There are all sorts of ill effects that stem from the criminalization and stigmatization of marijuana, but one that gets remarked upon too infrequently is inward, in the minds of those who could profit from its use the most: medical patients. Because of the aura of trouble around this relatively innocent plant, with a host of beneficial uses, when dealing with the medical establishment - assuming you do deal with them, assuming you aren't totally mistrustful of them and content to self-medicate - you don't always think of it as a way of helping you through your pain, helping you deal with your symptoms, even if you have enough experience to know better.
For example: for my reactive arthritis and inflamed foot and such, I'm presently being given prescriptions for a SYNTHETIC OPIATE, Codeine, related to heroin, which I am presently probably working up quite a habit around, complete with apparent withdrawal symptoms when I try to step away from it. Marijuana works just as well as a painkiller, maybe even better, without the addictive component. In any rational world, people would start dealing with the MILDER, less damaging drug before the more dangerous one: marijuana is LESS HARMFUL than heroin (and its cousins), full stop. But after half a month of serious symptoms, no one in the medical establishment has so much as mentioned marijuana to me, not once.
Maybe that's to be expected, but what's craziest is, I haven't even been thinking of it myself. I've smoked pot at different times in my life, for various purposes, but I have it kind of shelved in the "sinful recreation" closet of my brain, something I don't talk to doctors about much (except as a confession, when they ask me if I smoke... "sometimes I smoke a little pot"). I should know better, but it takes some work moving something from one category to another, sometimes.
It puts me in mind of when I was plagued by migraines. I was being prescribed vasoconstrictors - a powerful drug that more or less attacks your circulatory system, narrowing your pathways in some way presumably beneficial to blood flow to the brain, stopping the migraine in its track - WHEN THEY WORK, which is about one in four times. Not great odds, when your head is exploding daily; what's most fun about them, though, is the side effects, which include things like heart attacks, and other fatal possibilities. I took to thinking them as "velociraptors," but obediently took them for a few migrainous days, until it occurred to me that hey, maybe I could just smoke a little pot...
...which not only made the migraines more manageable, but seemed to contribute to their stopping altogether, which a week of velociraptors had been unable to do. Again, why not start with the drug where the side effects are benign (relaxation, snacking, creativity, chattiness) than the one where they include DEATH?
Still, then as now, no doctor mentioned it, and it didn't even occur to me for far too long to ask about it. When my father was dying of cancer a few years ago (plenty of blogging around that near the end of 2009, if you're interested), it DID occur to me to get him on something cannabis related for his chemo discomfort, appetite and such; it helped him, made his last week or so more comfortable. But still WE had to bring the topic up to doctors, for whom it is apparently verboten. (Plus the taboos around it made it far less useful to him than it might have been; he resisted any suggestion of it until the last week or so of his life).
I admit to participating in the stigmatization of this very helpful drug myself. My girl and I have both chuckled at the giant "Pain Management" sign above one of the more visible Vancouver pot shops, because hey, lets face it, the VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE are surely using this drug are using it more for "life management" than pain management: it's a FUN DRUG. Of the thousands of times I've used it, in one form or another - smoking joints with friends, taking a hit to increase my flagging energy when engaged in a piece of writing, or sometimes just settling in to an evening of listening to music or watching movies, with enhanced appreciation - there are maybe five or ten times (one of which was last night) where pain management had any bloody thing to do with it at all.
But you know what? So be it. The greatest harm around this plant is the stigmatization and criminalization of it, most tragically in the bad conscience that infects its users, who don't even think of it when they could most be benefitting from it.
Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm generalizing from too small a sample, maybe I'm just thick, but I needed to be reminded, two weeks into my ordeal, by a couple of friends on Facebook that hey, this could HELP me right now. God knows the doctors weren't going to suggest it.
I think it's time to get me a dispensary card. (And some fresh weed, because I've been running on dried up freezer burnt crumbs for a year or so).