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N of One

Medical Marijuana – A Strange Trip Indeed

By | ePatient, Researcher, Uncategorized | One Comment

I received my medical marijuana card from the Massachusetts Department of Health a couple of months ago. I hoped that I could find some additional solutions for cramping, neuropathy, or insomnia. It’s a different world from my 20’s. Then I wanted a recreational high. I never bought pot, just smoked what other people offered.  Now that I’m in my 60’s and part of the research industrial complex and the patient/caregiver activist scene, I find this exploration more than curious. The physician I saw for the card, didn’t give me a prescription. Told me about different modes of taking cannabis, a list of the dispensaries in the state, and left me with: People react with such variation. It’s an experiment. Let me know if you have any questions.  Imagine that for high blood pressure? I go to a pharmacy and say, I think I’ll try this…

I see on social media that many people rave about the positive effects of medical marijuana. They almost never say what strain, what route, what dose, what effects (intended and unintended), for how long, in what circumstances. Just that they’ve died and gone to heaven using cannabis. I celebrate that they found something that worked for them, but feel no assurance that it might work for me, or what actually worked for them.  I’ve reviewed two compilations of research, one from Canada and one from the US.   I picked a relevant, seemingly well done, study. I went to four different dispensaries run by three different companies. I asked an earnest young person across each counter about a specific cannabinoid (CBG, CBC, CBD, THC, CBDL, CBN) or terpene that I saw in a study.  They sounded very confident while answering my questions but their knowledge seems underwhelming. I did meet one young person (the last of four) who answered, I don’t know. My expectations had become so low, I was excited by the I don’t know.

I understand that marijuana is a drug and like any other drug or therapeutic, the relationship between rigorous scientific comparative effectiveness research and me as an N of one is tenuous. As my first neurologist said, I know what drugs might work for certain groups of people with MS under specific circumstances, but I don’t know crap about you. I need to get to know you and what’s important to you.  We will figure that out together.

I bought two different proportions of CBD/THC oil to vape, THC/CBD in peanut butter to ingest, CBD oil to rub on my skin over cramps, and CBD tincture to take under my tongue. Some of the ingredients are in milligrams, some in percentages. I bought a scale that measures micrograms. How do you compare mgs. and percentages? How do you compare smoke, tincture, oil, and peanut butter? It’s baffling.

I’m intrigued about this experiment of me taking medical marijuana. I’m trying to figure out how to keep track of what I hope to accomplish, what I’m trying, and what effects it’s having. I’m daunted. My spreadsheet is insufficient and too much work. I’m searching for and testing diary/journal apps. I spoke with a scientist friend of mine and together we’re skeptical that I’ll find what I need to conduct the experiment of me in a manner that I can keep up with. It certainly won’t be useful to anyone else. I’d love to be able to keep track of myself (patient-generated data) and have it feed into a larger data set of other people keeping track of themselves with analysts examining the data and us all learning together. I’m certainly going to need some help.

What a hoot. Never would have predicted I’d be here, doing this, at my age.  Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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An Experiment of One

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I was discharged after bypass surgery with 26 pages of instructions. I was just concerned about getting home.

My dad lives alone on the other coast. He takes 11 medications from 4 different providers. At least one gives him a blood thinner. What do I do if he bleeds?

I can get my acupuncturist and massage therapist to talk to each other, but not my doctor. They’re all helping me with my neuropathy pain.

My doctor tells me that if I get this surgery I’ll have a 10% chance of living longer and 1% chance of serious complications. What does that mean for me?

The doctor told my mom that she can’t drive anymore.  How will she get her groceries, her meds, to her doctor appointments?

Who will feed my cat if I have to go to the hospital?

I live 4 miles up a dirt road. Will I be able to stay in my house? 

 

It’s complicated to manage health and wellness. Planning and living care is daunting. The journey occurs inside and outside of the medical space. Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes with our care partners and health team. Always within our communities. The journey is our life – one foot in  front of the other, with expected and unexpected, desired and undesired forks in the road. We can wing it or look for a map. We have evidence of what works – sort of and sometimes. The evidence is about specific routes for groups of people. You and I may be on an unusual route. You and I are not groups of people, we are one person in many groups.  Once a person decides or needs to feel better, a roadmap helps. A roadmap plus stopping periodically to check if you’re still heading to your destination. Read More