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Category Archives: Missouri

In January of 2008, a candle changed Rod's world completely.

    On the evening of January 15th, 2008, Rod Wells went out on the deck of his St. Charles, Missouri home. It was chilly, in the thirties, but bearable for a mid-winter evening. He let his dogs out to run in the back yard, as he would often do before bed.

    He lit a large candle that sat in a clay container over the TV in the corner. He then became involved with his pets. Shortly thereafter, he went to bed.
    About 3am, Rod’s wife awoke to the sound of a crashing noise. She asked Rod if he would go and see what it was.
    Entering the living room, he could see flames out on the deck. Rod quickly went to the door, knowing that a fire extinguisher was just outside. Opening the door, he could see a line of blue flames following the seams of the siding on the wall. Immediately, there was an explosion and he was hit with a burst of flames, burning his face and hands. It was at that point that he yelled for his wife and daughter to get out of the house.
    Remembering that he had another extinguisher in his garage, he made his way to that door, but upon opening, he saw that his Impala was already engulfed in flames. The smoke was so intense that all he could do is run for the front door.
    Once outside, he took a head count confirming that his wife, grandchild, and one of his dogs were safely outside.

fire_departments

    Already, the flames had reached his neighbor on one side and was threatening another. Fortunately, those residents made it out safely.
    Shortly after the fire trucks arrived, the streets began to ice up.
    Standing with roughly a hundred of his neighbors, he was soon sought out by the Sheriff. He told Rod that the firemen had discovered his “grow”. Also, a stash of dried cannabis was discovered along with rolling papers inside a locked steel desk that had  been opened.
    Apparently, some member(s) of the St. Charles County Fire Departments who were called in to fight the fire were more interested in offensive police actions than protecting the property of county residents.

     While Rod’s house was still burning, a deputy handcuffed Rod, his hands behind his back and placed him in a patrol car. He protested this use of handcuffs, explaining that he had epilepsy and a seizure could cause considerable bodily harm restrained that way. The deputies ignored his pleas, stating that it was “procedure”.
    Cold, bruised, and lacerated, Rod was hauled off and processed before being presented to a nurse. The nurse immediately informed the officers that Rod obviously required hospital treatment, so he was finally transported to the hospital for care. Thereafter he was sent back to jail and was locked up in an overcrowded holding cell with seventeen other guys.
    The Sheriff’s Department could only hold Rod for 24 hours, so he spent the rest of his incarceration trying to rest on the hard floor with only a blanket, apparently common treatment for an alleged non-violent drug criminal.

 

     Four months later, in the midst of Rod and his family’s efforts to rebuild their lives, the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department returned an indictment, charging Rod with manufacturing a controlled substance, distribution, and a host of other charges, standard fare for anyone who is caught growing cannabis in the state of Missouri, no matter if its grown strictly for one’s own medicine or not.

 

     Rod has been offered six months in prison, five years probation. Rod thought that was too extreme, refusing to plead to a felony. The punishment outweighs the crime, in his words, “ten fold. A class B Felony puts me in the same category as violent criminals, meth dealers, larcenists.

 

    No one knew that he was growing. The neighbors, even those in close proximity to him had no idea that he was growing his own medicine. He had no impact what so ever on his community – that is, until the night of the fire.

 

     Since the fire, life has not been easy for Rod. He sleeps more now, one of the side-effects of the pharmaceuticals. He worries about having seizures and consequently, his physicians have had to increase his prescription dosages.

 

     Rod’s seizures are the result of a brain aneurysm that was diagnosed and subsequently removed in 1984. He experiences what is called tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures and partial complex or absence (petit mal) seizures.
    Generalized tonic clonic seizures are the most common and best known type of generalized seizure. They begin with stiffening of the limbs (the tonic phase), followed by jerking of the limbs and face (the clonic phase).
    Absence seizures are lapses of awareness, sometimes with staring, that begins and ends abruptly, lasting only a few seconds. There is no warning and no after-effect. More common in children than in adults, absence seizures are frequently so brief that they escape detection, even when experiencing 50 to 100 attacks a day.

