Switching from Pills to Cannabis - an excerpt from The Secrets of Medical Marijuana

February 17, 2016   |   By Barbara Harris, RT, CMT

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A note from Hopegrown: Barbara Harris recently directed our attention to a documentary that is being made about the current epidemic of prescription drug addiction, adding that "an easier way to withdraw from these toxic drugs is with CBD drops." We asked her to expand on this intriguing comment and she provided us with this excerpt from her book, The Secrets of Medical Marijuana, describing her personal experience of switching from opiates and benzos to cannabis.

“Medical marijuana could replace addictive prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin.” -- John Craven, MD

According to a Thomas Jefferson University study on cannabis use to reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms, cannabis use before and during treatment decreased the patients score on the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS). This is a scale used to objectively determine withdrawal symptoms in opiate-dependent patients. The lower scores indicate that cannabis plays a role in reducing the symptoms of opiate withdrawal.

I personally have experienced this first as a patient and then later as a caregiver. I first suggested it for my patients who were wasting away from the aftereffects of chemotherapy and radiation, and then later to help them while they were being withdrawn from opiates that also have side effects of nausea.

I knew it was risky for me professionally, I did this because I had used it while in a full body cast (armpits to groin cast and then down one leg.) I weighed 83 pounds and the cast weighed 30 pounds. My weight loss had come from two years of pain pills and muscle relaxants to treat my pain from a fracture in my spine. The doctors then realized that these potent pain pills were doing nothing to help cure my back pain. So they performed an over 5 hour spinal fusion operation. Through all of this, I was anorexic. I had almost no apatite. I couldn’t eat much because the pills were not only numbing my pain. They were numbing my natural feeling of hunger.

I was in the body cast for six months. My life consisted of waving to my children as they stood in my bedroom doorway and spending my time in bed trying to read. The opiate pain pills made it almost impossible for me to read. Three months into the body cast I threw away of all my pills and started smoking cannabis. Looking back on that moment, it was the beginning of my new life.

How Medical Marijuana Helped Me

Here, at this junction of my recovery is the pivotal truth of why I see the benefits of using cannabis selectively and carefully. Opiates took away my physical pain and appetite. Benzodiazepines as “anti-anxiety” agents and muscle relaxants (brand names Valium, Xanax and more) made me so relaxed and numb that I had no need to try to do anything for myself. And as nearly all psychoactive drugs act and do, the opiates and benzos require higher and higher doses as my brain and body became tolerant to them. Tolerance when we are taking strong prescription drugs is the worst problem of all because we keep increasing the dose to get the same results that we used to get. I was almost “skin and bones” so that later when the body cast came off, I was wearing my 12 year old son’s blue jeans and he was thin!

Another interesting fact when I came off the drugs, I realized that I actually didn’t need pain pills. What I needed was a way to cope with my sad and dysfunctional life. But I was so drugged and psychologically and spiritually numb that I couldn’t figure that out. What I had wanted when I took opiates and benzos was a way to alter my state of consciousness so I could bear the emotional pain of being encased in plaster and all my resulting frustration. By using marijuana I had that altered state and none of the anorexic side effects of the drugs. My head actually felt progressively clearer and my mood became lighter. I immediately started transitioning from a drugged out “turtle” of sorts to a new level of “hyper timelessness” where things were interesting.

Coming off the opiate and benzos created a new problem. With my head clearing, my feelings and emotions came tumbling up into my awareness. It was as though a dam broke and I became flooded with everything I hadn’t felt since the beginning of my back injury two years earlier because I couldn’t feel on opiates or benzos. The medical marijuana helped me to get some objectivity to my situation by letting me see my feelings as transient. I had an insight that “this too shall pass.”

John Craven, MD wrote in his book The Power In Pot: How to Harness the Medicinal Properties of Marijuana in the Management of Clinical and Stress Related Conditions: “I have read that marijuana is only indicated for those who have ‘not responded well to other forms of treatment’ This in my opinion is complete nonsense – driven entirely by misperceptions and prejudices resulting from its status as an illegal substance used outside the mainstream of medical practice – and denial as to the true risks of many other drugs commonly prescribed today. I believe that time will tell the medicinal marijuana will result in far less risk than many of the psychoactive drugs commonly prescribed today. If anyone can benefit from judicious use of the naturally occurring substance – without resorting to many of the more powerful psychoactive drugs on the market today – both they and their brain will be better for it.”

