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My journey to accepting cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain


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banner image for "Float Like a Buttahfly," a column by Kerry Wong, depicting a butterfly winding through the sky

Call me naive. For years, I never understood why my cousin posted the time on Facebook every afternoon. I thought the Doobie Brothers were just a musical family, like the Pointer Sisters or the Jonas Brothers. (They weren’t.) My husband often teases that I grew up “under a mushroom” (by which he means I was sheltered).

I’ve since learned that 420 is used to refer to marijuana, so references to 4:20 on the clock or 4/20 on the calendar are a bit of an inside joke for those who use it.

I find it ironic that I had no idea about this. My parents were hippies who had their fair share of experience in that area. It was readily available in my college dorms, too. But I had no interest back then.

Fast forward a decade or two, when I started living with chronic pain. Doctors had no idea why, so they had no way of treating it. A few friends suggested I try marijuana; my cousin (yes, that one) offered to get it for me. But as a good girl who grew up with ubiquitous “Just say no” and “This is your brain on drugs” campaigns, I could never do something “bad” like that.

As the years continued, I still had no relief. I had headaches, neck pain, backaches, muscle soreness, abdominal pain, and joint pain. I hurt literally from head to toe, often leading to painsomnia (insomnia from pain). My friends still suggested; my cousin still offered. I still said no, but it was different. Now, only the law kept me from trying marijuana.

I spent more years seeing more doctors and trying more treatments that didn’t help. By then, I’d been diagnosed with arthritis, chronic migraine, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathy, and sarcoidosis, with more diagnoses yet to come.

We tried addressing the sarcoidosis symptoms and their underlying causes. We tried nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, opioids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, and biologics. We tried pills, patches, injections, and infusions. We tried procedures under anesthesia and discussed implanted devices (though a few of my doctors didn’t want me to do that).

And still, I was in pain. Every day. All day.

The coming of cannabis

In 2016, the law changed here in New York, making medical marijuana legal. My pain management doctor (who, coincidentally, was in my class in high school) asked if I’d ever tried it. When I said no, he referred me to another doctor who was licensed to certify me for the program.

I knew marijuana was a legitimate treatment option for legitimate health concerns, but something about it still felt like I was sneaking around behind the bleachers. That is, until my first trip to the dispensary.

The pharmacist there took time to explain everything to me. I learned about the difference between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and what each would be best suited for. I learned about different products, such as edibles, topicals, and oils. And for a beginner, they added, the rule was “start low, go slow” — that is, begin with the lowest dosage and adjust gradually as you see how it affects you.


I’ve been using cannabis to manage my chronic pain for nearly eight years now. It’s not a miracle cure and doesn’t leave me pain-free, but it’s definitely helpful. I use a powder mixed into my coffee in the morning to fight inflammation, as well as topicals for localized muscle or joint pain. I have an oil spray that helps with my acid reflux, especially at night, and I take edibles as needed for breakthrough or acute pain.

Still, cannabis is perceived differently from “traditional” medications. For a long time, I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was using medical marijuana. I couldn’t bear the response from most people, which would just show how much they didn’t understand. I wasn’t a stoner, partying, or getting wasted. I was using medication to treat a condition.

But that didn’t stop the comments, the jokes, the requests to share. It all felt so dismissive of me and my suffering.

That response affected when, where, and how I would use cannabis to treat my chronic pain. Though I was advised that vaping would give the quickest response (and it was approved by my pulmonologist), I didn’t want others to notice. Instead, I used forms that took longer to relieve my pain because they were less obvious. And I referred only to “pain medication” when sharing my story because I knew what people would think if I named it.

But nothing will change if we don’t speak up. I always want to educate, comfort, and offer hope to others who are struggling. Marijuana is a legitimate treatment option, as worthy of a conversation with your doctor as any other medication.

Now, I’m just looking forward to the 4/20 sale at my dispensary!

Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

The post My journey to accepting cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain appeared first on Sarcoidosis News.

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