 

     Some of the prescription drugs that Rod must use are:

 

 Dilantin

 

     Dilantin is an anti-epileptic drug, also called an anti-convulsant. It works by slowing down impulses in the brain that cause seizures.
    Side effects include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide, or hurting one’s self, swollen glands, fever, sore throat, headache, severe blistering, peeling, red skin, rash, confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, slurred speech, loss of balance or coordination, restless muscle movements in one’s eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck, tremors, extreme thirst or hunger, urinating more than usual, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice, easy bruising or bleeding, swollen or tender gums, changes in the shape of one’s face or lips, insomnia, twitching, vomiting, constipation, headache, joint pain.

 

Neurontin

 

    Neurontin is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. It affects chemicals and nerves in the body that are involved in the cause of seizures and some types of pain.
    Neurontin is used alone or in combination with other medications to treat seizures caused by epilepsy in adults and children who are least 12 years old. Neurontin is also used with other medications to treat partial seizures in children who are 3 to 12 years old.
    Side effects include hives, fever, swollen glands, painful sores in or around the eyes or mouth, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide or hurting one’s self, increased seizures, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, swelling of the ankles or feet, confusion, rapid back and forth movement of the eyes, tremor, easy bruising, changes in behavior, memory problems, trouble concentrating, aggressiveness, dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, tired feeling, lack of coordination, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, insomnia, unusual dreams, acne, mild skin rash.

 

Keppra

 

    Keppra is an anti-epileptic drug. It is used to treat partial onset seizures in adults and children. Keppra is also used to treat tonic-clonic seizures and myoclonic seizures.
    Side effects include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restless, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide or hurting one’s self, hallucinations, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, weakness, lack of coordination, increasing or worsening seizures, nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, itching, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice, dizziness, spinning sensation, drowsiness, feeling irritable, headache, runny nose, sore throat, neck pain.

 

 Lamictal

 

     Lamictal is an anti-epileptic medication, also called an anticonvulsant. Lamictal is used alone or in combination with other medications to treat seizures in adults and children.
    Side effects include hives, fever, swollen glands, painful sores in or around the eyes or mouth, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, agitation, hostility, restlessness, hyperactivity, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, fever, sore throat, headache, severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash, chest pain, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness, flu symptoms, dark colored urine, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, clay-colored stools, jaundice, dizziness or drowsiness, blurred vision, vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, headache, lack of coordination, weight loss, insomnia, unusual dreams, runny or stuffy nose.

 

     Prior to his arrest, Rod was able to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals by also medicating with cannabis, thus reducing the side-effects that they caused.

 

     Despite all that has transpired, Rod’s children are still supportive. Rod has always been honest with them, referring to cannabis as his “medicine”. They have witnessed the difference it has made in his life and the deterioration of his health now that it has been taken from him. When he was regularly medicating, he wasn’t as depressed. He didn’t have the mood swings.

 

     Rod could have gotten away with much less than the penalties that he is facing, but instead he has chosen to make a stand, not only for himself, but also for all those who can’t afford an attorney, for those who must quietly suffer.
    “I can’t plead guilty to a felony,” he stated. “That wouldn’t be true to my children.”

 

     His wife is standing by him. “She understands my situation.”, Rod said confidently.
    But she has a lot to lose. If Rod is convicted, the powers that be will strip him of his Disability. For his wife, that means the risk of forfeiture house and much of what they own. Most of what they have struggled a lifetime to build.

    Rod quietly adds, “We’re depending on each other.”

 

    Here are parts one and two of my interview with Mr. Wells:

 

  

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  michael_phelps_smoking_cannabis_2008

    A lot of publicity has revolved around Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps lately.  For the precious few who may not know, a picture has been circulating of Phelps at a college party, smoking cannabis (marijuana) recreationally.

     Far be it from me to overstate the obvious, but a college student partaking of cannabis is hardly newsworthy, but the hypocrisy of the day dictates that cannabis smokers are not athletes, let alone Olympic heroes.  How dare he crush this fragile but obvious lie, and in the face of patriotic adoration.

