Cannabis, Mental Health

Misleading headlines about cannabis. Due diligence is key.

I think we can all agree that controlled, scientific studies on the (medical) benefits of Cannabis are sorely lacking. With its popularity surging globally and people demanding/clammering for legalization, no doubt these studies will be forthcoming in the very near future.

Having said that, patient-based information, collected through user tracking apps like Strainprint, and websites like Leafly and Lift&Co, paint a very real picture of the myriad health benefits of marijuana. The sheer volume of empirical data stating marijuana’s benefits can no longer be ignored. Controlled study or not, the people have spoken! Whether it be as a treatment to curb symptoms (e.g. pain from inflammation), or a treatment of the condition itself (e.g. reducing the inflammation), cannabis is helping innumerous people.

Yesterday evening I saw an article that both angered and stupified me, entitled: Medicinal cannabis does NOT help treat depression, anxiety or ADHD, reveals review of 83 scientific studies. That’s a pretty bold headline! The first thing I did was check who published the article; it was from a UK tabloid-style newspaper known for its lack of credibility. Still, it quoted a credible source (The Lancet Psychiatry) so I checked that too. They essentially examined studies spanning 30 years, with a ridiculously low combined subject count of between 3K-4K, on depression, anxiety, ADHD, Tourette syndrome, and PTSD. One study had as few as 10 participants! Not only did their report NOT say what the tabloid headline so recklessly stated, but it concluded the following:

There remains insufficient evidence to provide guidance on the use of cannabinoids for treating mental disorders within a regulatory framework. Further high-quality studies directly examining the effect of cannabinoids on treating mental disorders are needed.

The Lancet psychiatry: Cannabinoids for the treatment of mental disorders and symptoms of mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Regardless of the irresponsible tabloid headline, The Lancet themselves have made some astonishing proclamations stating, “We found little evidence for the effectiveness of pharmaceutical CBD or medicinal cannabis”. They found little evidence because there is little evidence to be found. There are not enough studies! I find their conclusions astoundingly irresponsible! Controlled studies based on today’s science are in their infancy. They need to seek out real-time patient-based data, then conclude. They need to do better!

Cannabis, Depression, Mental Health

Feeling #Hopeless – the cruelty of #depression

I hadn’t felt hopeless in years. Not since 2011. That’s a long time, successfully keeping my head above water – sometimes floating calmly, other times, flapping about madly – all in an attempt to stay afloat and keep depression away.

And yet.

Despite best efforts, doing my mental-wellness “homework”, as I call it, depression took hold – again! – and dragged me down to the point of hopelessness. I was flabbergasted. What, again?? No. It couldn’t possibly… Yet there I was – sad, defeated, tired, broken.

The pragmatic, logical side of me knew that I wasn’t hopeless. But, somewhere in the depressed mind, reality and logic simply don’t connect.

From hopelessness, I fell a little further into feeling as though I had no value. None, whatsoever. I knew that I was a good: wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, friend, pet-mom, etc., but my brain chemistry changed how I perceived the value of these roles.

That’s one of depression’s cruelest tricks – it robs you of your ability to feel the good while simultaneously amplifying the bad.

Despite every instinct that just wanted to lay on the couch, do nothing, and be okay with doing nothing, I knew that there was very little room between where I was and rock bottom. I’d stared suicide in the face eight years ago, I wasn’t about to go there again.

It took every micro ounce of energy I had to do what I had to do – talk therapy, discussions with my cannabis educators (with tweaks to timing and dosage), and visits to my doctor – before the fog finally lifted. When you’re in it, the journey seems impossible! There’s no WAY I’m going to feel better! And yet – I do.

On June 6th I wrote about how depression knocked me on my ass. Today is August 6th – and I finally feel better. I can breathe. I feel hopeful. I know that I provide tremendous value to the people in my life. To that end, I continue to work with my therapist, cannabis educators, and my doctor, to proactively equip myself with the tools I need to stay well. Fingers crossed, it’ll be years before I feel this poorly again – hell, I’m shooting for never feeling that way again.

One can hope.

______________

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, there are many resources out there that can help. Ask for help. Seek medical attention. Visit one of the links below.

CAMH – The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
CASP – Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Cannabis

Using #Cannabis for #Migraine with Aura

I don’t suffer migraines regularly, but when I do, I get a pain-free aura beforehand – like the calm before the storm – giving me the opportunity to combat the migraine before it takes hold. If neglected, after about 40-50 minutes the aura will disappear and then BAM! – full on migraine.

In the past, as soon as I’d sense an aura, I’d take 2-3 extra-strength Tylenol right away (within 5 minutes). After 30 minutes or so the aura dissipates. I am pain-free though quite fatigued afterwards. As a person with minor, albeit ongoing liver problems, I strive to ingest as few pills as possible. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is known to be hard on the liver and Advil doesn’t agree with me. My options were limited.

