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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/13/15

Cannabis Dreams and the Sixteen Year Diagnosis

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It's been a while since I've actively participated in the OpEdNews community, and I miss my fellow writers and activists. My voice here stopped abruptly late last May, when a medical issue that my family and I thought was rejected as a diagnosis, again became a possibility. In the process, I have added one more issue to the list of things I've been passionate enough to write about.

About sixteen years ago, I began to experience problems with balance, dizziness, and visual field disturbances. As I was bringing an MRI film from the hospital to my neurologist's office, the radiology report fell into my lap. It was then that I first saw the term "MS" (multiple sclerosis) associated with my case. It was a bit of a shock. However, even with subsequent testing, my doctors still couldn't commit themselves to that diagnosis. (One doctor's repeated questions about whether I was depressed, muddied the waters further.) Finally another MRI came back with previous lesions having seemingly disappeared, and so everyone kind of shrugged it all off as a possible fluke. In the meantime, I was diagnosed with "bilateral vestibulopathy" (loss of function in both inner ears), which seemed to explain my symptoms. So, after some physical therapy, I went on my merry way, thinking that the neurological angle was a dead end.

But as the years went by, it seemed to be less and less of a satisfactory explanation. So, when I came back with an MRI film over fifteen years old, the hospital assigned my case to a nurse practitioner, who kind of looked at me like I was crazy. Her demeanor changed, however, after the follow-up MRI came back with "significant abnormalities" above and beyond the previous MRI. (Technology having changed drastically in the last 15 years, comparing the two MRI's was not that easy.)

After several more tests, another MRI finally yielded a new diagnosis: "secondary progressive MS." Having read about some of the side effects of conventional MS treatments, I was wondering if I'd have to struggle with whether to follow my doctor's advice. As it turns out, he made it easy: he said that now that my MS is in its progressive stage, the only FDA approved treatment is known to cause heart muscle damage. Clearly, he wasn't pushing it. That was a month ago. Since then, the energy I have used in the past to research op-eds on feminism, veganism, and other political issues, has been directed toward the promise of medical cannabis for the treatment of MS.

You might have noticed that this an exciting (if frustrating) time for those interested in medical marijuana. Former Surgeon General candidate and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has created a sea change by apologizing for opposing legalization in the past. One of the most striking points in his passionate letter, is that the decisions the U.S. government has been making about the benefits and risks of cannabis have not been based on evidence. In fact, there has been a built-in bias in which scientific studies are approved, that massively favors findings of harm. Gupta has followed-up this letter with two powerful documentaries, featuring heart-breaking and uplifting stories. Perhaps the most famous is of a child with epilepsy named Charlotte, after whom a strain of cannabis - without the high (Charlotte's Web) - is named. Gupta shows us how lives can be transformed, and saved, by medical marijuana.

Multiple sclerosis is one of the conditions which have been found to respond to cannabis treatment, and several states allow medical marijuana for that purpose However, with the chaos of change from an entrenched policy of prohibition, many municipalities are in a confusing state of flux. As patients like myself wait for clarity, we are in the painful position of weighing our health and well being against our freedom.

The few times I tried pot in college, I hated it. Some say it can make you feel paranoid, or depressed. To tell you the truth, it just made me feel catatonic. I actually felt unable to talk. That's why I'm excited to learn of a variety of strains that have less THC (the cannabinoid that makes you high) and more CBD (the one that not only doesn't make you high, but can actually counteract the negative aspects of the high you might experience.) CBD has also been found to have great therapeutic benefits.

Do I know whether cannabis will help me? No. But I'd like the opportunity to find out, without looking over my shoulder.

(Article changed on February 14, 2015 at 00:43)

(Article changed on February 14, 2015 at 01:14)

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Amy Fried, Ph.D. Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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