Jane, 36

opiate abuseI met Jane online.  She wanted to remain anonymous.


Jane was in high school when she first experimented with cannabis, hallucinogens, pills and cocaine.  She admits that when she was in elementary school she looked forward to doing the very drugs she was warned about in her fifth grade DARE class.  


“I think I already had it in me”  when she talks about engaging in risky behavior as a teen.  After high school she moved on to using MDMA and used it heavily for several months.  She then enjoyed a brief period of sobriety from hard drugs.  Cannabis remained a constant.  


At 21, Jane broke up with her boyfriend and moved back home.  Her mother had been diagnosed with MS, leaving Jane with ready access to Fentanyl patches and Oxycontin of varying strengths.  


“This is how I got hooked on opiates.  I was looking in the medicine cabinet one day for Tylenol and stumbled upon a bottle that said ‘May cause fatigue’, so I took 2.  They were Oxy 20s.  I literally had no clue what they were at the time.  After taking those 2 pills, I was hooked.”  Jane proceeded to take those pills every day not realizing they would become physically addictive.  


“They didn’t teach us about opiates in DARE class” , she adds.


After about a week, Jane found herself addicted to the pills.  Her mother, in a weakened condition and looking for company and comfort in her vulnerable state, started giving Jane pills every day.  “I can’t imagine giving your child opiates now, but I think her mind had regressed and I think she was lonely.”  


Her father found out after a year and began locking up all the medication.  


During this period, Jane was still going to college, maintaining friendships, and knew some of her friends had also become addicts so she started looking around for pills but they weren’t as easy to come by and were costly.  She quickly discovered that meth took the edge off the opiate withdrawls.  She then went head first into a meth addiction giving up the tiresome search for pills.  


She used meth heavily for 2 years.  Her parents kicked her out of the home, her friends slowly disengaged from her.  “I was a mess.”  Jane tells me.


One day her family invited her over for dinner, which turned out to be an intervention.  They told her she could live at home as long as she was seeking help.  It took her a couple of weeks to find a 90 day rehab program but in the meantime, her mother started giving her pills again.  


“I went to rehab and it changed my life.  I realized that being a junkie was not my destiny.”


A year later, Jane’s mother passed away.  “Everyone was at the house, being supportive, and my aunt asked me to get a scarf my mother had knitted for her before her passing.  I found the scarf.  Inside the scarf was a bottle of Oxy 80s.  Without a second thought, I began using again.  I was back in school, had my friends and the trust of my family again but none of that mattered.”  


It was a full bottle so after a week, she was hooked on opiates again.  Before the bottle was empty, Jane realized she didn’t want to have to search for drugs on the street once the bottle was empty.  She called someone she met in meetings at rehab who quickly came over and helped Jane throw away the rest of the pills.  


“The next thing I did was get an ounce of cannabis.”  Jane retreated by herself to a cabin her family shared.  “I smoked cannabis the entire time, drank lots of water, ate healthy and took vitamins that are good for withdrawals and did a little exercise when I could.”  Cannabis helped her sleep, eat, and keep her mind off her addiction.  “I was living in Georgia at the time so I didn’t have my pick of strains or different ways to consume it.  I just found the best stuff I could and even after I returned home, I still smoked it everyday followed by long hot showers.”  She was free of opiates and free of meth.


It wasn’t too long after that Jane met her future husband and became pregnant.  “I know getting pregnant doesn’t change everybody, I certainly saw lots of pregnant women using during my meth days and kids that should have never been in those places, but I wanted to be healthy for the life growing inside of me.”  Jane says although it was hard to adjust to going to bed without cannabis, she felt great.  


Shortly after the birth of her first child, Jane became pregnant again.  


“I know it was me who did it.  Who quit using drugs, but having such a loving supportive partner and two little ones depending on me being a present loving mother helped me stay clean.”


Jane says she doesn’t attend meetings as she doesn’t subscribe to the belief that once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict and you need to remind yourself everyday.  ‘That’s just depressing.”  Jane adds.


After Jane was finished nursing her children, she started using cannabis again at night to help with sleeping and nausea.  Her and her family moved to California a few years ago and she found herself pregnant again.  This pregnancy caused a femoral nerve compression as she was carrying low.  After she delivered and nursed her third child, Jane got her medical cannabis card.  “Nothing helps nerve pain like cannabis does!”


