Larry F. was in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years before retiring. He is now 69 and suffering from a plethora of medical conditions for which he seeks treatment from the VA. He was raised in the “Reefer Madness” generation and was afraid to enter the medical cannabis program because he believed it was a gateway drug.
Larry F was interviewed about his experience as a medical marijuana patient in Ohio. Here’s what he had to say:
What made you decide to try cannabis instead of opioids or over-the-counter drugs?
Larry: I became part of the program after actually trying drugs such as morphine for two years. The side effects were traumatic—the inability to perform daily functions and chronic constipation for example. It inadequately addressed the pain and made me feel like a zombie.
What stigmas did you fear getting your medical card?
Larry: One stigma was becoming part of another database.
One of my fears was how secure was the medical data that I provided to the doctor’s office. I was also concerned that If I provided my involvement in cannabis it may affect the treatment that was provided by other doctors.
After seeing so many people’s lives ruined by marijuana and it being illegal for most of my life. It still created a hesitance toward using it, especially because it still has not been recognized by the federal government. It was hard to do something that has always been illegal.
What conditions do you treat with cannabis?
Larry: The conditions treated by cannabis are fibromyalgia, chronic sciatica, neck and back injuries. It doesn’t eliminate all of the pain but helps to manage my pain.
What did your VA doctors say when you asked them about cannabis?
Larry: My VA doctors insisted that a cannabis program was not available as of yet. They actually didn’t want to be on record as having discussed since it’s still federally against the law.
Does cannabis help you more than opioids?
Larry: The use of cannabis doesn’t leave me in a fog or hinder my bodily functions. I also have a fear of addiction. I grew up in an area where there was a large addiction problem. It was and is a fear of mine.
What might you tell others who suffer from similar conditions and have the same fears you did about cannabis?
Larry: I have shared my concerns with like-minded people on how an emotional strain is created by the fear of addiction to opiates. Privately, opioids and their side effects increased the thought of suicide among users without a support system. The use of cannabis isn’t a cure-all to pain but it does make it more manageable.
As an example, one person had broken his back in a fall. The EMT was going to administer fentanyl because the pain was excruciating but the patient was very reluctant to take it fearing its addictive nature. The patient grew up in an environment that stoked his fears of addiction and didn’t want to be another addicted statistic. Our country is still in the throes of the opioid epidemic.
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