By Andy Bishop
I started using cannabis, or hashish as it was mostly in the late 80,s, at the age of 16, as most people did during their experimenting days. I instantly fell in love and have been an avid enthusiast ever since.
The medical side of my cannabis use began after a motorcycle accident in 2003 left me with multiple injuries, including losing my left leg above the knee. Leaving hospital after 5 months of care left me on a multitude of pharmaceuticals including Gabapentin, Amitriptyline and Morphine. As the years progressed and the pills became less effective, I was prescribed stronger and stronger painkillers. As you can expect, these had severe side effects on my personality and body, with my liver and kidneys starting to fail. My options were becoming limited and surgery was discussed to alleviate a spinal problem that was the root of my constant pain.
As a last attempt at alternatives before surgery, I was referred to a Pain Specialist at my local hospital, and after reading through my notes, he noticed I was a cannabis user. He asked me if I had ever considered using cannabis as a medicine, telling me that a number of his patients save their money all year to be able to go to North Africa and live pain free for their stay, using high quality cannabis and hashish. As a recreational user and cannabis enthusiast, this seemed a much more agreeable solution compared to surgery.
The fact I was in so much pain, and was taking so many different pharmaceuticals, it also made me wonder about the effectiveness of these ‘medicines’ and decided to see if cannabis could seriously be an alternative. So, in April 2012, I told my G.P. of my plan to slowly remove these pills one by one from my system, replacing them with daily doses of medical cannabis. She was incredibly supportive, out of personal curiosity more than anything, and week by week, the doses grew smaller and smaller until the 1st December when I took my last dose of dihydrocodeine. The withdrawals from the codeine were terrible, but cannabis helped me remain focused and by Christmas, I felt as if I was over the worst.
I have remained pharmaceutical free ever since.
I returned to my Pain Specialist in February 2013 for a final consultation and to bring him up to speed of my developments since April 2012 and I have included the letter from that consultation so that others can also ask their health professionals for something similar, recognising that cannabis CAN be a viable and successful alternative to mainstream pharmaceuticals.
Even though I still suffer with spinal pain and phantom limb pain, it is much more controllable and cannabis gets into my system far quicker than pain-killers without screwing up my internal organs.
The thing that has helped me most of all in the last 12 months is the support and backing from my partner, and with the inspiration and friendship from the people I have met in the Medical Cannabis Community, I have been able to change my life for the better.