My experience with marijuana versus narcotics for chronic pain

Oxycodone is at least a little useful for relieving my pain, plus it makes me very, very happy. Some people say that narcotic happiness isn’t real happiness, but the only difference I can see in how drug happiness feels versus how natural happiness feels is that drug happiness is usually deeper, mellower, and disconnected from the events of one’s life. The problem with oxycodone—and all narcotics—is that if five milligrams will take you to heaven today, you’ll need 25 the day after tomorrow if you keep taking it. I think of the drug as like a Siren that—thanks to my genetics—has been unable to pull me beneath the waves. As an example of people who weren’t so blessed, I’ll mention two addicts who held up local pharmacies at gunpoint but didn’t take money, just oxycodone, Percocet and Oxycontin (the last two being products that contain oxycodone).

Marijuana interests me more than narcotics and works as well for pain, but I never become accustomed to losing what little control I have over my thoughts as they are cycled rapidly from happy absorption in almost anything, to befuddlement, to extreme anxiety, and back again. Despite such feelings—if not because of them—I enjoy the drug (god help you if you're ever in chronic pain and sincerely despise psychoactive drugs), and I’ve enjoyed learning to carry on a normal life while using it. I do handyman projects; go to doctors’ appointments; conduct business on the phone and the Internet; cook, shop, do housework, and take care of the yard. If marijuana took away my considerable desire to be active, I wouldn’t like it nearly so well. Oxycodone does make it all but impossible to carry on a normal life plus it leaves me feeling groggy, which is why I only take it at night, and never more than twice a week. The rest of the time, I either take marijuana alone or I mix it with Neurontin, Dalmane, Ambien, Requip, or sometimes Dilaudid, which is a bit stronger than oxycodone. Ironically, I’m able to live more like a normal person when I’m drugged than when I’m straight because drugs are less distracting than pain and sleeplessness.

Many users believe that marijuana has made them better people. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I doubt that there’s anything to it. I get along more harmoniously with others—including Peggy—when I’m high because I’m more patient, tolerant, and sociable, but I have no confidence that this would continue if I stopped the marijuana. On the downside, the longer I use marijuana, the harder it becomes to express myself through my writing. I discard post after post, and when I do put something online after days of editing, I continue the editing even after most of the responses have come in. Other downsides are temporary memory loss, a feeling of floating out of reality, and the impossibility of accurately judging time and speed. As with many useful drugs, medical marijuana is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

During my adult years in Mississippi—in the seventies and eighties—I only had two friends who weren’t pot smokers, them being alcoholics only, but I never saw anyone too stoned to stand. Now, it happens to a lot of people, not because they want it but because sophisticated growers have succeeded in making marijuana so strong (just ¼ of one of my little marijuana cookies packs quite a punch) that you can get in over your head before you know it, especially if you’ve been away from the drug for years. Marijuana’s strength combined with its inability to kill me (well over 100,000 Americans die from legal narcotics each year) are two of its most attractive attributes. I have every confidence that, however bad marijuana’s long-term effects might prove to be, I won’t die from it, and when you take as many drugs as I do, that’s a significant recommendation. With this as with many things, our national policy is the opposite of what makes sense to anyone who is looking at the issue from the inside.

...I hate smoking anything, so I cook my marijuana. First, I run the dried leaves though a blender until they look like green flour. I put two ounces of this flour (twice the suggested amount) into a crock-pot with a pound of butter, and cook it on low for about eight hours. I then double the amount of butter in a Betty Crocker sugar cookie recipe, being careful to weigh the dough so that each unbaked cookie contains exactly one ounce. The main challenge to eating marijuana is simply getting the amount right, which is why I only use the one recipe. I wrote about the results of eating too much in my entry of August 8, 2011.

As for cost, I get my marijuana free from a generous and idealistic grower, but if I had to pay for it, it would run $5 to $8 a gram on the legal market (to be legal, you have to register with the state, and you can’t make a profit). One ounce contains 28 grams, so this comes to $140 to $224 per ounce. Again, this is on the legal market, so it should be relatively cheap. I have no idea what the black market would charge. Critics of the Oregon law argue that every Oregon drug addict and his cat are trying to get a medical marijuana card just so they can buy pot cheap—or grow it themselves—and not worry about getting busted. In this scenario, a druggie would learn what he needed to say to a marijuana doctor (a doctor who spends her days recommending patients to the state of Oregon for billfold-size marijuana permits) to qualify for a card, pay the doctor a few hundred dollars for the consultation, mail another $100 to the state of Oregon, and, voilĂ , get a permit. I’m sure this happens, but it doesn't justify scrapping a program that is vital to the welfare of thousands of people. When you hear the government claim that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no medical uses that can’t be better served by a prescription drug, you can rest assured that it's lying.


