and you just felt so bad. And I couldn’t sleep well. But the cannabis made all of that go away and I could rest easy and work through my days after the chemo. So that really helped it and I could sleep at night, too. So it all helped immensely.
Q: Is there any other drug you’d prefer to be on right now? Are you happy with this?
A: Extremely happy. I wouldn’t change because it’s just helped so much.
Q: How do you take it?
A: As an edible. I make my own edible cookies.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: My sleep patterns are extremely better – better sleep than I’ve had for most of my life. And that makes my days better. If you haven’t slept well, you can’t have a good day.
Q: Not to state the obvious, but let’s state the obvious: What’s it like when you can’t sleep?
A: You’re draggy and extremely agitated the next day. And if you have poor sleep for several days in a row you get a brain fog – you can’t function.
Q: What if someone came along tomorrow and said, “I’m sorry, this is no longer legal, this is the end of it. How would you be?
A: Probably pretty panicky. Now I’m kind of dependent on it to sleep well and feel good, especially when I’m having to deal with all the side effects from the chemo and the Herceptin. And they can linger on for years and different things can develop. The cannabis can also help with some of those issues.
Q: So, life is better with cannabis?
A: Oh, absolutely better.
Q: It’s not the boogie man it’s been portrayed as for decade upon decade?
A: Certainly not. They don’t call it medical marijuana for nothing, because it helps you that much. The patient that has a lot of pain and anxiety – it helps you sleep and deal with all of that.
Q: Do you find yourself recommending to people who have similar issues?
A: Just very close friends who are in the same boat, or have a lot of pain and anxiety – things like that.
Q: Have you been able to turn anyone on – anyone whose lives have been improved by it?
A: Several close friends, yes – cousins and close friends, yeah. Mostly people who have issues with anxiety and pain. And I suppose mine are, too, in a way. Because all of your symptoms that come along with your treatments are just sometimes not easy to deal with.