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You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed About Trying Medical Marijuana

Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

In my latest attempt at transparency when it comes to mental health, I no longer deny that I have been diagnosed with various mental health conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I also make no secret of the fact that without medication, my ability to function and perform even the most basic of tasks would be nonexistent. I also regularly fill another prescription I have been more secretive about than necessary: medical cannabis.

Medical cannabis was first legalized in Florida in 2014 for the management of pain associated with epilepsy and terminal cancer under the Compassionate Use Act. The 2016 election brought us Amendment 2, which expanded the list of conditions eligible for a medical marijuana license. By 2019, nearly 200,000 Florida residents have been approved for the license required to purchase medical cannabis from a dispensary, myself included.

I was approved for the use of medical marijuana in the summer of 2018 due to a diagnosis of PTSD — the result of childhood trauma. I initially spoke with my doctor about my inability to fall asleep and stay asleep due to recurring nightmares. We started a daily regimen of a medication that was supposed to help, but it was better at helping me fall asleep than anything. I still experienced nightmares in the middle of the night and once awake, I had a difficult time falling back to sleep. A solid sleep schedule is a key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and this was becoming a problem that affected many different areas of my life. I will admit I was hesitant at first. I have always supported the use of medical cannabis, but I wasn’t sure how I would feel about using it myself. With the support of my wife, I decided to seek out a doctor licensed to prescribe medical cannabis.

Though the process was a bit pricey, it was completely worth it. My previous experience with marijuana was minimal at best, and I knew even less about the science behind it. My doctor recommended I visit a dispensary in town, talk with the employees about what I was looking for, and try out some of their suggestions. Nearly a year later, I am so glad I took that first step. I found a vaporizer pen that works perfectly and after a few puffs each night, I am able to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night. It even helps to relieve joint pain brought on by years of athletic wear-and-tear.

The “reefer madness” stigma attached to cannabis is slowly disappearing and new attitudes about cannabis and its many healing properties are being embraced. Between 2006 and 2013, the use of medical cannabis in those aged 65 and older saw an increase of 250%. In 2017, a Gallup Poll showed that 64% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. Its effects include reducing anxiety and inflammation, controlling nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, slow the growth of certain tumors, relax the muscles of those with multiple sclerosis (MS) and help to stimulate appetite and weight gain in those with cancer and HIV/AIDS. The healing properties of cannabis cannot be ignored.

When I think about the vape pen I smoke before bed every night, I don’t think about it as “doing drugs.” For me, it is just another medication I take to manage symptoms for conditions I will experience for the rest of my life. While the stigma attached to marijuana used to deter me from disclosing it, I have decided that can no longer be the case. I don’t feel weird when I go to the doctor because I have a sore throat, and I don’t feel weird about going to see my psychiatrist, therapist or when I need to go to the dispensary. I can legally purchase medical cannabis because I have a condition that allows for it. It is a medication to help control symptoms, and that is how I choose to frame it when having a conversation about it with someone new. Just as I embraced morphine when having my appendix removed, I embrace medical cannabis to treat my mental illness, and I do so without shame.