“Almost all my friends – all seniors like my wife and I – are taking some kind of prescription pharmaceutical to help them sleep,” my wife told me. That was not good news. It certainly wasn’t in my wife’s case.
Her pharmaceutical was supposed to be for short-term use. If her M.D. ever told her so, he certainly did not reiterate it over the decade and more that she’d been using it. Her dosage was just 1 mg – a low dose. Yet, in 9 months of cutting it back, 1/4 of 0.25 mg at a time, she suffered horribly from withdrawal symptoms. She’s learned since that the particular drug is one of the hardest to detox from.
As cannabis came closer to being legal in Canada, and as the conversation around pot heated up, my wife did a lot of research to learn whether it might work for her. Could medical marijuana help wean her off the pharmaceutical? Would it help her sleep? A friend who has been using it for some time ultimately persuaded my wife to try medical marijuana. “Without it,” her friend told her at one of their meetings, “I wouldn’t be able to be here.”
My wife chose to take a medical cannabis approach
Canadians can now buy medical marijuana on the internet. Nevertheless, my wife chose to work with Apollo Medical Cannabis Clinics, a marijuana research clinic. It has over 10 physicians and specialists on staff who consult with patients and prescribe medical cannabis. The M.D who saw my wife spent two years using medical marijuana to help patients detox from pharmaceutical drugs. Apollo is “dedicated to the identification of a safe and effective treatment approach for using medical cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, depression, PTSD and many other conditions.”
Visits to the clinic are covered by OHIP. Patients don’t require a referral from their family doctor.
At the clinic, my wife had a preliminary urinalysis. Then a Physician’s Assistant thoroughly questioned and discussed my wife’s state of mind and body. The Assistant subsequently consulted with the M.D., who then spent unhurried time with my wife and me, reviewing her case. He gave my wife time to respond to his questions and to ask our own. After he made his prescription recommendation, he turned the session back to the Assistant, who explained medical marijuana and how my wife should use it in greater depth. She and the doctor gave my wife their email address and invited her to contact them at any time.
“I had the feeling that I was being heard,” my wife said.
Medical cannabis is for treatment, not a high
The cannabis plant, my wife learned, comes in many strains, including hybrids. Of all the plants’ components, the cannabinoids provide the two active ingredients in medical and recreational marijuana.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the cannabinoid that won’t give you a high. CBD has neuro-protective and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help:
- relieve pain
- with anxiety
- with stress management.
THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) will give you a high. THC also can:
- treat cognitive conditions, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.
- decrease nausea and vomiting
- stimulate appetite (the notorious munchies)
- stimulate euphoric feelings (the high).
Two major varieties of the cannabis plant provide the basis of medical marijuana: Indica and sativa. Each has its own effects on the body and mind. Hybrids bred from the two may be the best of both worlds.
Methods of delivery for medical cannabis
Although I’ve spent my life working in supposedly wild world of advertising, I’ve never smoked weed. Nor has my wife. And the clinic recommends against smoking medical marijuana. Its preferred method of use is by vaporization or in oil or capsules. Vaporization is 78% more effective than smoking, according to the clinic, produces 95% fewer carcinogens and is less likely to irritate the upper respiratory tract. Oils and capsules enjoy the advantage of being absorbed through your bloodstream, either from beneath the tongue in the case of oil or in the digestive tract for both.
My wife chose the extract of medical marijuana in oil, often referred to as cannabis oil. The clinic advised my wife to start with a low dose and increase it gradually.
My wife’s starting does: less than 0.25 ml
Tightly regulated production of medical cannabis
All the licensed producers of medical marijuana are under the control of the Canadian government through the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. The producers also must comply with all provincial and municipal by-laws.
The licensed producers must test every batch of every product for contaminants. The also must measure and identify the CBD and THC level in every batch.
Health Canada audits licensed producers every month.
A rigid, secure prescription process
The M.D. at the clinic writes the prescription. The clinic sends it to the producer. The producer phones the patient to confirm the prescription and take a credit card payment. The cannabis is shipped by Canada Post to the patient. A person over 18 years of age must sign for the package on receipt.
The producer cannot – under law – sell to the patient over the counter.
The first order from our supplier is free of a delivery charge. Orders placed at 31 days from the previous order also are shipped free if you are using a MedReleaf product. This changes from one licensed producer to another.
Compassionate pricing – a discount if you meet certain requirements
Our licensed producer is MedReleaf. It provides my wife with a 25% discount on its products. We know that MedReleaf’s parent company, Aurora, also has compassionate pricing; other providers may offer it too.
You must provide the clinic proof that you are being subsidized by one of several Federal and Provincial assistance programs. In my wife’s case, it was Old Age Security. She gave the clinic a copy of the page in her last income tax return that shows the value of OAS payments.
Is there a “yuck factor?”
Nope. At least not in the cannabis oil she’s using. My wife says it has no noticeable smell or flavour. She’s dosed by putting the oil in a spoonful of her cereal, by dripping it onto a piece of bread or by taking it directly under her tongue, holding it for 30 to 60 seconds, then swallowing it.
Sublingual dosage acts more quickly than swallowed dosage, but it lasts less time. The clinic provides comprehensive instructions and suggest that the patient experiment to see which applications works best for a particular purpose at a particular time of day. For example, it suggests taking the night dose two hours before bedtime if swallowing, so that its effect will endure longer through sleep.
Is medical cannabis working for my wife?
As of this writing, it’s too early to really know. My wife is just five days into introducing medical marijuana into her system. Next week, she plans to start simultaneously detoxing from her pharmaceutical drug. If all goes well, she could be off that drug in four to five weeks.
Meanwhile, the medical marijuana seems to be helping her get to sleep and she feels calmer during the day. Is the effect physiological or psychosomatic? We don’t know. But my wife is very positive about the backup by Apollo Clinic and the potential of medical marijuana to help her.
Are you interested in my wife’s experience with medical marijuana? Watch for updates.