After about a year of costly trial and error in trying to find which medical marijuana products and dosages worked for me to treat the unrelenting pain, symptoms and damage of my Crohn’s disease, I finally found a cannabis product that kept me at a comfortable level of medication 24 hours a day — transdermal patches. Some people only need a half a patch and can leave it on for 48 hours and stay comfortable but I found that I needed 2 full patches, and I will change them every 24 hours if I am feeling ill, or leave them on for 48 hours when I am feeling relatively well. These are very low dose and very expensive per milligram compared to other products like edibles and vape, but I have found that this delivery method works the best for me especially with regard to gut spasms and urgency where I no longer feel tied to the bathroom and can mostly take care of what I need to in a day. The low dose does not make me feel stoned either, just physically and mentally comfortable and not constantly reminded of my pain and not constantly monitoring my condition and having to think about medicating, worrying about getting “too low” where my pain and symptoms came back with a vengeance and then not worrying about getting “too high” where I was incapacitated from the medicine.
When I discovered the patches, I felt like I had finally gotten my life back although as a chronically ill person with an incurable and progressive disease, I never really feel “well” as a well person would define that, and I have not felt like “myself” in 6 years. And now that I have been using the patches for about 2 years I have noticed that I cannot comfortably come completely “down” from them without my symptoms returning immediately — if I let it go longer than 24 hours when I am sick, or longer than 48 hours when I am feeling relatively well, I know it. I begin feeling run down, feverish, have a weird full-body sensation of extreme physical and mental irritability which I can best describe as a combination of humming/vibrating and crunchy/scratchy, I have sleep disturbances and insomnia, and my gut symptoms return including deeply aggravating gurgling and bubbling, nausea, bloating, heartburn, terrifying esophageal spasms for which many people visit the emergency room of hospitals every year because it feels like you are dying and can be mistaken for heart attack symptoms, gut spasms, bogginess, pain, urgency, and diarrhea.
Of course, I had already had all of these symptoms, including the weird irritability crunchy/scratchy/vibrating thing just from the Crohn’s and well before I ever tried medical cannabis. I have researched the effects of “cannabis addiction” and withdrawal, which seem to be a thing although being merely extremely uncomfortable it’s nothing like the dangerous and potentially deadly effects of opioid and opiate withdrawal, and the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal seem to mirror the symptoms of Crohn’s more or less exactly. So when I “come down” from my medication, am I having symptoms of cannabis withdrawal or Crohn’s? And if I am “dependent” on and can’t stop taking the cannabis anyway because as a person with a dangerous inflammatory bowel disease I will need to take anti-inflammatory or other medication for the rest of my life to avoid a dangerous flare, and cannabis is a powerful anti-inflammatory, does it even matter if I am “addicted” to or dependent on the cannabis at this point? If I can’t stop taking it anyway, who cares?
Well, it seems as if my family cares for one thing, not that they have bothered to investigate the issue (including whether so-called cannabis addiction even exists as most people think of addiction) and seem to have armchair-diagnosed me from a thousand miles away as suffering from reefer madness. I’ve been medicated with cannabis daily now for over 3 years and have regained a quality of life I was never able to regain or maintain on conventional Crohn’s treatments, which all seems to them a poor lifestyle choice, meanwhile I know my mom has been addicted to opiates/opioids for well over a decade by now because of a work-related back injury she suffered nearly 20 years ago. When she first told me she was addicted to prescription pain killers, I was shocked — I had no idea my mom, who was a nurse of the Nurse Ratched kind and who I figured should have known better, was addicted to opiates and I was even more disturbed to hear her say that if she ever wanted to get off of them it would require a lengthy and expensive stay in a formal drug rehab which she would likely never be able to afford due to the expenditure as well as missed work.
Cannabis dependency or “addiction” to the extent it even exists is nothing like that (so why even use the same words?) does not require a carefully monitored detox period during which people can and do die, and there are no notable side effects that would make getting off cannabis particularly pressing for anyone, let alone someone who needed it to manage the pain, inflammation and internal damage of a dangerous disease. In my own case, I am literally dependent on cannabis to manage a potentially fatal illness so if I am also dependent on it for another reason does the second reason even matter? Some people including my mother have decided that even being addicted to opiates “doesn’t matter” because she needs them to manage her chronic pain (and can’t afford to detox) and I can’t argue with that. Under capitalism and patriarchy, we need our bodies to run like machines for as long as possible to avoid the exact situation in which I currently find myself — unable to fully support myself by working and facing looming homelessness, having lost it all.
