Friday, July 08, 2011

Medical Marijuana (1): An Inquiry

This begins a series of posts of an as yet unknown length and breadth. I begin by saying that I have a new medical marijuana card. Under California law a M.D. can prescribe marijuana for a variety of conditions. I have the card for my back pain. Now whether it is going to actually work or not will be topic number one of this series. 

I'm not sure if I am going to deal with the politics of pot; maybe a bit later in the series. For now my intention is to walk you through my medical marijuana process/experience. I am engaging in empirical experimentation to discover if I can find a delivery vehicle for the THC in marijuana that will efficaciously dull the lumbar pain I experience. My secondary goal is not to be high all of the time. You see the prescription narcotics I have for my back pain do not get me high at all, at least not anymore; but they also do not control the discomfort. Hence the turn to THC for a possible solution.

First complication - I'm easy. Always have been. Back in the day I was an easy stone. It doesn't take much to get me buzzed. So the dilemma is getting the THC into my system with minimal euphoria. Can you actually believe having a goal of less euphoria. What has this universe come to?

For the uninitiated here are two different subspecies of Cannabis Sativa, they are sativa (cannabis sativa sativa) and indica (cannabis sativa indica). Most of the medical marijuana dispensaries are very precise in their labeling (it's the law). Unfortunately, the distinctions are not perfect for my purposes.

Here is a typical summary of the effects of each subspecies.

Sativa is often characterized as uplifting and energetic. The effects of a sativa marijuana are mostly cerebral. They give a feeling of optimism and well-being, as well as providing a good measure of pain relief for certain symptoms. A few pure sativas are also very high in THC content. They are known to have a quite spacey, or hallucinogenic, effect. Sativas are a good choice for daytime smoking. 

Indica is most often described as a pleasant body buzz. Indicas are great for relaxation, stress relief, and for an overall sense of calm and serenity. Marijuana indicas are also very effective for overall body pain relief, and often used in the treatment of insomnia. They are the late-evening choice of many smokers as an all-night sleep aid. A few pure indica strains are very potent in THC, and will cause the "couchlock" effect, enabling the smoker to simply sit still and enjoy the experience of the smoke.

As you can see, both are effective for some types of pain relief. And, but, also each can get you really stoned; a drawback from my point of view.

Next issue, there are various methods of delivery. Obviously you can smoke the weed, all of the dispensaries sell marijuana buds in a wide range of varieties, both sativa and indica; as well as hybrids of both. Edibles are also available in an ever increasing variety: cookies, candies, butters, spreads, crackers, drinks; the list goes on. All of these have various mixes of the marijuana plant and the two subspecies. There are also tinctures, creams, salves, ointments, unguents and balms.

Thus far I have obtained some smoking material, several baked goods including one (Bud-O-Scotch cookie) that came highly recommended by another back pain sufferer. I also have a hot cocoa mix to please my chocolate addiction and this week I am going to pick up a tincture that comes very highly recommended by a long time pain patient.

I can report that my preliminary pilot study served to remind me that I really have to be careful with dosage. I was given two lemon cookies by the first dispensary I visited as a welcome gift. The packaging said "1+ dose" and contained two Lemonade Soft cookies. I ate 1/3 of one cookie and was semi-dysfunctional for several hours.

Today begins Phase One of my experiment with clinical notes before and after dosing as well as reports while using the medication. Notes and commentary will appear here on a regular basis, for now once a week on Fridays.

Complete list of posts in this series:

Medical Marijuana (9): DEA and Me
Medical Marijuana (5): The Patients
Medical Marijuana (4): Botanical Chemistry
Medical Marijuana (3): Human Experimentation
Medical Marijuana (2): The Dispensary

1 comment:

Erin Vang said...

This will be an interesting thread for me (already is). I'm curious about pot but can't freaking stand the smell of it—as in, major vomit factor, but not in the good way Mira was mentioning. My only exposure to date, therefore, was a peanut butter cookie—unfortunately, one made by an expert baker with a high tolerance. Three hours of wrecked, two hours of pleasant, and then twenty hours of carsick. No thank you! So everything people say about the pleasure of pot is all but lost on me. Meanwhile, I've read such unpersuasive research on its medicinal value that I begin to wonder if "medical marijuana" is just an elaborate social denial about what is really just a popular recreational drug.

I've got friends who use marijuana with anything from responsible, occasional "tasting" (from what I can tell) to serious addiction and brain-rot effects. I had friends in college who went from bright, shining stars with lots of potential to depressed waste-of-flesh dropouts in a course of a few years of heavy pot use. I have another friend who uses more than you could possibly think healthy (seriously stoned pretty much around the clock) but still manages to perform at a very high level in a stressful job.

I find myself unable to draw conclusions from the secondhand and third-party evidence available, and I'm unwilling to gather more firsthand evidence. So—the idea that you're interested in pain relief but view intoxication as a major bummer makes you a very interesting source of new evidence.

Good luck! Let me know if you'd like some help collecting and analyzing the data. I may know bupkes about pot, but I'm pretty good at stats.