New York’s medical cannabis program currently serves over 31,000 registered patients. Margaret is one of those patients, and this is her story about how she’s successfully using cannabis to reduce her dependence on opioids to combat her chronic pain.
“I was actually excited to speak with you!” says Margaret when answering the phone. A patient at PharmaCannis’ Amherst location for the last four months, Margaret felt it was time to share her story. “I’ve had five cervical neck fusions from a tractor trailer accident,” she adds. “I can barely move my neck.” She takes CBD oil for pain management and to help improve her mobility.
Ever since the accident happened in 1999, Margaret has been taking narcotics for the pain. “Unfortunately, both of my surgeons said there’s no way I’m going to be off the narcotics because of the damage,” she explains. “My outlook wasn’t too great because narcotics definitely taint your quality of life. You’re always exhausted and the side effects … I can’t begin to tell you.”
Margaret’s regime didn’t end with the medications; she also tried various procedures that she hoped would improve her situation. “Trigger points three times a month, years of therapy, they’ve burned my nerve endings,” she says. Despite tremendous discomfort and no assurances that the procedures would work, she was willing to try anything that might help. “Everything was very invasive and painful,” Margaret recalls. “I’ve tried everything out there. You can even ask my doctors or surgeons; they say they’ve never seen anybody try so hard.”
Finding relief from the pain felt impossible. “I was really at a point before I tried cannabis where I felt, I can’t do this anymore, my body’s giving out, I’m tired.” Then earlier this year Margaret’s doctor revealed that he had three patients currently taking medical cannabis, and their reports had been positive. “He said I’d been through hell and back and suggested I give cannabis a shot.”
Margaret was reluctant. “To be honest, I just wasn’t sure it would work with everything I had tried out there,” she says. The negative stigma she’d attached to cannabis her entire life fueled her doubts even further. “It was a no-no. The way I was raised, I never smoked pot. I didn’t know how to do it. I was a cheerleader, you know what I mean?”
Margaret didn’t even know New York’s medical cannabis program had begun or that she might even benefit. “I knew about cannabis treating seizures and chronic pain, cancer, that’s it. I associated medical cannabis with pot, and I would never try it, are you kidding me?” Still, she decided to visit PharmaCannis in Amherst and from the moment she walked in, Margaret’s life changed.
“The first thing I have to say, the staff …” she pauses for a moment, then continues, “I just wish my doctor’s office every other place had a staff as nice as these people. They really do care.” Her PharmaCannis pharmacist guided her through the process and titration of the right CBD-to-THC dosage to best suit her needs.
The result? Margaret is experiencing pain relief for the first time in over 18 years.
“What a difference,” she says, her voice trembling. “And I thought, well OK, maybe it’s just going to work a little bit and then like everything else, it’ll stop.”
While the pain will never be completely gone, Margaret has already seen improvements in just four months. “My outlook is better, and my mood is better because I finally found something that helps after everything that I’ve gone through. Is the pain gone? Of course not. But if I could just control it a few hours a day, that’s all I’m asking for. I know my life will never be the same, and I’ve accepted that fact, but I can’t begin to tell you what cannabis has done for me.”
Margaret still takes Opana ER, a narcotic that her doctor says she’ll need for the rest of her life, but thanks to medical cannabis she has been able to cut back her usage of another opioid. “I went from three Nucynta pills a day to two pills a day within just three months,” she says proudly. “My goal is to get this one completely out of my life and just stay on the one narcotic.”
Margaret visits PharmaCannis every 10 days and pays out of pocket for more CBD oil. “If cannabis had been around after my accident, truthfully I think I may have had a different type of life. With all the narcotics that I’ve had, this is the only thing truthfully that has made a difference in my pain. I wouldn’t even have had to be on the narcotics.”
She hopes that cost and outdated stigmas, like the ones she grew up with, won’t prevent people from considering medical cannabis as an option. “I would recommend it to anybody with those conditions. It’s changing my life day by day for the better.”
Medical cannabis has given Margaret more than pain relief. She also has hope for the first time in years. “I got so disgusted. I didn’t even want to go to the doctor’s anymore,” she says about life before cannabis. Now that Margaret has seen what medical marijuana can do, she has a message for other patients suffering from debilitating pain like hers.
“Don’t give up,” she says passionately. “There are things out there that do work, at least try them. You have to try. I got my spirit back. I got my will back. I have a lot of hope. I’m even thinking that in the future, maybe if this keeps working as well as it does now, that I’ll be off the narcotics completely even though my doctor said I’ll be on it the rest of my life.
“You know, who knows that?”