According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of drug overdoses in the U.S. stem from prescription opioids and heroin. In fact, in 2014 more people died from drug overdoses than any other year on record. Today the CDC estimates that 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Yet they are still being prescribed to people on a daily basis.
I know first hand how this goes. I have lived with chronic pain and fatigue most of my adult life. Around 2003 I was given a prescription for Vicodin for pain management by a qualified physician. I had suffered with psoriatic arthritis pain and joint problems for a long time when I was given this prescription to take the drug 2- 3 times a day. I thought it was Heaven sent. I could work as much as I wanted as long as I had the Vicodin on board. I took it not only for pain, but it seemed to increase my energy levels. I was hooked. No one ever talked with me about addiction or about the fact that this drug was just simply masking problems in my body. It was allowing me to shut out my body’s pleas for help. But all I knew was that it took away the pain, and gave me more energy.
Then muscle relaxers, or benzodiazepines, were added for nighttime use to help relax my muscles and help me sleep. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were also added during the day. The doctor did not review the side effects or warnings regarding these drugs. They simply told me that the drugs would help. Sure, I could have looked that all up myself, but frankly I was working 50-60 hours a week, raising a family and trying to keep my house in some sort of order. So I just blindly followed what the doctors were prescribing and telling me. I was already a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Boston University in a health field. I hadn’t just stepped off of the turnip truck. I just wanted to be able to continue with my life with as little pain as possible. Like many people, I didn’t understand what true health was, or that a quick fix wasn’t really a fix. I wanted to go to the Doctor and have him do something to me, give me something that would help me keep going with as little bother on my end as possible. I was a very busy woman.
The doctors prescribed other drugs too. Sometimes I still needed a short course of steroids. And then there were the biologic drugs, such as Enbrel, Humira and Remicade. The doctors had me try them all to see what would work best based on my subjective reports and the blood work and MRI tests they ordered. I ignored the strict warnings on the drugs inserts about cancer and lowering one’s immune system. The Remicade worked the best overall for reducing my symptoms. I would go to the hospital to have it delivered by infusion, amongst cancer patients receiving chemotherapy drugs. I wasn’t thinking about the future or about the long-term negative effects that this regimen was causing in my body. On occasion, I would think about how ironic it was that I was receiving a drug that was known to cause cancer, amongst patients receiving chemotherapy infusions. Then I would put it out of my mind, because I wanted to be able to work and do the daily activities that seemed more important than some distant possible cancer or the fact that my body might not be able to fight off a serious illness. This drug, along with the opioids, was what seemed to work to keep me going. In time, they had to increase the Vicodin dosage and frequency. I figured it just went with the territory. I had no idea I was addicted to opioids, or that my doctors had created this pain cycle in my body that would have to be stepped up once I became sicker in 2011.
So when they told me I would die in 2011, and placed me on high doses of steroids and chemotherapy to treat dermatomyositis, I wasn’t worried when they also switched the pain pills to Percocet and Morphine. My pain had worsened, almost to an unbearable level. I needed something more. I then became completely snowed and addicted and I didn’t even know that was the case, until two years later.
When I started taking back my health in 2013, I started to withdraw from the prescription drugs including the Percocet and Morphine. This was when I realized just how addicted my body and mind were to the prescribed drugs I was taking. The withdrawal symptoms hit hard. I was shaking and sweating almost constantly. I had shooting pains down my arms and legs. I couldn’t complete a thought without my mind racing. The years of Vicodin use, and then the Percocet and Morphine had taken their toll. I could see why people turned to Heroin when Doctors carelessly removed a patient’s ability to obtain opioid drugs like Percocet because they suspected that either the patient was not taking it as prescribed, or selling it. And doctors, who take an oath to do no harm, so easily put patients in this position. Thankfully, withdrawal from the drugs was my choice. I was ready to accept the consequences of my choice. But I was in the depths of Hell.
I had other drugs to withdraw from also. Gabapentin, Cymbalta, Valium, and Xanax to name just a few. I had been placed on 16 different pharmaceutical drugs during the illness that nearly took my life. I wanted to see if I could get off of most of them, to see how my body could function without all of those chemicals. I had changed my mind and decided I could be healthier, and that was what drove me forward. That, and the desire to live a good life, not one addicted to prescription drugs. Not one that brought me to the hospital almost every month. Not a life that was just simply living in survival mode. It was beyond difficult, but I knew I was on the right path, if I could just get through this devastatingly horrible withdrawal.
Then a friend suggested I use cannabis, to not only help with withdrawal symptoms, but to heal some of the dis-ease in my body. The friend suggested that it would treat pain and inflammation, depression, anxiety, neuropathy and more. I looked it up and realized that they were right. It could treat all of those things and more. I had only smoked cannabis recreationally as a teenager, and had no idea it was also medicinal. After a couple weeks of withdrawal Hell without the cannabis, I decided to try some of the cannabis medicine with my friend. I really had nothing to lose. To my surprise, the pain, the sweating, the shaking and the shooting pains diminished to a very tolerable level that afternoon. My friend encouraged me to use more, and when I did the symptoms disappeared. Most marked, was the pain disappearing, and the anxiety reduction to a tolerable level. Just like that, I knew this was my all natural medicine alternative to all of those drugs. The withdrawal process went much smoother after that. In fact, I came off of 7 drugs in 30 days. Then, I became a legal cannabis patient in the fall of 2013 in Massachusetts. I felt very fortunate that I lived in a state where I could do that. The legal caregiver I then obtained reviewed all of my diseases and symptoms, and tailored the medicine to what I needed for my health. The pain and anxiety were continuing to lessen. I had strains of cannabis for sleep, for pain, for energy and more. My true healing journey had begun.
Today I continue my journey in taking back my health which includes nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep, cannabis, vitamins, herbal treatments and more. I am opiate, antidepressant, benzodiazepine, and anxiolitic free because cannabis is working in my body to heal all of the things that the drugs I was previously on were just masking. Use of this natural drug builds on itself positively in the body over time.
Positive health change is possible for everyone with proper education and access. Pharmaceutical drugs do have their place. Opioids have their place even, especially in acute situations. But patients must be educated, and everyone needs access to all alternative health methods including cannabis for true proper health. While I feel ending cannabis prohibition is really the best choice, legalizing it medically in all states is a step in the right direction. Below, you will see a list of those states who will have it on the ballot in 2016. It is my belief that until cannabis and other alternative health methods are available to everyone, none of us are truly free, and this horrific opiate epidemic will continue. We must all demand better.
Take back your health America!
Wendy Love Edge
Which States Are Going To Be Voting On Marijuana Reform In November 2016? | The Weed Blog
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