While sympathy and empathy often go hand-in-hand, it takes knowing and understanding to be fully empathetic to one another. With sympathy comes concern out of caring; with empathy, a shared bond from experience allows us to truly feel another’s trials.
Without the experience of cannabis, be it recreational or medicinal, education is the only way to inform and enlighten in order to have empathy for its use and subsequent effects.
Unfortunately, here in the U.S., since 1983 the only education on cannabis has been the heavily subsidized “D.A.R.E,” or “Drug Abuse Resistance Education” program in more than 80 percent of the country’s schools, K through 18.
While the program has broadened its curriculum — adding tobacco use, gun safety, domestic violence, and date rape, to name a few topics — “Marijuana,” as a Schedule I narcotic, not cannabis as a medicinal botanical, has been the norm in the classroom.
DARE To Be Well
Decades of nurturing the stigma of pot as poison has made many leery of the plant regardless of its benefits. Even those within the cause to end Cannabis Prohibition question its healing properties, calling the medical movement a sham, with the end-all to just get stoned.
The image of “your brain on drugs,” with a fried egg in a pan was served up in heaping helpings for a very long time. It took Washington State’s Measure 502 and legalization to drop “Marijuana” from its D.A.R.E. dossier. Will this change the minds of future generations in the state? Time will tell, as D.U.I. ordinances are being hotly debated – stigma still intact.
It can take a great deal of chutzpah to sans traditional medicine for this plant. Patients are often referred to as “brave” for coming out of the growing closet for good medicine, be they friends, family, or the family doctor.
The “Urban Dictionary” lists varying degrees of being stoned, with every aspect labeled, from “perma-stoned,” from smoking pretty much 24/7, to “perpetually stoned,” or someone innately “high.” Anyway you bake it, stoners and stoner language are set in stone on the American cultural landscape.
Yet, when traditional medicine fails, cannabis is fast becoming the go-to, albeit, word of mouth only. Do patients question the psychoactive effects? Yes. Does this matter if you are on your way out, or incapacitated from pain or illness? Yes… and no.
Dosing is the single most challenging aspect of medicating with cannabis, hands down. Add the negative stigma and it can be like trying to coax a seed to grow in sand.
Honestly, dosing with pharmaceuticals present the same challenges, yet the distinction gets lost in the rhetoric. A morphine user gets more sympathy and empathy combined than a cannabis patient. Case in point: One patient from the medically legal state of Oregon said he was fired by an IT firm after making the switch to cannabis from morphine for pain.
Did he switch back to morphine? Not on your life (or his).
When filling out a form to get a “215 card” in California, one question always vexes me. (Paraphrasing) “Do you find you need to regularly increase your dose of cannabis for effectiveness?”
Anyone familiar with homeopathic remedies knows the body builds a tolerance, and the dose must either be increased or a period of rest is needed. With cannabis, the “stoned” effect fades as the patient adjusts — it just takes time and consistency of use.
For serious illness requiring higher doses, no, you will not be able to use heavy machinery, but yes, you will get markedly better.When asked during a recent radio interview about the psychoactive effects of “RSO” or “Rick Simpson Oil,” creator, Simpson recommended that patients go to bed, go to sleep. He reminded, they are fighting cancer – they are fighting for their lives. Why would anyone care about the effects?
Are the effects of morphine better? Do you really want to go through a treatment with a one percent success rate — otherwise known as chemotherapy? Would you take your car to a mechanic with a one percent success rate of getting it running and back on the road?
I think not. Yet when it comes to our own health, we are led around by the ear and expected to listen and perform.
After ingesting RSO for my breast cancer, my tolerance was way above average. I needed to back-off with several restless nights before I could go back to my normal dose of tincture at night for sleep. Homeopathies take common sense. Some humans will never have it, others learn.
Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover
The downside of medicating with cannabis is, ironically, the upside for many. THC has been nurtured within the plant for recreation, purposefully, since the early 70s – that’s more than 40 years of pumping up the plants psychoactive properties.
On the one hand, THC is known as a valid component of healing in its own right. Smoking immediately raises endorphins, and lifts me up from depression. It helps me stop crying, and re-focuses me to other tasks – keeping me a productive member of society. But, for many, the effects of “being out of control” are a deal-breaker.
I’m medicated most of the day, every day. Medicating helps me focus and stay on track. Am I stoned? Sometimes, if I smoke too much, or ingest too much, yes.
Cannabis is controlled by the user. I have built up a tolerance over time, just as I would have with any pain-killer or even the Synthroid I’ve taken since 1999 for thyroid disease. For that matter, it only took a few months to get used to the dose of hormone replacements needed for menopause symptoms.
Am I judged by my cannabis use? Yes, every single day – even by longtime friends and stoners.
Will it deter me from feeling better?
Not on your life, or mine.
Education is sorely needed, but it must begin with us. If you are a cannabis patient, and have not discussed your use with a doctor, make an appointment to enlighten. For when our doctors understand and can speak knowingly on this subject, others will follow.
It’s just a matter of time.
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.
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).