Mom … Dad … I’m Going to “Do Drugs”

My Introduction to the Stigma of Medical Marijuana

Months after the car accident, my physical therapies had ended, but the pain continued. I was sent to a Pain Management clinic for more assessment and routes I could take to help address the chronic pain. The prescribed medications weren’t controlling the pain, and I had already taken Short Term Disability from work and returned (for what would be the first of two STD leave of absences.) I was at a point where the proposed options for pain management were:

After researching the options, I mentioned I wasn’t fond of any of the four options to a neurology nurse. She offered up the medical cannabis route. She had experience with it herself, along with other patients’ feedback. I went home and researched like a madman. I soaked in so much information online and discussed the idea with my entire medical team. Every single one said they have heard great things from people in pain that used medical marijuana for treatment. Insurance doesn’t cover it, so it’s not in the official toolkit of options.

The next group of people I engaged with were my kids, my parents, my department head at work, and a coworker in HR. I wanted to listen to what they had to say about the idea before I was disowned by my family or terminated by my employer. This is when I got exposed to the existing stigma for medical marijuana. There was an obvious sense of it being a “gateway drug” or concern that the side effects would worsen some of the symptoms I already had, such as dizziness or memory loss. Work said I could not show up “high.” I was pretty sure that’s not the way medicinal marijuana worked, but I understood their firm stance. I also didn’t have any firsthand experience to push back.

At this point, I got feedback from my immediate supervisor that my performance had decreased in the last couple of months. I didn’t know it at the time, but some of this was the post-concussion syndrome increasingly rearing itself into my work life. When he provided the feedback, it was almost two months since the accident. I eventually took a second leave of absence to try and get the pain under control, try some other meds, and analyze if and why I was working slower and not meeting expectations at work. In the end, my position was eliminated. I did not take their offer of another position. I had lost my passion for IT, I didn’t like the person I had been turning into, and I didn’t like the direction the work culture had been going and was still heading.

Not having to worry about showing up to work “high” anymore, and not having to drive as much, except to doctor appointments, I was able to experiment with stronger medication from the medical team. Some helped me sleep. Some I couldn’t be on while driving. All had negative side effects, the worst being burning esophagus and stomach.

I added a new doctor to the team. She was a medical marijuana doctor. These are merely medical doctors that took a course in the medical use of cannabis and were authorized to recommend its use to patients in Florida. They reviewed my medical records for me to qualify. As I had chronic pain, pain that hadn’t subsided within an appropriate amount of therapy and time, I was approved.

Soon, I’d be “on drugs” and will have tried marijuana for the first time.