Walking home the other day I had a migraine aura but was in no position to tend to it. By the time I got home, though I was still pain-free, the aura was 30 minutes old and quite pronounced. Knowing that cannabis was proving to be very effective as a (pre-)treatment for migraine, and with the understanding that a full-blown migraine would hit if it didn’t work for me, I set aside the Tylenol and took 4 vapes of dried cannabis. Then, I lay down and waited.

Within 20 minutes the aura disappeared. Added to the 30 minutes I’d had the aura before treatment, that’s 50 minutes from start-to-finish. Had the cannabis worked? Or was the storm back-building, getting ready to hit me with full force?

I am happy to report that the cannabis worked! I had no pain following the aura.

Low and behold, a few days later I had another aura. Again, I treated it with cannabis and again, the aura disappeared and I was pain free!

I used an Indica-dominant strain (Girl Scott Cookies from Canna Farms); THC 19.8% | CBD <.05%, with high levels of the terpenes Limonene and Caryophyllene.

Cannabis, Mental Health

The benefit of having local #Cannabis shops – more than just recreational

April 1st marked the day when several privately owned/operated #Cannabis shops opened in Ontario; three in Ottawa, two in Kingston, and one each in Toronto, Brampton (where I live), Burlington, London, and St. Catharines. And, guess what..?

… the sky isn’t falling!

I’m fully aware that the local shops are mainly for recreational users. Cannabis is legal after all so we no longer need to hide our use in shame. But, few people seem to understand how beneficial the retail shops are for medical cannabis users, like me.

For medical cannabis users, it’s not about getting high – well, it’s not often about getting high. Rather, it’s about using cannabis to ease/eliminate the symptoms of what ails us. However, the nature of cannabis is such that there is a lot of trial and error before finding the exact right match as, not all cannabis is the same nor does it react the same on different people. Cannabis research is growing exponentially now so I have no doubt that eventually we will be able to access information that tells us what is best for our symptoms. Until then, we have limited resources at our disposal. We rely on expert knowledge in the growing field of cannabis medical practitioners to guide us – often times NOT our own doctors as they are just learning themselves, and on gathering our own information by using websites like Leafly.ca, apps like @Strainprint (highly recommend both of these, by the way), and word-of-mouth.

Online LPs often have a minimum purchase requirement, e.g. 5 grams, for their products which may or may not work for the symptoms at hand. Until insurance companies begin to recognize and pay for cannabis as prescription medication, we pay for this out-of-pocket, unsure if what we have chosen will help. The benefit of having local cannabis shops is that we can now go to the retail store and buy small amounts of a variety of strains to test the ones that are most effective for our particular needs.

To those who are scared about local cannabis shops – please do your research. Visit one of the LPs to see for yourself how secure they are. Talk to people in the shop – I assure you most are no different from the person standing in line next to you at the local liquor store (recreational) or at the pharmacy (medical). I had young children myself too and the truth of it is, if young people are intent on acquiring liquor or cannabis, they will not be going to the legal shops to get it.

 

Cannabis, Mental Health

First grandchild, legalized #cannabis and semi-retirement versus #jobloss, #mentalillness and #compassionfatigue. Where to begin.

There was a time, back when my kids were young and we celebrated New Year’s Eve at home with friends and family, when – some minutes before midnight, after reminiscing about the year’s events and what we were truly grateful for, we’d set a fire in a large barrel in the backyard and BURN shit! Old calendars, bras, photos of our X’s… whatever it was that we wanted to physically and emotionally eradicate. Then, at the stroke of midnight, we’d raise our glasses to ring in the new year, then ponder and commit to great things for the future. It was therapeutic – bye-bye old year with its trials and heartache, hello new year, full of promise and wonder.

I can’t remember where the idea to do this came from (my has-a-penchance-for-pyrotechnics Hubby) or why it waned (we moved and no longer lived on a ravine) but, I miss it.

Consider this blog post the reminisce/eradicate/commit ceremony of 2018.

Top 3 things I am grateful for from 2018 (besides Hubby, Kids, Fam and Besties who are always at the very top of the gratitude list) :

Right out of the gate – the birth of my first grandchild. While technically he was born December 28th the prior year, I am grateful for the many wonder-filled hours I’ve spent with him throughout 2018. Truth is, I smile the entire time I’m with him! He’s a delightfully heady elixir to what ails me – mind and body.

Next, I’m very grateful that cannabis was legalized in Canada. While I had been experimenting with cannabis prior to legalization – both as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for my depression and anxiety, and recreationally as an alternative to alcohol – I am delighted that I no longer have to hide it. I can partake openly and continue to benefit from its healing properties.