Elisabeth said...

What a post, Snow.

It seems marijuana comes with a label, on par with abortion and same sex marriage, that somehow it's all bad bad bad for you and those who extol its virtues must also be bad.

But over time, attitudes change. Once smoking tobacco was considered a good thing. My mother tells the story of how after she delivered the first of her several babies back in Holland and even in the fifties in Australia the doctors had advised her to have a smoke after the delivery to help settle her nerves. You'd never hear of that now.

I'm trying to think of something that was once considered bad for you that's now considered okay or good, but apart from wearing seat belts and maybe even in some places guns, it's hard to think of one. And then I think of all those awful things women are urged to do to themselves to look beautiful, I doubt they'd have been considered good in the old days, but for some these days it's considered wonderful.

Sorry to have gone off the point but I want to say good on you for doing the best you can to continue to live as good a life as you can under the most difficult of circumstances, which I can only imagine. Endless pain must be so debilitating.

middle child said...

Wish I could have didaudid. I remember having this in the hospital after one surgery and I swear it is the best I have ever felt in my life. Anyway, you had to have heard this by now....people who smoke pot about 20 times a month have BETTER short term memory and BETTER lung function than people who do not smoke anything of any kind. And a heavy user of pot has equal memory and lung function as a non-snoker. So...I think I will be trading in my Pall Malls.

The Elephant's Child said...

And yet again I have to mourn that this avenue is closed to me. That said, I am really happy that you are finding continued benefits.

Marion said...

I envy you your marijuana, Snow. I have only the Lortab which is an evil bitch. Usually, I just suffer and take it at night with the Neurontin, which helps, but knocks me out cold so I can't take it in the daytime. But at least I sleep and that is no small thing to someone in chronic pain.

I'm thinking I'll be long dead and gone before MJ is legalized in Louisiana. That's a damn shame, too. My Mama uses those pain patches and they barely touch her back pain for her crumbling spine. I think she would gladly try the MJ if it were legal.

On a different subject, I heard on NPR this morning that people who had done psilocybin (in control tests, apparently) were more outgoing and happy. I only did it once in the 70's, but I do recall it as a very mellow, pleasant experience.

I hope you have a nice weekend. xo

Charles Gramlich said...

I was given oxycodone for my last motorcycle wreck. I found it pretty good at eliminating the pain but without really altering my mental state. That made it a nice pain reliever for me because I could still do mental work while using it. I guess I didn't take it long enough to notice the tolerance effects, although I know they happen. It's interesting how the same drug affects people differently.

Snowbrush said...

"I have only the Lortab which is an evil bitch."

Which, for those who don't know is acetaminophen combined with hydrocodone, hydrocodone being weaker than oxycodone. Despite calls from the American Medical Association to take acetaminophen out of the 600 different OTC and prescription medications that it's found in, the damn drug companies go right on putting it in. Marion, I wonder if you wouldn't do better to dump your stupid-ass pain specialist and just find a sympathetic internist. I now get 600 mgs of oxycodone per month with an automatically refillable prescription, this from my internist. If I had stuck with my pain specialist, I would still be paying through the nose to piss in a cup and not getting much of anything for my trouble. Based upon the two pain specialists I've seen, I'm not impressed. Their main goal in life seems to be to make it impossible for people to get narcotics. That said, a daily regimen of narcotics really isn't that effective for chronic pain. I'm glad to have them on hand, but they only work when I use them sparingly.

Snowbrush said...

" I found it pretty good at eliminating the pain but without really altering my mental state."

Interestingly, people who are in pain don't get as high as people who aren't. In fact, I've been in so much pain in the hospital that the nurses were pumping one narcotic after another into me, and I didn't feel a thing--that is I neither got high, nor did I get any pain relief. What I now do it to take narcotics at bedtime in anticipation of the pain that always occurs when I lie down (they're more effective if you take them before you actually need them), and they therefore get me very high.

Snowbrush said...

"people who smoke pot about 20 times a month have BETTER short term memory and BETTER lung function"

If you have a source for me to go to, I want it. Otherwise, I'll do some looking on my own because what you're saying here is completely counterintuitive. I can but hope it's true.

