Fresh Ideas: Cannabis as medicine | NevadaAppeal.com

Fresh Ideas: Cannabis as medicine

Susan Stornetta

I’m glad the stigma attached to this misunderstood herb is finally easing up. As someone who fractured five spinal disks, with unbelievably painful muscle spasms, cannabis, I believe, saved my life.

Now, it seems as if I’ve broken three more.

I had learned about the osteoporosis in 1995. My options seemed easy: improve exercise and diet. As a field archaeologist, I got vigorous exercise. Diet was a whole other matter, though. There were all those diner meals: Wendover, Denio, Pahrump, Panaca, Pioche, Tonopah, Lovelock, etc. My efforts to compensate (Chinese food, oranges) were sporadic, and clearly inadequate.

My wake-up call came in 1999. I was shifting a couch using a “safe” position, heard a crack like a pistol shot, and gently subsided onto the floor, hazily realizing that something was wrong but unable to pinpoint the source. I felt detached, floating. Nothing hurt, so eventually I got on with my day — couch staying put.

I was several weeks into a search for a general practitioner. No one wanted a Medicare-only patient. A chiropractor didn’t help, and I didn’t improve. I finally understood I was actually a whole lot worse, when, one afternoon, a spasm threw me to the floor — the muscle cramped into a long, thick cable stretching across my back. It was crazily painful.

The general practitioner I finally found ordered x-rays, scolding me for ignoring that detail (my shocked daughter-in-law said, “The back? The back? You always get an X-ray for the back!”). I’d never broken a bone, and it just didn’t connect, you know?

Despite physical therapy, wracking muscle spasms kept me bedridden for about a year. A little shock machine with pads stuck to my back let me distract the muscles from tensing when they started up, which helped a lot. But moving caused gasping pain, and the fear of starting a spasm kept me tense.

I was using heavy doses of opioids, which helped. Eventually, though, they became too much for my low body weight and small frame, and overwhelmed my liver. I couldn’t eat. Starving to death seemed a real possibility as my weight dropped from 135 to 89.

The medical marijuana initiative had been voted in. As a young woman I had tried this herb, found it benign and enjoyable, but I preferred to avoid the attention of Nevada’s avid police and keep my freedom. Now I could approach the drug from another angle, and find out about its medical use.

My first puffs made me hungry and I had a huge desire for apples and cheese (the famous munchies). As well, my stomach became calm enough to retain the food. This sensation was such an enormous relief that tears flooded my eyes and I laughed out loud. I could hardly believe my luck: starving was out.

Into that initial relief spread a much deeper calm, settling into my body’s center. It was as if everything had become much more OK than it had been just seconds ago. Pain moved a few steps away from the front of my attention. My mind became more active without that load on it, and my feelings swelled reverentially. I felt hope for the first time in what seemed like centuries.

I used far fewer pain pills, also.

This second time around is less cumbersome, no spasmed thrashing about, a great support system; I have high hopes my recovery will be swift and effective.

How about you, reader? Is your skeleton a balancing act of lacy, crumbly holes, poised to collapse your life? Have your bone-density analyzed!

Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a long-time Comstock resident.