Medical Cannabis brings ‘life-changing’ pain relief
Tina Lively has seen medical cannabis have a life-changing impact on some people suffering chronic pain, but the Chatham pharmacist wasn’t always on team cannabis.
“I flushed my son’s stash,” she laughed.
That was many years ago and Lively, who is a clinical pharmacist with the Thamesview Family Health Team (TFHT), said she began looking into medical cannabis around 2014-15 when the regulations were changing in Canada.
Lively and Abhishek Chattopadhyay, a scientist and educator with AgMedica Bioscience, Inc., gave a presentation at Chatham’s WISH Centre on Saturday about medical cannabis, including the benefits and some history around the plant being illegal for centuries.
The free presentation was sponsored by Unifor Local 127 Retirees to help dispel some of the stigma around cannabis.
Lively asked her workplace if they would like her to get some education about medical cannabis, which was followed by TFHT offering this option to traditional medicines.
Lively told a small gathering that 70 per cent of the patients she works with are over 70 years old.
When asked why older people are looking into medical cannabis, she said, “Mostly, its pain.”
She noted many don’t want to take Percocet, Tylenol 3 pills give them constipation and other medications make them “feel spacey or tired all the time.
“They want to try something else and often it’s life-changing,” she added.
She has seen patients go from barely walking to being able to play golf again.
Lively’s heard from elderly patients that they don’t want to be high or start a smoking habit, they just want to be able to go for a walk with their dog or be able to get on the floor and play with their grandchildren.
She added many people say if they can do these activities once a week, they will be happy.
“We can often accommodate, not every time, but often,” she said.
St. Thomas-area residents Teena and Albert Vanderploeg travelled to Chatham for the information session.
Suffering from deteriorating spine, Teena Vanderploeg said, “I’m in a lot of pain for the last month . . . so that’s why I was interested to learn a little bit more about the cannabis.”
Presently, she is on muscle relaxants and Tylenol 3 to deal with the pain, but the next step is using an opioid, which the couple is not thrilled about.
“So, we’re looking for an alternative, we don’t want to get into that,” Albert Vanderploeg said.
Conversely, he added, “We don’t want to smoke marijuana; we don’t want to get high. We just want something to control the pain.”
When it comes to smoking cannabis, Lively takes a firm position against it.
“Do not inhale burning vegetation, it’s bad for you,” she told those attending Saturday.
Medical cannabis can be ingested as an edible or an oil and can also applied as a topical cream.
Teena Vanderploeg said their limited knowledge about medical cannabis involves a family member whose daughter had frequent epileptic seizures which were greatly reduced after drinking a cannabis tea.
She added they will have to further explore the option of medical cannabis.
Lively said accessing prescribed medical cannabis is a process that begins with having a referral from your doctor. There are also checks and balances in place, including looking at other medications before looking at medical cannabis, she said.
Organizers were hoping for more of a turnout.
Chattopadhyay, who provided an overview of the history of cannabis, pointed out it has taken centuries to have the plant, once considered an ancient crop vital to civilization’s advancement, to be legal again, but only in some parts of the world.
He said it will still take time for wider acceptance of cannabis, because “change usually only happens one person at a time.”
Lively hopes more people will attend another session if it is held.
She feels another issue that needs to be addressed is the cost of medical cannabis.
Noting it is subject to excise tax and GST, Lively said, “It’s the only prescribed medication that people have to pay tax on.”
The cost can be prohibitive for some, she said.
She noted many medical insurance providers offer coverage for medical cannabis, but employers choose not to include it.