Snowbrush said...

"I'm trying to think of something that was once considered bad for you that's now considered okay or good"

Good points about changing attitudes, Elizabeth. Tomatoes were once considered poisonous; being fat used to be considered healthy; and exercise was once thought to shorten your life (probably because serfs died sooner).

Snowbrush said...

" I have to mourn that this avenue is closed to me."

You and most people. I'm just lucky to live where I do and have the grower I have. Believe me though, for me, at least, marijuana isn't a panacea. I still wake up in pain over and over each night. To really sleep good, I have to take so many drugs that I fear for my health, and I will do that when I'm sufficiently desperate, but it's clearly not something I can get away with night after night. In America 250,000 people a year die from prescription drugs, most of which were taken legally and according to the doctor's instructions. People who aren't tied to the medical system simply don't know how dangerous these drugs are, which is partly why my government's denial of marijuana to people who could benefit from it makes no sense.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I've seen it help many. I also see kids down at the creek smoking stuff bought from the bounty of clinics in these parts and I know there's no way they got it legally.

I'm for it for LEGITIMATE medical cases... but not for recreational use.

Anonymous said...

Marijuana certainly isn't as lethal as alcohol, that's for sure!

kj said...

snow xo, i live in a non medical mj state but possession is a misdemeanor only, finally, so at least in my circle it's not too hard to get.

i read your post and kept thinking of myself trying to cook, drive a car, write my work reports when high. no way. i get the meal done, but i am in dizzy sloooow motion the whole time.

i would like to see that reference about the absence of memory loss because my experience is not that one bit. i KNOW mj affects my memory. i don't dwell on it and it's not horrible, but i have no doubt some of my brain cells have peetered from long term use

all this said, nothing is more fun! i laugh and see and appreciate and i think grand thoughts and love to hear myself and others talk. i won't drive on the highway and i think at my age it is irresponsible for me to be driving impaired by anything.

i am glad you have relief and i am glad you are active as you wish. the cost of an ounce here is about $ 160: you are most blessed to live where you live! in california, as i'm sure you know, medical dispensaries and willing docs are everywhere.

i support legalization 1000% (not for kids). how silly to allow alcohol and not marijuana.

i imagine your followers, including me, tend to find these posts fascinating

:^) take care, love

Beau's Mom said...

Once a week my niece is injected with chemo for $17,000 then given an injection to increase her white cell count.

That one shot costs $8,400 and is not covered by insurance.

She was told the chemo would enlarge her heart, damage her liver and kidneys and possibly cause bladder cancer.....

Yet marijuana is illegal.

It makes NO sense. Not much does anymore.

Jayne said...

I wonder how many folks are going to be voting for Ron Paul in hopes of having marijuana removed from the federally controlled substance list. Not that it would make much of a difference in conservative little Rhody, but some states might decide to get creative with such laws (woohoo!).

I've got one of those grand migraines again this weekend, and wouldn't I love just one little toke (though my lungs would anger) to ease the pain. Not even narcotics do it for me--and they upset the hell out of stomach, too.

PhilipH said...

When I worked for HM Customs and Excise in Southend on Sea I was a bad lad for arguing FOR hash to be legalised. We had a 'black museum' of drugs with examples of all the stuff that had been confiscated in raids and seuzures en route.

I have never tried any narcotic other than prescribed morphine and pethidine for severe pain in the solar plexus area (if these can be termed narcotic). I still think legalization of marijuana should become a reality.

There have been experiments on this drug and it was interesting to note that when one group was given the real thing to smoke and the other was given some harmless ciggy with no drug involved there was a significant number of the 'placebo' group who became 'high'. It was deemed that the individual's own mental make-up that influenced the effect of the drug. None of the group was thought to become addicts.

So, why not sell it openly, like cigarettes and alcohol? Get some much needed revenue from it. Cut out the crooks.

I had a seriously HIGH high yesterday when my darling daughter Clare phoned to say that her brain surgeon has now contacted her re the 13th December scans she'd had.

He said there is no need for her to have a further scan for a YEAR!!
What a relief to hear that. And on top of that Clare emailed me today to say that she has had no epileptic seizure for a whole MONTH. Wonderful, wonderful news and we are so very happy after all the suspense and waiting.

Regards, Phil.

Snowbrush said...

"i live in a non medical mj state but possession is a misdemeanor only, finally, so at least in my circle it's not too hard to get."

