Using Cannabis for Pain Management and Post-Concussion Syndrome

Some potheads are laughing at us latecomers

Once my position at work was eliminated in 2018, I was able to explore the world of cannabis freely. I didn’t have to drive as much, and I had more time in the day to experiment and self-titrate.

This was a wonderful opportunity to learn and experience cannabis in an organized way. Like barbecuing, newbies are advised to take it “low and slow.” It means take the least amount of medicine slowly. Then, increase the amount and/or frequency as needed.

Having researched cannabis online, I was shocked how positive users reported it working for a wide range of ailments. I spent tons of hours soaking up articles, research papers and videos. The reviews were so positive, it sounded miraculous. It sounded too good to be true. It made me optimistic that it should at least help me a little bit. When I went to my first dispensary, I mentioned to the sales person (aka “budtender”) that it seemed like a miracle plant. She immediately said, “It is!” There was no doubt in her mind. “Strong stance,” I said to myself. We’ll see.

In my research, it became obvious that there are folks that use it 100% medicinally and others that use it 100% recreationally. Surprisingly, the product they are using is sometimes the exact same product. The difference between medicinal and recreational was less the product itself. It seemed to be intentionality. “Why am I taking this?” Is it to reduce pain? Is it to battle cancer cells? Is it to feel euphoric? Is it just to relax and take the edge off, like a glass of wine or bottle of beer — recreationally? Is it to take the edge off and feel less anxious, depressed or irritable — clinically? All of a sudden, there seemed to be some gray area. What if you take it for a headache, plus you’re wanting help to wind down for the evening. Is that medicinal or recreational?

My first visit to the local Northeast Florida dispensary went extremely well. As a new customer, I walked away with a nice cheat sheet for suggested use times, because that’s what I’m used to. Do I take it in the AM or PM?

I did blind testing with my wife. I would tell her the strain I was testing, and she would look up the common benefits and negative side effects. We’d discuss how I felt first. Then, she would share what others often experienced to compare with my own.

I had purchased sublingual drops for under the tongue, in addition to a few strains to vape. They also had creams for topical use, pills for ingestion, patches for absorbtion, and suppositories for … insertion >> absorbtion.

The first time I tried vaping cannabis was a fail. As my wife watched, I tried inhaling from the vape pen. I sensed some form of aroma, but didn’t observe any vape upon exhale. I expected to see at least a little. I tried again and nothing. That’s when she asked me if I had turned it on. Yea. That happened.

So, I turned it on, inhaled again and could feel the vape pen doing something this time. Plus, a light was showing on the button while pressed. Upon exhale, I saw the vape cloud. Woot! Success!

A 2-3 second inhale provides about 1mg of medicine. You typically feel an effect within 15 minutes. That will generally be effective for 1-4 hours. After testing it, I settled on the one puff per hour for normal maintenance. For flare-ups, I would do 3mg per hour. In my worst flare-up I took 3mg every 15 minutes until the pain subsided, then returned to hourly. That’s a benefit of vaping. You can micro-dose, controlling your dosage through out the day and evening.

I tried the sublingual (under the tongue) drops, but I didn’t care for the taste nor process.

I tried the capsules, and those are great, especially for nighttime use. The capsules felt like they had a fuller-bodied effect. Capsules are more expensive, but they last longer. They take 90-120 minutes to take effect. The effect lasts for approximately 4-6 hours. These take prior planning. If they’re used anytime other than bedtime, you have to ask yourself, what are you doing for the next 6-8 hours. Are you driving? Are you in a safe place? Are you with safe people? The first time I took one of these and left the house is when my wife drove us to dinner with her parents. I had a margarita at dinner and quickly learned that it mixed with my capsule I had taken. I got the giggles … major … giggles. Tears dropped from my eyes I was laughing so hard …. by myself. Red-faced, I saw I was the only one really laughing. Yea. That happened. I noted that capsule, when taken during the day and with some alcohol, let the true giggly me out. It was nice to see that person again for a while, even if he did laugh by himself.

After buying and testing nearly 20 strains, I started focussing on my Top 5. I had to limit purchases eventually due to financial necessity. While there are plenty of strain and dispensaries to test, cannabis is expensive and not currently covered by insurance. You need to pay cash because banks don’t support dispensaries due to federal law restrictions.

My top strains were chosen for:

1. Critical thinking improvement
2. Processing speed improvement
3. Speech improvement (word choice)
4. Irritability improvement (emotional stability)
5. Relaxed attitude
6. Significant muscle pain relief
7. Significant nerve pain relief
8. Focus improvement
9. Significant sleep improvement
10. Complete asthma cessation (expands/dilates bronchial passageways)

Negative side effects I’ve had:

1. Dry mouth (only during dosage increases / flare-ups)
2. Metallic taste (same I get from metal plates or cookware sometimes)
3. Possibly additional memory disruption (unsure since I also had this after the accident, prior to starting cannabis)
4. Some strains do give me the munchies; not all

Online and in-person, you can listen to stories about potheads having known about this plant for years and how it has improved their lives. I’ve heard patients at the dispensary share their stories relating to their cancer, PTSD, anxiety, depression, physical pain, skin conditions, and plenty more that I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

While some have taken it to a higher level, micro-dosing cannabis has been as effective as many patients claim. To hear someone claim that it generally does not help with pain and people are just looking for a high, I’d have to call them ignorant. Medical users are looking for symptom relief. That doesn’t make them any more devious than someone wanting relief from a headache or cramps and reaching for Advil and hoping it works.