Lastly, I’m grateful for the abundance of time to myself this year – having started semi-retirement rather unexpectedly. With this time, I was able to help care for my elderly father during an acute illness that lasted several months. I’ve also read almost two dozen books, have taken an interest in indoor gardening, and have started crocheting again.

Top 3 things I’m tossing into the barrel fire (metaphorically speaking) :

Right out of the gate – job loss. After twenty years, my old employer and I parted ways. I call it involuntary semi-retirement, though technically I did have a choice. Let’s just say that tossing it into the fire speaks for itself.

Next, my mental illness definitely spiked this year – specifically, my anxiety. While depression too has been its usual burden, my anxiety took me to new and rather horrible places. Glad to give it the old heave-ho into the fire too.

Lastly, and connected to my father’s illness; navigating his hospital stay, home care, appointments, and dealing with governing bodies on his behalf, left me with a bad case of compassion fatigue. The fire gets this one too.

Pondering the new year :

I commit to being grateful.

That’s it. No lofty goals or resolutions for me. Just a commitment to be grateful.

I’m a firm believer that gratitude will open the door to all sorts of wonderment. And, while next year will undoubtedly have its burdens (fodder for another barrel fire), it will most certainly have many delights.

Anxiety, Cannabis, Depression, Mental Health

#Cannabis is legal in Canada P3 – Marrying tried-and-true with the new when managing #mentalillness

In a recent post, I wrote about the adverse side effects I’d had to a pharma-based switch in my medication, prescribed to help with my evolving anxiety – which it did do. To counteract the side effects, my doctor prescribed more pharma meds. I disagreed and went back to my old medication.

My decision to go back to my old meds was a good one as the side effects essentially disappeared. Unfortunately though, the anxiety reappeared, rearing its ugly, pernicious head.

#Cannabis has helped! Indeed, vaping cannabis for breakthrough anxiety (like breakthrough pain but with anxiety) helps (me) a great deal. So, when my trusty vaporizer went on the fritz two weeks ago, away went my ability to self-treat. It was more than a little unsettling.

Immediately, I decided to invest in a backup vaporizer. Cyber-Monday sales helped with this, but the ongoing Canada Post strike meant it would be a few days before I would receive the product. So, I pulled out the proverbial CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) handbook and got busy practicing my coping techniques.

I learned two things. First, using cannabis to manage my breakthrough anxiety works lickety-split! Within minutes of vaping, I’m calm and feeling pleasant. Second, CBT does help (me). It is exhausting, requires a lot of motivation (hard for a chronic depressive like me), and takes time to be effective – depending on the breakthrough anxiety of the moment. Still, it helped me through a few rough patches.

Anxiety and depression are ongoing, (sometimes) lifelong struggles. Use ALL the tools at your disposal; both the tried-and-true (medication, CBT, etc.) and the new (cannabis, etc.). If one of the tools in your toolbox goes on the fritz, reach in and grab another one. As I’ve said in prior posts – when it comes to managing (your) #mentalillness, you gotta do the homework! Know thyself. Participate in your own healing. Nobody else can do it for you.

Cannabis, Mental Health

#Cannabis is legal in Canada P2 – Don’t mix cannabis with alcohol and never, EVER, drive under the influence

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m 54 years old. My more serious foray into cannabis started earlier this year, exploring its benefits and uses as an alternative to big pharma – particularly for anxiety and depression. Before that, and excluding the one time I tried it in high-school (one hit), I started partaking in recreational cannabis in 2015, occasionally (once or twice a year) shared a joint with friends.

Cannabis consumption felt good. It made me happy. I laughed… a lot… great, big cathartic laughs! It was fun and it helped me temporarily escape the stresses in my life. Because it was illegal in Canada, and because of the overall stigma cannabis has suffered in the past, I obviously shied away. Oddly (or is it), I had no problem whatsoever drinking alcohol to help me get through a rough day/week/month. I wouldn’t say I became an alcoholic, but my wine consumption rose to about 3-4 bottles a week! For me, that was a lot! No wonder I now have fatty-liver disease (a story for another day).

As you can imagine, it was just a matter of time before the everyday alcohol consumption collided with the occasional cannabis consumption and I experienced my first (and last) serious alcohol/cannabis crossfade (a term my son-in-law taught me).

It was New Year’s Eve 2015 and a few family and friends came over to ring in 2016. We were drinking and someone suggested we have some cannabis. I was all in! Things at work were more and more hectic and I was more than delighted by the prospect of losing myself in the occasion.

I had far too much cannabis far too fast.  On top of the alcohol I had already consumed, I quickly (not quick enough) understood that I was in for a bumpy ride… a.k.a. the crossfade from hell!