Oregon is the same way. The problem is that you can still get hit with a thousand dollar fine (or more if you're within 1,000 feet of any school), plus, the law only covers amounts of less than one ounce (which isn't much when you use it medically all day everyday), and it gives zero protection to growers and sellers.

"in california, as i'm sure you know, medical dispensaries and willing docs are everywhere."

Here in Oregon, at least one local marijuana doctor even advertises on television (I don't watch commercial TV much, so there could be more), and there are dispensaries, although they're ever in grave risk of being raided by the feds.

"the cost of an ounce here is about $160"

Wow! You pay less illegally than many people here can buy it for legally, yet growers aren't supposed to be making a profit. Go figure.

"It makes NO sense."

Absolutely. Although marijuana is certainly no substitute for chemotherapy, many people say that it's the ONLY thing that touches the nausea that chemotherapy causes.

"I've got one of those grand migraines again..and wouldn't I love just one little ease the pain. Not even narcotics do it for me..."

Have you tried Zomig for the pain and Phenergan for the nausea? Some people do get relief from migraines with marijuana, but I haven't studied up on it much. My wife, Peggy, has at least two migraines a week, and each one can last for three or four days, but she won't try marijuana because she's an RN and is afraid of losing her license. When she retires in three years, it'll be another story. For now, she gets significant benefit from the drugs I mentioned, but she has to take them early, and then keep taking them every time the headache seems to be starting up again.

"I have never tried any narcotic other than prescribed morphine and pethidine..."

The brand name of pethidine in America is Demerol, and it was the first opioid to be synthesized back in 1932. Nowadays, Dilaudid is usually prescribed in its place due to Demerol's seizure risk. I've taken quite a bit of Demerol, however, and never had a problem except early on when the directions called for twice the dose that was appropriate, and I was still naive enough that I didn't check the dosage on the Internet. I felt like hell for days afterwards, but never sought medical attention.

Philip, I am simply delighted to hear the good news about Clare.

Myrna R. said...

I don't suffer from severe chronic pain, though my right leg hurts a lot sometimes from arthritis. But, I know if I suffered from severe pain I would seek whatever comfort I could get. I hope marijuana continues to help you and others. I am glad that you write about this. Thank you.

Snowbrush said...

"I am glad that you write about this. Thank you."

Oh, Myrna, thank you. It's the hardest thing for me to write about because I realize that it's so far outside the scope of most people's knowledge that they can't relate to it--and that's if they're not offended by it. Elisabeth had it right when she wrote:

"It seems marijuana comes with a label, on par with abortion and same sex marriage, that somehow it's all bad bad bad for you and those who extol its virtues must also be bad."

Kerry said...

I didn't know that the amounts prescribed were so small. Strange. Glad to hear that you have your own system worked out, and have struck a balance between oxycodone & marijuana. My mother at age 90 lives on oxycontin; without it she would be unable to move. She sleeps late thee days.

Snowbrush said...

"I didn't know that the amounts prescribed were so small."

You don't use pot much, I take it. Think how small narcotic pills are. I mean, if you stuff a lot of acetaminophen in there as drug companies like to do, it makes for an aspirin-size pill, but a pill that contains nothing but a really strong narcotic is so little that heaven help you if you drop it on the floor. Now, take marijuana, if you remove the non-high making ingredients from it, what you have is pure THC, and you wouldn't believe how strong a pinhead size piece of that stuff is.

Is your mother on the patch? It must not take very much of a drug to knock a person that old on her can.

Kerry said...

No, no pot in a long long time. From what you say it is so much stronger now than 30 years ago, and so it makes sense that the amounts are plenty big.

My mother takes pills, but I wish it were a patch, then she wouldn't overdo it like I think she probably does. But it's the only thing that really prevents the pain, so...

Mim said...

Hi there. 1) just poking at you with that comment - thought it would make you "giggle"

2) I have some relatives who are in the pot business - been growing acres of it for years and now doing it legally. One younger cousin is working in a california lab where they test the content of different lots of pot - not sure what they do with the results but at least they are trying for consistency. This is all in California.

I can't smoke pot cause I simply can't wear clothes afterwards. I can't stand the feel of anything constraining on me so I usually have to strip. And that was just fine at 20 with hippies around but at my age now - its not a pretty sight! So I avoid pot like the plague now. But I'm glad it helps you with the pain and doesn't seem to impair you ?

