The Institute of Medicine states, 100 million Americans suffer from some kind of pain at a cost of $635 billion a year.
ABC News reported in January of 2012, 80 percent of the world’s pain meds are consumed in the good old U.S. of A.
Experts cite our increased life expectancy, cancers and a soft, sedentary lifestyle as the causes, but what of the rest of the world? Why are Americans suffering so? Or are we?
Virginia Woolf, who suffered from mental illness that eventually caused her to end her life, said that a person in pain is “forced to coin words himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in the other, so to crush them together that a brand new word in the end drops out.”
In other words, a person’s pain is their own and relative to their experience, and putting a meter on it is illusive at best.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I only remember simple aspirin as a remedy for everything from headaches to fevers.
And really, aspirin wasn’t always the answer, as a headache could be quelled with a glass of water and nap – it still can, but most today run to the medicine cabinet for a pill.
Sometime between 300 and 400 B.C. Hippocrates discovered that a powder from the bark and leaves of the willow tree held healing properties for headaches, pains and fevers. According to an entry in About.com, by 1829 scientists named the active compound, “salicin.”Many more chemists would experiment with the compound, but it wasn’t until German chemist Felix Hoffmann, while working for a German company called Bayer, rediscovered Gerhardt’s formula for his father who suffered from Arthritis, declaring our common little aspirin the “wonder drug.”
The story of Aspirin is simple, but important, as it shows the lineage of plants to medicine to market. It also tells the story of our relativity of tolerance to pain.
Dulling the Pain
Who knew aspirin was created for arthritis? Today, the average arthritis suffer pops from a list of meds often associated with accidental death, liver failure, and other side effects too lengthy to list – numbing much more than the area affected, and increasing the level of pain in the long run when off them.Aspirin sufficed until 1953 when acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol®, was marketed, soon followed by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, opening the door into the 1960s for more brands in pain management than I can list here.
Our bodies are the same; why the increase in pain medication?
Americans as Marketing Lab Rats
In the film Love and Other Drugs, Big Pharma reps are taught to suggest pharmaceutical drugs for other than originally developed uses – for example, anti-depressants for pain. In my mind, this demonstrates how marketing and profits have surpassed true need or even moral ground when it comes to medicating the masses.
I liken it to a chemical company telling me I don’t need to scrub, that simply spraying and wiping will get everything clean. This is insulting. Do they really think I can’t put a little elbow grease into it? Do they think I can’t handle a little discomfort?
I think they do, and often – to the point of negative influence, hiring marketing companies for billions of dollars to tell the public what they want for us, not what we need. The bottom line is profits, not people.
Would you like a seizure with that?After deciding to continue the trials begun with my breast cancer scare, the first synthetic elimination from my medicine cabinet was the Valium typically needed for pre-medical procedure phobias. Two doses of cannabis oil prior to surgery was all that was needed to calm me.
Completely relaxed without being wasted (Valium is given to rehab patients in recovery and mimics alcohol); I was in charge of my own dose and kept the bottle with me up until I was put under. Nurses and attending staff were fascinated by my choice, and I was happy to lead by example.
After surgery I was offered Vicodin, the number one hit on the top ten pain numbing chart.
Already under the influence of the anesthesia, I’d be adding this other pain killer to the mix, further lowering my heart rate, causing me to feel light-headed, be further constipated, possible seizure, problems with urination, stomach pain, itching, jaundice… the list goes on.
After surgery I continued taking cannabis oil – one to two doses (droppers full) every one to two hours was all that was needed for breakthrough pain. That said, it was my personal dose, as everyone responds to cannabis differently, and everyone has their own tolerance for dosing.(Note on dosing: If you are new to ingesting cannabis, think of it as having your “first drink” of alcohol. You may need to lie down and go to sleep. You cannot overdose; you’ll just need to sleep it off. If you have been ingesting all along for other maladies, you may need to up your dose for surgery, post and prior.)
But I must say the pain post-surgery wasn’t that bad. It stung, really, and in my humble opinion, didn’t warrant a heavy prescription pain killer – surely not one that would numb more than my knee, and wreak havoc with my liver.
At night I continued using RSO (Rick Simpson Oil, or Phoenix Tears), which gave me a good night’s sleep, continued to aid pain during the day – and being a natural non-inflammatory – there was no swelling to speak of from day two post-surgery.I also continued my daily regimen of ingesting raw leaves daily in a green drink during the day – something began with my cancer scare.
My cannabis use also eased constipation caused from the anesthesia, and anyone who has gone through anesthesia, then pain killers, knows the discomfort of constipation.
For after wound care I used a gifted cannabis salve that included Burdock Root, Chamomile, Comfrey, Dandelion, Lavender, Plantain, Red Clover, and Rosemary, among other healing herbs.
Most dispensaries or garden collectives will carry a nice salve. This is the same salve you would use for minor aches and pains, cuts, bug bites, rashes, skin tags, etc. (For skin cancers, RSO is the treatment.)
Big Pharma: Drug Dealers to the Masses
Had I opted for the Vicodin, the outcome would have been much different. I would have been swollen longer, constipated for sure, and completely wasted the first several days, with no appetite to speak of.
After taking the highly addictive pharmaceuticals for the required amount of time – one to two tablets up to four times a day for up to two months after surgery – chances are I might have wanted more. Kind of like the “If you give a mouse a cookie” syndrome. This seems to be a given, as you can’t search for Vicodin online without finding withdrawal information at its side. It’s as if they expect you to become addicted.
A quick search found a plethora of stories describing desperate pain patients addicted to prescription drugs – robbing banks to get their fix – with one man declaring relief when arrested with the hopes of getting clean.
A docu-drama on television tells the story of a young woman who went from being an injured college athlete on full scholarship, to turning tricks in a Motel for Heroin when her health insurance and subsequent Oxycontin prescriptions dried up. Did she begin her pain management with Oxycontin? No, she started with Vicodin – gateway drug to Heroin.
Surgery = Party Time!
A friend used to say, “My drug of choice is Midol… with a glass of red wine.”“People like to party,” as chef Cheri Sicard penned in The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook, which is why she dedicated so much time to dosing with medibles. Illness is serious and so is dosing with cannabis.
The problem is, according to CNN’s consulting physician, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, someone dies every 19 minutes due to prescription medicine abuse – and often it’s done with alcohol added to the punch for a good time.
I’ve said for years, as a species, humans aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed. We put things in our mouths before fully realizing dangers. We put things in our mouths when we know something is bad for us – and if it tastes good or feels good, we keep on doing it.
For me, the key to good health is being informed of all my options.With legalization approved in both Colorado and Washington State in my lifetime, it seems that public perception may be turning around sooner than later on cannabis as good medicine. Hopefully, it will at least open the doors for real research, and more real medicine being made.
My surgery was a cake walk due to my cannabis use, with no pain to speak of, no swelling, constipation, fuzzy head, or looming addiction.
While the rest of America quells the daily pain of living through the colored glasses of modern medicine, I’ll continue to use the green, encourage others to do the same, and pray for an admission from our own government on God’s medicine.
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Editor’s note: Sharon Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her mother’s side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.
At 24, Sharon hung her shingle, “Secret Garden,” planting flower beds for dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television with “Secret Garden Productions.”
Today Sharon continues to write about gardening and all that implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines, including DOPE (Defending Our Patients Everywhere).