As someone who has had a very sheltered life when it comes to smoking pot, I had a lot to learn. I’d never even seen a flower and I though people smoked the leaves. Oh how ignorant I was. I even lived for a decade in the South Western region of Australia – in a town widely known for its alternative and hippy lifestyle and “pot heads”.
I had placed those who smoked pot in the same category as people who used hard drug. Because most of the people whom I knew smoked it, or suspected of smoking it had mental health issues and had difficult life, cannabis was a correlating factor so I assumed that the cannabis was a culprit in their difficult life circumstances.
In Australia, cannabis was, and still remains an illegal substance. People who deal, possess or smoke it are prosecuted, fined and often imprisoned for using it. I work for several years as a Counsellor/Educator with an non profit agency who assisted users who were trying to manage, reduce or quit their “addiction”. Cannabis was an illegal substance and each day I would meet with “addicts” who were either mandated by a court to complete a program or were there because cannabis had become a problem for them.
I moved to Vancouver, Canada in 2014 for a fresh start and new adventure following a messy divorce. In Vancouver, it is almost impossible to walk through the city or a local urban area without encountering the familiar odour of weed.
Dispensaries are everywhere, more numerous than Starbucks or McDonalds. Within 5km of my house there are literally dozens of them.
I see myself as quite liberal, daring and fearless, but for some reason I had never even entered a dispensary let alone even touched or smelled fresh bud.
So not so worldly or widely educated as I thought. I even have “hippy” tendencies, love candles, incense, chant and meditation, yet remained a cannabis virgin.
My resolution to find out more about this mysterious ‘dangerous’ plant was through a combination of curiosity, opportunity and necessity. Here I am in Vancouver and cannabis is recognised as a legitimate medication for people with certain chronic ailments.
Since 1990 I have lived with an uncomfortable, painful and debilitating condition called Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (CIU). The symptoms of this condition is hives and angioedema – which left to its own devices renders life almost impossible to endure. Itchy lumps over the entire body – head and face to back, stomach, arms, legs and even soles of the feet. Its like being bitten by 1000+ mosquitos all at once and nothing relieves the itch. You can’t sleep, sit, lie or exercise. I had tried everything from Chinese herbal medicine, Acupuncture, restricted diet, energy healing, every kind of anti-histamine and medication. Even high potency immuno- suppressants were not effective. The only medication that would bring some temporary relief was high doses of Prednisone which has horrible side effect – sleep disturbance, weight gain, increase appetite, increase blood sugar (risk of diabetes), thinning of bones, cataracts, glaucoma and more! A nasty drug indeed. I gained almost 30kg since diagnosis. Depression is inevitable. It is considered and autoimmune condition and it is silently common. Many of us suffer in silence and hide our fiery itchy skin. (This photo is not my own, but its how most of my body looked during a flare up).
So 18 months ago, fed up with the side effects and potential risks of prednisone, I went to see an allergist who prescribed me with a new medication Omalizumab (Xolair) which is two injections every four weeks. It was originally made as a treatment for severe asthma but found to be effective for CIU. Xolair is produced by a Chinese hamster ovary cell suspension culture in a nutrient medium containing the antibiotic gentamicin. Not something I wanted in my body, but I was willing to do anything to stop the insane itch.
No improvement month 1,2,3 or 4. 90% of people are in remission by month 2. This was my only hope. Even at month 7, no noticeable change. Then the allergist refused to prescribe prednisone for when I had flare ups. I was so stressed by this. Prednisone was the only thing that brought relief. Despite the risks and side effect, I desperately needed it for relief.
I did some research online – forums and Facebook groups of people who had CIU. I read of people smoking pot to relieve symptoms and help with sleep. (I also have sleep apnea -probably caused by the weight gain). There was also a medical journal article from Israel of a man whose symptoms disappeared with recreational cannabis use. I spoke to the allergist about cannabis and his response was “I can’t recommend it”. Cynical as I am, I wonder about the kickbacks that he receives from the pharmaceutical company who charges $1600 a month! I continued on Xolair but wasn’t happy. Fortunately I have insurance.
So out of desperation, I asked a friend who used medical cannabis to help me. Now living in Vancouver, with legalisation on the horizon, I figured legal implications were not an issue here. I researched side effects, risks and ways to administer it. I was very surprised to learn there were NO significant side effects, ZERO risk of overdose and there were actually many health benefits. Smoking it was not recommended because the herb is combusted and carcinogens are produced in the smoke, but vaping was a clean and efficient alternative. So some further research let to me buying a small pen vape.
I used about 1/4 of a tsp each evening when I couldn’t sleep -perhaps once or twice a week at most. I didn’t notice much cerebral effect or ‘high’ but slept better. 1/8 oz lasted about 6 weeks or more. The cannabis didn’t stop the CIU but sleep was a blessing.
We moved house, had my parents visit from Australia and went on a mediterranean cruise vacation to celebrate my half century. I begged my GP for a course of Prednisone in case I had a major flare-up whilst away and she agreed to giving me 5x 50mg pills. I neeeded them in the last two weeks of the vacation.
I didn’t touch cannabis for the 5 weeks my parents were with us. When I returned home, I decided to do more research and replenish my supplies from a dispensary near my home. The cannabis my friend had supplied was high quality medical cannabis, high in CBD and lower in THC. The dispensary had so many strains I couldnt believe my eyes! It was like being is a candy store. I chose a heavy Indica ROCKSTAR with the help of the bud tender.
I was at a three day workshop for work but during the first day, a major flare up meant that I had to leave early that day and abandon the whole course. I had a sleepless night and spent that night and the following day on a wide variety of high dose antihistamines. Nothing helped. That night I loaded up my vape and went to bed.
About an hour later, I noticed a tingling sensation in at my toes that systematically travelled slowly up my legs. It felt like every neuron in my body was being activated. This went on for sometime back and forth. It was delicious, and accompanied by twitching and what I can only describe as a type of internal massage. I had a sense that my body systems had been ‘rebooted’ or recalibrated, put back into balance. I slept well and woke up hive free! I haven’t had an attack since!
I have since learned how cannabis aids with homeostasis. This is what I believe happened and healed me. This is the beginning of my physical healing.