In the early 90’s, while living in Pennsylvania, a major car accident changed Mike’s life. Mike suffered a lower spine injury, resulting in severe neuropathy in his legs, and he was told he would never walk again. Mike has twin daughters, who he said “grew up on my knees, I was in a wheelchair!” In addition to being unable to walk, the doctors he was seeing had no solutions for his condition other than to keep prescribing him painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet. Without much warning of potential side effects or education on the medications he was taking, Mike followed his doctor’s orders and continued to take a myriad of prescriptions each day for years. In 1997, a hot new drug hit the pharmaceutical market, Oxycodone. Mike says “I was one of the first patients on it, and I was on it for 22 years!”
For over 20 years, Mike sat in his wheelchair watching his daughters grow up. For over 20 years, Mike sat in his wheelchair taking copious amounts of opioids per his doctor’s instruction. As the doses got higher and higher, he continuously asked his doctors is he was addicted to the medications. Although he was taking 40mg doses of Oxycodone 4 times per day, his doctors assured him that he was not addicted, he was simply medically dependent. He said he didn’t care as long as he was not in pain. Once a year his doctors would call him in for a LFT Test, as the tests grew more frequent, he became more skeptical. Once he was having to get an LFT Test every 3 months, he decided to ask, “what the hell is an LFT test?” An LFT test is a Liver Function Test. His doctors were essentially just monitoring his physical state. They knew the harmful side effects of opioids, they were just keeping him in the dark.
Finally in 2015, something happened that sent him over the edge and convinced him to stop taking pharmaceuticals all at once. His pain management doctor gave him a Fentynal patch. Mike asked if he was okay to use in addition to the medications he was already taking, the doctor said yes. Five days after applying the patch, Mike was in the pool unconscious, he overdosed. The doctor failed to tell him not to wear the patch in the sun and the medication released rapidly. Luckily for Mike, his Diabetic Alert Dog was able to drag him out of the pool and prevented a fatal outcome.
“My heart rate was so high that I was about to explode!” Mike said. His wife rushed him to the hospital. While he was there, doctors tried to give him many medications, wanting to wean him off the pain pills. After 20 years, he finally had enough, he refused to let them put another pill in his mouth. Mike decided to quit the pain killers right then and there. After being discharged from the hospital, he went through withdrawal for 11 days. Mike was grateful to have his friends and family there to take care of his during this time. They were there to put cold cloths on his head during hot flashes, huddle him in blankets when he was shivering, and even dropped cannabis oil in his mouth to help ease the withdrawal symptoms as well.
Since his accidental overdose, Mike has not used any pharmaceutical pain killers. Instead, he has found great relief from Medical Marijuana and hemp-derived CBD products. Mike spends part of his time living in Pennsylvania and part living in Florida. When Florida opened their Medical Marijuana Program, Mike was the 20th patient in Florida approved to use medical marijuana. He has found significant relief from his symptoms while using medical marijuana. He had recorded his experiences with different strains and products in a journal and posts reviews on Leafly to help other patients on their cannabis journey. Mike was even able to be part of a research study at the University of Miami. After using cannabis medicine for awhile, he says they found a strain that rejuvenated the nerves in his knees. Mike worked to strengthen his leg muscles and with some thanks to medical cannabis, Mike was recently able to walk his daughter, Megan, down the isle! The steps they took down the isle together were the first steps he had taken in over 20 years. On his daughter Meghan’s wedding day, he told her he wasn’t sure if he could make it, but she was confident in him. “She held her smile, and under her breath she kept saying ‘Right, left, right, left… Dad, you got this!” After feeling like he missed out on some things when his girls were growing up, he was excited to share this special experience with his daughter on her wedding day.
Although Mike is not going to be running a marathon any time soon, he can now walk 100 feet or so, and he attributes much of the credit to cannabis. He also has found certain strains of cannabis helpful in treating diabetes because they have helped his pancreas monitor glucose levels. He has lost over 80 pounds and no longer has to take his blood sugar medication.
Today, Mike is an active cannabis advocate. He attends Medical Marijuana Board meetings and has submitted research to successfully get conditions, such as anxiety, added to the list of qualifying conditions. Mike is also a scuba diving instructor down in Florida, working with the Handicapped Scuba Association, he takes wounded veterans and paraplegic individuals on dives where he says “they are neutrally buoyant and can feel just like everyone else.”
Mike found more relief from cannabis than he ever expected, and continues to share his story in an effort the educate others on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Like most of his fellow cannabis patients, he just wants those who may currently be opposed to cannabis to see things from a different perspective and become educated on the subject. Sharing your experience can be one of the best ways to the society accept cannabis as medicine.
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