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Medicinal Cannabis: A case of Chronic Pain

When it comes to medicinal cannabis, I would consider myself a relative newcomer in the space and my story of how I got involved is like many other doctors…

I started prescribing medicinal cannabis mainly to help a handful of my patients who had been struggling for a long time with chronic health conditions and whom had exhausted most other forms of treatment. One of the first patients that I trialled medicinal cannabis on was exactly in this category, and for the sake of this article I shall call her Jen (name changed).

Jen is a 77-year old lady who I had seen for several years now. She had been suffering for the last forty years with chronic pain secondary to fibromyalgia, degenerative back disease, and peripheral neuropathy (a degenerative condition affecting the nerves of the hands and feet).

Jen endured daily widespread muscle aches and pains, stiffness, and debilitating fatigue. At times, Jen’s pain was so bad that she was unable to sleep more than a few hours a night, and her chronic fatigue restricted all her activities of daily living. She had been deteriorating over a few years, and now was no longer able to do her usual shopping or favourite hobbies which had included writing and swimming.

Multiple treatments and interventions were tried in the past via a host of different doctors. These included nerve ablation therapy, multiple cortisone injections, morphine-based medications, nerve pain tablets, and antidepressants. Unfortunately, none of these treatments had any long-lasting benefits.

Her pain led her to becoming depressed and suicidal, noting that she had hit had ‘hit rock bottom’ over the last 2 years. This was when we raised the topic of medicinal cannabis as a last resort. A final, ‘hail-Mary’ option of sorts.

After extensive counselling, we decided to trial CBD (cannabidiol) oil for a few weeks, as Jen was concerned about using products containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), due to the negative press surrounding this.

Jen came back to see me in clinic after a month of using the CBD oil and she had tears of joy in her eyes. She called it a ‘miracle’ drug – her pain had almost completely disappeared. She had had such a dramatic improvement in her pain that she could scarcely believe it, noting that she ‘hadn’t been this pain-free for 30-40 years’.

This was a moment that moved me deeply. CBD oil had finally succeeded where so many other options had failed. Understandably, she was ecstatic.

Over the subsequent weeks, Jen continued to improve, noting that she was now sleeping better, her energy levels were up, and she was back to doing her favourite hobbies like swimming, writing, and walking the dog. This medication had truly changed her life, and she was so grateful that she finally found something that worked. I was also grateful that I was able to play a small part in easing her suffering.

This case highlights a very important aspect of clinical practice for me. I, like any other doctor, have this deep desire to help our patients the best we I can. We I love seeing outcomes like this – it’s why we I do this job.

A lot of doctors find our line of work very taxing mentally and sometimes an incredible slog to get through, but when we see great outcomes such as this, it provides us with a big moral boost. It gives us the energy to push through the tough times because we know another miracle case like ‘Jen’ is just around the corner.

I am now incredibly passionate about medicinal cannabis, and I’m actively on the lookout to find other patients who might benefit from this form of therapy. Needless to say, I’m now hooked on (medicinal) cannabis.

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