Stuart Smith resides in N. Scituate, Rhode Island with his wife of forty two years, Ellen. They raised their now four adult sons on their organic farm that they still work today. Stu has dedicated his life to being Ellen’s caregiver as she lives life with two rarer, incurable conditions, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Sarcoidosis.
As the legalization of medical cannabis spreads across the US, many patients must be contemplating it as a treatment option. There currently exists considerable medical research, outside the United States, which suggests that cannabis has proven to be an effective treatment for many diseases and chronic medical conditions. I would like to confine my remarks to the issue of chronic pain, as this is the area in which I have had experience. Keep in mind I am not an MD but I remain a husband who was in a desperate search for treatment and pain relief for the love of his life.
I have been allowed, under RI state law, to provide medical cannabis to legally eligible patients for the past 7 years. My first patient was my wife. My wife, Ellen, suffers from a relatively rare disorder which causes severe and constant joint pain. For years, she was unable to experience what many of us take for granted, deep restorative sleep. The result was exhaustion and intensified pain levels. Ellen began utilizing cannabis as a medical treatment seven years ago. We learned to make cannabis oil which she ingests every evening, allowing for decreased pain levels and healthy sleep almost every night. We sought this treatment at the urging of a pain doctor who knew very little about cannabis but due to the fact that Ellen reacts to almost every conventional pain medication, he suggested we try cannabis as a last resort. I truly believe that my wife is alive today due to the incredible medicinal qualities to be found in the cannabis plant.
Over the past 7 years Ellen and I have legally provided Cannabis to perhaps as many as 20 patients. Many referred to us by physicians who have come to embrace cannabis as a legitimate medical treatment. To many in the medical field, those using medical marijuana are simply another group of drug seekers. This is a common perception held my not only doctors but the general public. Marijuana, when utilized responsibly by those in pain, does not produce the euphoric high so sought after by recreational users. This is particularly true when ingested in an oil form. Marijuana does not produce any toxic side effects as so many of the commonly utilized pain remedies do. If one chooses to utilize cannabis oil irresponsibly the worst one may experience is an extended period of grogginess in the morning.
Many of the patients whom my wife and I have provided medical cannabis to over the years have turned to cannabis in an effort to find an alternative to narcotic based medicines. Many pain patients experience harmful effects from the prolonged use of powerful narcotic pain medications. While it does not appear that cannabis is able to eliminate all pain to the degree that narcotics can, the patients we have served over the years were more than willing to give up a degree of pain relief for a clear head, a healthy digestive system and any number of other medically induced symptoms which were eliminated with the substitution of cannabis for powerful narcotic base medicines. For most of the patients I have had contact with, medical marijuana takes away the raw pain and thus allows for good pain management starting with healthy restorative sleep. To then to be able to include exercise and a healthy diet, many patients are able to look to the future with a degree of hope which for many was in very short supply, since the onset of their particular disease or condition.
I hope in the very near future, medical marijuana will be looked at as the drug of FIRST choice so that more and more will be able to return to a safer life while addressing their pain.