For the last 10 or so years, there has been an opiate addiction “crisis” in the United States that also includes many deaths from so-called accidental overdoses (personally I believe many of these deaths are intentional suicides and that this is being covered up using the language of “accident” and “overdose”) and I have to wonder what is the real point of this cultural conversation around prescription painkiller addiction when people need their medicines to live and cannot live without them, even if the drugs end up killing them. People with chronic pain need a way to carry on, many if not most of them need to continue to work, they need to be able to care for their children and homes and to perform self-care. If they have no meaningful choice, using “crisis” language is incorrect — if you cannot stop the bleeding, it’s not an emergency, it’s a tragedy, and there is a very real tragedy happening here under end-stage (terminal) capitalism and patriarchy which is that people en masse cannot seem to physically be able to do it anymore, even to save their own lives and the lives of their dependents.
So if the addiction crisis is not really a crisis, and it seems like it’s not (it’s a tragedy by now) what is the purpose of the cultural conversation that appears to be lying about that? Is the purpose of the addiction focus and conversation to draw attention away from a likely suicide epidemic as I suspect is at least partially the case in order to deter further suicides and to avoid having to talk about it? Is the point of the addiction conversation to blame the victims of end-stage capitalism and patriarchy and make it an issue of personal weakness, injury and failing in order to thwart a cultural conversation about unsustainability, which capitalism and patriarchy absolutely are and always have been? Or, could the cultural conversation about addiction — into which cannabis has been unfairly drawn as it is not addictive in the way people mean it when they say it — be meant to sully the reputation of medical and recreational cannabis? Or a combination of all of this and more?
The true motivation may well be unknowable but we can speculate about the purpose by seeing what the end result has been, and the end result of the addiction conversation has definitely included sullying the reputation of cannabis and supporting cannabis regulations (restrictions) and outright prohibition. It has also made tittering idiots of my family and friends, who think that my medicating with a transdermal patch that doesn’t make me high but which does prevent me from involuntarily shitting my pants, and hopefully is preventing the progression of a dangerous and potentially fatal disease, is the same thing as being addicted to heroin, while at the same time giving my mother a free pass with regard to her own 10-year opioid addiction presumably because she is still able to work as a middle class patriarchal enforcer. The middle class hypocrisy here is stunning, just stunning, where no one is allowed to treat their disabling chronic pain and symptoms except themselves so that they can continue working, and as long as a capitalistic patriarchal doctor approves, everything including opioid and opiate addiction, chronic illness and injury and end-stage capitalism and patriarchy (but not medical marijuana) are all right as rain.
While the opioid/opiate addiction conversation seems largely centered on people with intractable physical pain who initially obtained access to these addictive medications legitimately through medical channels, the people who may actually benefit the most and lose the least from coming down from dangerous and addictive opioids that cause significant side-effects like breathing problems, confusion and gut issues would seem to be recreational users who didn’t medically need it before they became addicted. But that begs the question, doesn’t it, of why anyone would take dangerous toxic opioids to get through the day if they didn’t really need them, even if their intractable pain were mental and emotional and not physical. And the same could probably be said for recreational users of cannabis, who if they get caught without a gram of weed may have to suffer through a couple of sleepless nights with irritability and gut pain but who may be disinterested in being dependent on anything that way but again, why do they use it in the first place? And in the case of cannabis, these “withdrawal” symptoms could easily be the uncomfortable signs of a nutritional cannabis deficiency where all humans seem built to consume it and our bodies do not like being without it.
Maybe here at what is probably the end or near end of end-stage capitalism and patriarchy, addiction to or dependence on feel-good or feel-better or feel-normal medications is simply a nonissue. Maybe there is no longer any meaningful choice for anyone but to do whatever they have to do to survive, even if that is to escape, or in the case of cannabis use, to bolster their struggling bodies and minds with a nutritional supplement that is non-toxic, has no known side effects and is known to return unhealthy bodies to a state of homeostasis and health.