I have only one failure in pain management with cannabis. My recently diagnosed bilateral neuropathy couldn’t be managed with any cannabis I had in the house. I tried increasing to 6mg every 15 minutes, but it had zero effect on the pain in both of my legs. I tried the capsules also. They didn’t help at all. Icing and OTC pain reliever didn’t help either. Compression socks helped significantly. So, I went to the doctor after having the pain for 1.5 months. Now, I’m on prescription muscle relaxer and nerve pain medicines, in addition to the cannabis. The pills I was prescribed started working that night I started the pills. Nice!

I’d love to keep testing cannabis for the neuropathy, but financially it doesn’t make sense right now. Each test, a cartridge of cannbis oil, would range between $40 – $60.

Sadly, the prescription pills have several annoying negative side effects that I’m experiencing.

While I was learning about cannabis, researching and discussing with others, the suggestion that it’s a gateway drug came up a couple of times. Most people online seemed to dismiss it as not true, but I kept it as a possibility so I could “keep a lookout.” After using it for all these months, I formed quite an opinion on it.

I would argue that yes, let’s agree that there’s always a subset of people that will get addicted to anything and everything — drugs, food, exercise, tobacco, sugar, caffeine, whatever. Let’s not talk about those people because we agree they’re susceptible to addiction for whatever reason.

I would say, for an average person, using cannabis for medicinal purposes is not addictive. In fact, if you research well, you’ll find a strong voice of users that claim it makes an excellent exit drug. Cannabis has shown to reduce or cease alcohol consumption. For me, it 100% did. Drinking alcohol is not the same anymore. I do not have the cravings and prepared drinks often go wasted and poured down the drain. For those addicted to other drugs, cannabis aids the management of withdrawal symptoms, while also providing them pain relief.

Cannabis users make some strong claims. Even with the current scare going on with vaping now, no one is known to have died from cannabis. You cannot overdose and die. People have died by having their cannabis tainted. Before the vape scare, there was the fake/synthetic marijuana scare.

If you drive while under the negative influence of marijuana and die, the person’s poor choice to drive while impaired killed them, not the marijuana. In my case, one of the strains helps me process information faster. In that respect, it improves my driving. Unfortunately, in the end, I’m still more impaired than I was pre-accident.

If you take in “too much” marijuana, it is said that you’ll feel like you’re dying or the anxiety will be so high that you’ll call 911. Guidance says, you should relax, sleep, listen to some music, exercise, hydrate, take some CBD to offset some of the THC, and other tips, like black pepper. Basically, you wait it out. Stay in a safe place and chill. Call a friend or family member. Surround yourself with a safety net of comfortable pillows, cause nothing is going to happen physically to you. Your lungs don’t shut down. I’m unaware of anything life threatening at all from the cannabis itself. If it’s tainted with pesticides or other unexpected chemicals, that’s another story.

Look up alcohol related deaths. Look up tobacco related deaths. Opioids. You’re not going to find much on marijuana being the primary cause of death for anyone. If you do, the article will surely reference previous research studies, or there will be some odd cardiac variable mentioned as a possibility.

My understanding is that for the average person, it’s fine. Articles often agree that the risk is not worth it for pregnant women, children, and those with special medical considerations: heart issues being one of them. While other countries are spanking the U.S. with how far they are with marijuana research, more and more research is being done. The U.S. has apparently recently opened up additional opportunities for researchers.

Scared to vape? Hate the smell of marijuana smoke? There are plenty of other consumption methods I’ve already mentioned. Some places have edibles and aerosol pumps, similar to asthma medicine dispensers. Get a suppository & stick it up your butt or vagina. You do you.

At the end of the day, you need to know where the product is from. In Florida, it’s a vertical business model, where the same company grows, prepares, distributes and sells their own cannabis.

By law, the dispensaries need to set aside samples for audits.

Batch numbers are documented and tracked.

If there’s a problem with the medical use cannabis, they should theoretically find the issue quickly and determine how widespread the problem is.

I’m unsure where the Florida dispensaries get the cartridge containers that they put the oil in.

The news has been reporting on the vaping “epidemic” for a while now. Some new info trickled out and the message became “avoid THC.” That’s unfortunate phrasing. It risks confusing patients. Everything I’ve heard so far was black market THC oil. I definitely see them using fear, uncertainty and doubt to catch attention.

Medical marijuana is new territory for many people. It carries a stigma. It’s unfortunate that some patients get judged or shamed for taking the cannabis route. Family members judge. Friends may judge. Some listen and learn. Google is your friend. Have friends and family research their opinion or understanding of cannabis, then discuss. If they don’t take the time to understand, prepare for distance, because sitting across from someone judging you is no fun.

I love hearing CBD & THC success stories. Those don’t make the news as often. No surprise.