I was couch-locked (couldn’t move) and barely aware of my surroundings… except for the lights and colours on the TV (Fergie was singing her heart out on Dick Clark). After being offered and accepting something to eat, I closed my eyes and tried to stop myself and the room from spinning. It was working – until I opened one eye just a sliver to see if I was any better.

Let’s just say that eating macaroni and cheese had been a very poor choice given the state I was in. I was still couch-locked, despite the mess I’d made on myself, on the floor, and on the chair (thank god for leather furniture). My adult-aged daughter (yes, my daughter – the guilt was unbearable the next morning) jumped into action, running for a bucket, paper towels and rags. She took care of me; cleaned me up and put me to bed. There I was, a 50-year-old very responsible mom, crossfading after making several bad decisions. This wasn’t funny at all. This wasn’t cathartic. It was tragic. And ever so embarrassing – to this day.

I was unbelievably lucky and so grateful to have been in the safety of my own home, with people who loved me, who helped me without judgement. Imagine something like this happening at a friend’s house, at a restaurant or at a bar? Imagine if I had been driving! The impact – the literal impact – that driving in this condition could have had!

I’m sharing this story in the hopes that people might benefit from my experience. You’re gonna drink? Okay. You’re gonna do cannabis? Okay. Do NOT do both together! And, most importantly – never, EVER, get behind the wheel of a car! There is absolutely no way to predict what will happen to your judgement and/or your abilities while under the influence.

I know I’m like the pot (no pun intended) calling the kettle black but please… consume responsibly!

 

 

 

 

Anxiety, Cannabis, Depression, Women's Health

#Cannabis is legal in Canada – Might it help me with my #mentalillness?

So cannabis is finally legal in Canada. YAY! October 17th was a big day for us – as a forward-thinking nation, of course – but also for many of us with mental illness looking to either subsidize our pharma products with cannabis, or replace them altogether.

My doctor wasn’t ready to make that assertion nor was she ready to refer me to someone who would. Thusly, I took the matter into my own hands, doing my own research on cannabis as a treatment option for people with mental illness. And to be completely honest, legalization notwithstanding, I have been experimenting with various strains of cannabis and documenting my experiences.

If you’ve read a few of my blogs you’ll know that I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2000, but have memories of dealing with anxiety and panic from around the time I entered puberty. Since 2000, I have been on two different prescriptions – both SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), both effective for a time. I consider myself one of the lucky ones – I’ve only had to use two… some sufferers are on veritable cocktails of pharma medications.

Since the onset of peri-menopause three years ago, I’ve been all over the map with my symptoms. Most recently (the past 9 months), I have really been struggling with anxiety to the point where for the third time since 2000, I was put on a new medication – this time, an SNRI (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors). (As an aside, I was also diagnosed with pre-hypertension and prescribed a low-dose medication for it). While this new SNRI medication has helped a great deal with the anxiety, it has caused two notable side-effects; brain-zaps and exacerbated tinnitus (ringing/whooshing in the ears – which I’ve had my whole life but would only hear if it was either very quiet, or after being subjected to very loud noise e.g. a concert). The tinnitus is now loud and constant and the brain-zaps are happening several times a day (where before they would happen maybe once a month). NOT GOOD! Also noticed but unconfirmed by my doctor as being related (though I believe it is), my blood pressure is even higher despite the medication that was supposed to help lower it! Both tinnitus and hypertension (high blood pressure) are listed as possible side-effects of SRNIs.

My fear when changing medications again was that I would be faced with the very thing that has happened – side-effects that require further exploration (referral to an ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat) doctor – which could take months – to ensure there is nothing mechanically wrong with my ears) and even worse, more medications – I was told to double the hypertension medication! Neither of these will help the brain-zaps at all.

And so, I’ve come full circle back to the question – might cannabis help me with my mental illness? This last doctor’s visit has solidified my resolve to continue my exploration with cannabis to treat my anxiety (as a first step). Against my doctor’s recommendation, I am going to ween myself off the SNRIs and back onto the SSRIs (my baseline, before side-effects). I am not willing to wait for an ENT to tell me that yes, I have tinnitus and no, there is nothing mechanical going on.  I do NOT want to double the hypertension medication that was supposed to reduce my high blood pressure.

It is my long-range goal/hope that maybe I can ween myself off of all of it. That’s lofty given the last time I went off my medications without doctor’s supervision I ended up in a deep depression that lasted months. Then again – cannabis wasn’t really an option then. It is now. And the best part is that, since legalization, I can now do it out in the open without having to suffer the villainization that cannabis has suffered in the past.

If you are looking to start your exploration into cannabis, try the Strainprint app. I have found it an invaluable source for researching ailments, symptoms and strains, as well as tracking my sessions with cannabis. Strainprint is available in the Google Playstore as well as the App Store. Thank you Humble & Fred Radio for recommending this app and for all the great cannabis-related content you’ve provided.