Dr. Craven then wrote of questioning an emergency room physician who reported that it is common to see people seeking drugs for opiate dependency – or clinical complications secondary to their use of alcohol. On further questioning he reported ‘Never’ seeing complications from cannabis use.

Cannabis and Consciousness

What cannabis does is increases our sensory experiences and it helps us stay in the present moment, often called “The Now.” It touches multiple senses. It can be used with certain music and, when used medicinally, can be stronger than anything else to help critically ill people. If guided by someone that understands this — or perhaps the patient knows this naturally — marijuana holds our consciousness, our inner attitudes in a way that we can lift out of our prior drugged state and give us some new choices. It “holds” us this way if we ask it to, if we state this as our intention.

Intention, in my experience with myself and countless patients, is the key. They may not believe this. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have the intention, that we are open to letting it help us.

I immediately started transitioning from a drugged out “turtle” of sorts to a new level of “hyper timelessness” where things were interesting. I wasn’t smoking the super strong buds that are being grown today, but the leaves that gently contained a new peace for me. And I only needed one inhalation that lasted me all day.

This timeless state that Medical Cannabis kept taking me back to was somewhat confusing so I saw a psychiatrist who told me I was depressed and gave me anti-depressants which I knew I didn’t need. I was overwhelmed. I was not depressed. And without all those drugs I had been taking, my mind was clearing and I was realizing that the Medical Cannabis could act as a muscle relaxant. After a few hours of it keeping me in the Now and, at the same time, lifting me out of my drama, I then fell back totally relaxed. Some people that are doing this for recreation complain that it drains them but if this is for medicinal purposes, that draining is a gift. So I thought of the marijuana as my muscle relaxant and maybe not at first, but soon it’s relaxation came over me.

After six sessions with the psychiatrist I gave up on him and continued my exploration of my secret inner life. Without the opiates and tranquilizers I now started connecting with the beauty, the sacred and the secrets of this plant and what is deep inside of me.

Somehow with Medical Cannabis, some wisdom took over me so that I stopped the drugs. And my friends who loved me continued to bring me this illegal plant already rolled in paper so all I needed to do was light it and inhale it deeply. I never over did it. One inhale around 2 in the afternoon held me until I drifted off to sleep late in the evening. I could now watch movies (and follow the plot – sometimes,) I could read and even started to know I had a future, that this would be over and I could survive and possibly even thrive. I watched everything that was funny, Monty Python, Laurel and Hardy, anything with physical humor and let the laughter feed me.

Being trapped in a body cast for 7 months and using Medical Cannabis, I have made my life a search for that unseen level that I found to be my soul. It is the core of who we are and who we will continue to be after our body dies. This part of us that I feel comfortable calling my “Soul,” knows and communicates to my heart that there is a Spirit operating in the Universe which gives meaning and purpose to our life. That Spirit in It’s wisdom gave us the plant kingdom to enjoy, commune with, and help us.

Doesn’t it make sense that our plants have Souls too? And when we take them into our body, our Soul takes in their Soul. How we take them in, our attitudes, our deep held beliefs, and most important, our emotional condition at the time of taking them in, has a great deal to do with giving them every chance to help us. We may not believe any of this that I wrote above, all we need do is have the intention that we are willing and open to what ever will help us.

opiates   treatment   prescription addiction  

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About Barbara Harris, RT, CMT

Barbara Harris is a consciousness researcher, therapist and author/co-author of 10 books on healing from repeated trauma, the emotional needs of critical care patients and integrating spiritual experiences. She lives and practices in Atlanta, Georgia. You can find her most recent work, The Secrets of Medicinal Marijuana: A Guide for Patients and Those Who Care for Them on Amazon.com

All posts by Barbara Harris, RT, CMT