At age 36, Jane says she’s not a fan of smoking cannabis anymore.  She prefers to vape oils and consume edibles.  “I prefer indica strains as I use cannabis at night- it’s like my night cap.”  Jane tells me it’s been years since she’s consumed cannabis during the day.


I asked Jane how her life has improved.  I can’t tell you how helpless it feels to be addicted to opiates. It’s miserable and it got to the point where I truly believed this is who I was and always will be. I saw people die. I was choosing to be around really horrible people who I hated. I hated myself and everything and everyone around me. I know people need opiates. I was given them in the hospital after my last daughter was born because of all the complications, but I told them not to send me home with any. I tell every doctor and dentist that. It’s been over 10 years but opiates are like a siren to me so I avoid them at all costs and treat pain with cannabis and ibuprofen instead.


Jane says she doesn’t think she would have made it without cannabis.  “It literally saved my life.  I think this is an important use of cannabis that needs to be shared.”


Jane is currently preparing for another move to D.C soon.  She buys her cannabis oils from dispensaries and makes her own edibles from trimmings she buys from the shops.  She’s been clean for 10 years.  Jane now spends her days caring for her 3 young daughters and trying to spread the word about the medical use of cannabis in treating addictions and PTSD.  


“I try to contact and have conversations with as many local politicians I can about the benefits of cannabis for opiate abuse and PTSD.”


Way to go Jane!


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Opiate Addiction  http://www.livetobesober.com/signs-of-opiate-addiction/

Rick, 68

EsophagectomyRick, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, is the father of Jessica.  He worked various jobs but the last 10 years, he worked in addictions recovery programs and various homelessness projects.  July of 2014, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  He underwent 25 radiation therapy treatments and 5 rounds of chemotherapy before the doctors were satisfied the tumor had shrunk.

He underwent 2 subsequent surgeries after that in November 2014 and January 2015 before doctors seemed confident they had gotten all the cancerous tissue out.  The surgical process for treating esophageal cancer can involve removing a section of your esophagus, the upper portion of your stomach as well as the lymph nodes.  The remaining esophagus is then reattached to the remaining stomach.  Doctors had to open up his rib cage and make an 8 inch incision on his right side.  After his surgeries, Rick found himself in miserable pain.  So bad, he threatened to end his life.

Rick was referred to a pain management team.  He was immediately put on a pain medication regime of Gabapentin and Hydromorphone.  He stopped taking the Gabapentin after a year, as he learned that it wasn’t good for depression.  He was experiencing side effects.

Rick, growing up in the 60s was no stranger to cannabis and had used it recreationally in his youth and a couple of years prior.  He started smoking it.  ‘It didn’t really help the pain initially because the pain was so intense, but it helped take the edge off.  I found comfort in it.”  

“it wasn’t until I was introduced to edibles containing the oil, that I noticed it helped that irritating tingling constant pain in my side”  

Medical Cannabis Oil
Cannabis Oil

His favorite so far has been oil infused cheesecake.  “It just gave me a better feeling, it was pleasant.” 

Cannabis cheesecake
Cannabis Cheesecake

About 8 months ago, Rick went to the doctor to get his prescription for Hydromorphone renewed.  He was handed an 18 page form to fill out.  It wasn’t worth it.  He didn’t bother.

While the Hydromorphone made Rick tired.  He now enjoys going dancing every Friday night with his buddies.  Rick adds, “I’m no professional dancer, but it gets the endorphins moving.”  He is much more physically active now, adding regular walks to his routine.

Rick says he doesn’t have a particular strain preference, but he like the relaxing effects of indica and oils.  He tells me that cannabis has made him feel better, more relaxed and calm; he feels grateful for it.


Read other Patient Stories like Ricks here.

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~ Sam

Images/Further Reading

Esophagectomy  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/esophageal-cancer/multimedia/esophageal-cancer-surgery/img-20006034

Cannabis Oil – “How to pick the best Medical Cannabis Oil”  https://herb.co/2017/04/15/medical-cannabis-oil/

Cannabis Cheesecake  http://cannachronicle.com/2015/10/09/8-foods-you-should-eat-with-cannabutter/