I believe we should have access to any and all treatments for pain, including cannabis. But I don’t want pain patients to think that if they switch to cannabis, it will be the only drug or treatment they’ll need to manage their pain. (Any drug is just one part of an overall pain management program.)
I’ve been very lucky to have access to a quality strain of cannabis in the last couple of months — one of those strains that are very hard to find. I’ve wondered if daily use of a good strain would be enough to manage my high pain levels (averaging about a 7 out of 10), but I think that’s about false hope. Cannabis is great, but it’s not a wonder drug. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, but I think I’ve had enough experience throughout the past 3+ years to reach some conclusions.
If I had a choice (which I do not), I would probably choose a combination of cannabis and a painkiller to treat my pain. The addition of a painkiller would allow me to smoke less cannabis, and the cannabis would allow me to keep my painkiller usage to a minimum. I might even add a muscle relaxer at night, because the muscles in my face deserve more rest than I’m able to provide.
If I was able to add a painkiller to my pain management program, I might be able to take a walk every other day, instead of once or twice a week. I might be able to lose some weight. With a little extra pain relief, I might not think about death so much. I might think that I have some kind of survivable future. There’s even a possibility that I’d be able to regularly clean my toilet. (Okay, maybe not.)
When I was taking a bucket full of prescription medications, I relied on them to manage my pain. Maybe I relied on them too much, but that’s only because, out of all the treatments I’ve tried, prescription medications worked the best. I think that’s true for most people. I think it’s true that a lot of acute and chronic pain is best controlled with painkillers. (Patients aren’t given high doses of antidepressants before surgery.) Maybe the opioid war advocates would agree with me on that, but would disagree about how long we should be allowed to use opioids to manage pain. After all, according to the other side, anyone who swallows a pain pill has a high risk of becoming a drug addict. (And what’s worse than being a drug addict? Maybe a murderer?)
I read an article recently about how cannabis affects the part of the brain that deals with your sense of time. I’ve been thinking about that…
I know that being in constant pain makes time go by very slowly. Twenty-four hours feels like a week, not one day. And then I thought about the occasions that I’ve felt “high” from a drug. You know, the shameful high that almost all pain patients deny they experience with painkillers. The high that drug addicts chase on a daily basis. The high that makes you feel good artificially because it’s from a drug. The feel-good high that is really what the drug war is all about.
Within that high — a possible side effect of some drugs — is a distortion of time. That relief allows time to float, almost fly by, as if you lost 10 pounds and your feet had wings. As if a heavy burden had been lifted just a little, allowing a tiny taste of freedom inside your prison of pain. (Everyone’s prison of pain is different, caused by mental and/or physical pain.)
Does it feel good to get high? You betchya. However, it’s not like that good feeling lasts very long. But it can last long enough to, say, take a walk (or scrub your toilet). Or the high can work as an incentive — a reward for doing the painful thing that you really don’t want to do.
I suppose it’s all about what you do with the high. Those who suffer from addiction will always be chasing the high, and because of the drug war, will always be shamed and criminalized. Looked down on for suffering from a medical condition that most people think is a choice.
Those who suffer from constant pain will always be chasing after relief, and because of the drug war, we are now treated like those who suffer from addiction.
I’d just like to point out that the high I’ve been talking about gives relief to both pain patients and drug addicts. Look down on that high if you will, but it serves a purpose. The pleasure centers in our brains are there for a reason. They’re activated not only by drugs (including caffeine and chocolate), but also by things like friendship, caring, sex, love, risk, and winning.
Good feelings are part of being human. Unfortunately, so is pain. But just like humans are not meant to feel constant pleasure, we’re also not meant to be in constant pain. We’re not meant to feel depressed every single day, and if we do, that means our brains are out of balance. We’re not meant to feel constant fear and anxiety, and if we do, that means our brains need help.
Being human means we have to suffer, but when pain reaches a level where death is preferable to life, then our brains need help. Not help for a couple of weeks or months, but constant help. The pain is constant. The help has to be constant, too.
Sometimes the help we need will include the high from drugs. Let’s stop looking down on the high. There’s nothing wrong or sinful about feeling good.