16 Things People Wish They Knew When They Started Medical Marijuana
Editor’s note: Medical marijuana/cannabis is not legal in all states and countries. For a list of states where medical marijuana is legal, click here. This piece is based on the experience of individuals. Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.
With more countries and states legalizing medical marijuana/cannabis in the last few years, more people with chronic illnesses are beginning to experiment with the drug as a treatment option for chronic pain. Though acceptance is increasing, there’s still a stigma associated with marijuana, and users may not know everything about the different strains, methods, side effects, cost and laws surrounding medical marijuana before they try it out.
Since it’s hard to know exactly how your body will respond to medical marijuana, it can be helpful to her other people’s experiences so you have an idea of what’s possible, and what questions to ask your own doctor. So we asked our Mighty chronic illness community what they wish they knew before using medical marijuana/cannabis.
Here’s what our community told us:
1. “The people recommending it were not ‘pot heads’ or ‘stoners’ or ‘lazy people living off the system’ like I had heard and been lead to believe. If I would have never heard all the false negatives about people who use it I could have tried it sooner instead of as a last resort.”
2. “There are hundreds of cannabis strains. It is very important to know the difference and their effects. If you’re prone to anxiety you do not want a strain that causes anxiety. If you’re constantly tired you do not want a strain that makes you tired. Do your research, ask questions.”
3. “Different delivery methods can make a huge difference; smoking, vaporizing, concentrates, edibles, drinks, capsules, suppositories, gum, tinctures, patches.”
4. “I wasn’t ready for the weird faces people were going to make. I wasn’t ready to explain that I’m not smoking, I’m using tinctures and lotions. I wasn’t ready for people trying to take my medicine so they could get high, only for them to realize the THC level was really low.”
5. “I wish I knew about it sooner. And had the proper education with strains, effects and doses without having to go through trial and error all by myself. I also wish the fear mongering, misguided information, and personal opinions were not used to discourage others to try it for themselves, with the correct information for their illness and needs. Cannabis is unique to every individual. No two patients are alike, yet there are plenty of starting points based on facts and research to get you started.”
6. “It’s a drug like any other and can have serious side effects. It worked beautifully for pain, but I started having full-blown panic attacks and unbearable paranoia. It took months after discontinuing to get the anxiety calmed down.”
7. “[Don’t] let anyone try and make me feel guilty for using it.”
8. “I wish I had been more informed before I tried it. Just finding a dispensary was very difficult, and then everything surrounding it was ‘hush-hush.’ First I tried to smoke it, it really burned my lungs, and that lasted for days. Then I tried edibles, and had a horrible experience! I have never been so terrified in my entire life! Now I’m just too afraid to try it again. I’m happy for those that can get some relief from it though, just wish it had been different for me.”
9. “It isn’t what I was brought up to believe. It’s not a gateway drug. It helps so much. I don’t feel addicted to it like I do my prescription Dilaudid.”
10. “It can be difficult to travel. Restrictions when flying or crossing state lines can make access and the ability to medicate legally, difficult.”
11. “For my conditions it’s absolutely an amazing drug. I am allergic to most pain medicines and if not allergic highly sensitive to them and medical marijuana has helped me through my pain without any problems.”
12. “That [I would] have to pay a $25 late fee to renew [my] card after it expires.”
13. “Wish I could have said to myself, ‘It’s going to smell really bad, but it will give you enough pain relief to give you your first real night of sleep in months. You don’t have to stay on it. Just use it until your Plaquenil starts becoming effective.'”
14. “I wish I was more confident to open up to my doctors about my medical cannabis use and wish doctors wouldn’t dismiss it so quickly.”
15. “I wish I had known how expensive it would be. Since cannabis isn’t covered by insurance I ended up spending about $300–400/month on pain meds at the dispensary vs. $40/month in copays at the pharmacy.”
16. “Just how many people would begin to use it. The wide range of types of people who are now going to the dispensaries. Suits and hippies. Blue and white collar. Young to ancient. I fit right in.”