Marion said...

What a great post and comments! Marijuana and its effects for pain and nausea needs to be written about more often.

I receive 60 gms, which is my prescriptive amount, from my grower once a month. For this, I give a "donation" of $200. My grower will give it away for free to people who cannot pay, or would give it to me for less, if I so desired. It is a strange way to do business, I've often thought, haha!

My prescription calls for 2 gms/day. If I need more, I must apply to the doctor and then the government for it, which takes about 8 weeks, before I can up my intake.

I'm not sure about memory loss, which occurs with many drugs, it seems to me, but here's a link from the Washington Post about cancer and marijuana....

The mainstream media have discovered marijuana is not harmful to lungs, even with daily use.And marijuana cream, used on arthritic joints, does not enter blood flow, but is an amazing topical cream, with antibiotic properties. We don't know the half of what this terrific drug does and if politicians weren't so against it, we might even know all it does. Good've got me started, Snow...haha!

Thanks for this should be mailed to politicians and doctors everywhere...xx

Snowbrush said...

"From what you say it is so much stronger now than 30 years ago"

I read on the National Institute of Health site that the strength has increased by 300% in 20 years. This is why people who haven't used pot in a long time sometimes get into trouble, especially if they're eating it. When I say that it'll put you on the floor and keep you there for a long time, I'm speaking literally.

"I wish it were a patch, then she wouldn't overdo it"

If she overdid it, her breathing would stop. I've been the the verge of that happening, and it's not a bad feeling because I didn't feel desperate for air, I just felt relieved that I no longer had to live by constantly drawing oxygen into my lungs. It was a feeling of enormous joy. Might we all have such a death.

"test the content of different lots of pot - not sure what they do with the results"

Anyone can send a sample to these labs, and they'll send you information on THC content and whether the sample had been adulterated by molds, chemicals, etc.

"I receive 60 gms, which is my prescriptive amount, from my grower once a month."

If that's bud, I should think it would be adequate (is it?) unless you needed to use it all the time. Here, pot isn't prescribed. Instead, you get a one year permit for an unspecified amount that you and your grower (unless you grow for yourself) are then free, within reason, to determine. I think that six plants a year might be the limit, but I could be confused on that point. I just take what I am given and say thank you. It's more than enough.

Kerry said...

OK Snow. Then I won't feel at all bad if she overdoes it. I hope the doc continues to increase the prescription.

Snowbrush said...

"Then I won't feel at all bad if she overdoes it."

Your mother is 90 and in pain. Her quality of life can't be that good, and her time to die is probably near at hand. You said she's taking Fentanyl (a painkiller that is dozens of times stronger than morphine), and you worry that she might take too much. My intent in telling you that Fentanyl would be an easy death wasn't to imply that you shouldn't grieve her death if she were to die of an overdose, but to suggest that you would have the comfort of knowing that her death was almost certainly free of struggle. I have known quite a few people who died horribly, and I can never grieve for them without feeling a shudder because of the way they died. It's far better if you at least know that your loved one didn't die in agony. I'm very sorry that, instead of comforting you, my words were upsetting to you. That was certainly not my intent, and I would take them back if I could.

Kerry said...

No no! Actually your words ARE a comfort. If my response sounded dry and sardonic it was unintended.

I don't begrudge her the painkillers in the least & hope that her end of life is one where she can slip quietly away.

Snowbrush said...

Kerry, I'm so glad that you weren't upset, although I could see how you might have been given the manner in which I wrote.

Ed Pilolla said...

'our national policy is the opposite of what makes sense'

marijuana used to be legal a hundred years ago, i have been told. but how can companies make money off a weed anyone can grow? regular pot users might not be as productive for the materialistic economy, either.

i smoke regularly. it's a crutch. but it helps me cope. how many thousands of years has marijuana been growing on this earth. and they want me to buy a synthetic drug instead?

i'm glad you can find relief. i don't envy your pain. if we lived in a civilized society, we'd really value what those who are destitute and those who are in chronic pain have to say about the state of things.

so how it works in california is if you can afford a prescription and can afford medical pot, you are legal. if you can't, you have to buy on the street. so it's those who can't afford the medical marijuana expenses who go to jail, so a class system is being set up which allows the military-police industrial complex to continue pinching poor people while the privileged like me are untouchable. it's better than no legalization, but it's not a fair system. of course, the criminal justice system has always fed on poor people, so what's there to be surprised about?