    Though our last three Presidents have admitted to smoking cannabis, and virtually every founding father grew and smoked cannabis, let’s not derail the efforts of tens of millions of tax payer dollars that have been spent to villainize this herb.  

    Seventy year old propaganda insists that anyone who smokes “pot” cannot in any way be looked on as a role model for our nation’s youth. 
    But let’s cut through the sensationalism for a moment and return to reality.  If Michael were sipping from a beer in the pic, as he more than likely could have been doing at the now infamous collegiate event, his image would not have even made FaceBook, let alone international tabloids, and his multi-million dollar endorsements would have remained intact.  In fact, our leading American breweries would most certainly have lined up with their endorsements, as well.

Cannabis_Lilly     Over seventy years ago, few would have known what you were talking about if you were to say “marijuana”, but virtually everyone in this country, most specifically physicians, would have known full well the word “cannabis”.  Cannabis sativa, as it was often referred prior to 1937, has been used as medicine for over 4000 years.  It holds the honor of being the single most tested medicine in the history of medical science.

    What have we learned from centuries of medicinal use and volumes of formal research?  Cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic illness. 

     What is chronic illness?  It doesn’t have to be life threatening or debilitating to be chronic, though extended doses of many pharmaceuticals almost certainly guarantees that a patient will eventually compromise his or her stomach, liver, and gastro-intestinal tract.
    Chronic Illness is quite simply an illness that doesn’t go away, but lingers on despite medical treatment.

     Illnesses that have been successfully treated with cannabis are: Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Muscular Dystrophy (MD), Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), many forms of cancer, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Alzheimer’s Disease, Epilepsy (seizures), Hepatitis C, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, severe migraines, severe pain, Glaucoma, wasting syndrome, severe nausea, anorexia, Crohn’s Disease, and many, many more.

     The use of Medical Cannabis and the protection of its patients, has been endorsed by many prestigious organizations, including:  The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, The American College of Physicians, the student branch of The American Medical Association, The American Nurse’s Association, and The American Academy of Family Physicians. 
    If your physician or nurse practioner practices in America, undoubtedly he or she belongs to one or more of these organizations.

     Despite Federal subsidized propaganda and outright lies, cannabis has been proven safer than NSAIDS like Aspirin and Tylenol, (which claim over 6000 lives every year).  Despite being safer than pharmaceuticals (an estimated 218,000 deaths have been attributed to adverse drug events), harmful, dangerous prescription drugs continue to be approved by our Food and Drug Administration every week of every year.

     So why do our law makers stonewall attempts to reschedule cannabis and block access for its legal production from our nation’s chronically ill?  Isn’t it obvious?
    In 2006, global spending on prescription drugs topped $643 billion.  And if you somehow still think that our elect have anything other than the interests of big business at heart,   the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Government Reform estimated that pharmaceutical industry profits would increase by over $8 billion dollars with the implementation of Bush’s Medicare Drug Plan.

     With cannabis having the potential of capturing upwards of 60% of the current pharmaceutical market, there’s a reason why drug lobbyists are permanently entrenched in Washington and our state capitols. 

    In Missouri, House Bill 277 would allow the chronically ill of their state to safely and legally treat their illnesses with the holistic medicine they so desperately need, but the only way it will ever see a public vote is if the people of Missouri speak out with a voice louder than the jingle of lobbyist’s pocket books.

     The truth is, cannabis, and only cannabis, is the only viable, effective choice for long-term treatment of chronic illness.

    Before you chime in with all the anti-cannabis hype, make it a point to know what you’re talking about.  Do the research.  It’s not hard to find. 

    And Michael, no apology is necessary. Not for this father of three.  You see, I have been a cannabis patient for over eleven years now.  My children know full well how cannabis allowed my body to fight its way back from serious, debilitating illness, when pharmaceuticals did little but insure that I had a hopelessly miserable and painful future.

     Come and hear my story and the stories of other medical cannabis patients, along with special music, speakers, and local dignitaries, all day under the Arch on May 2nd.

  Mark Pedersen
Cannabis Patient Network

My history

     I’m not much different than most medical cannabis patients.  Just another criminal statistic in our government’s war on its own people.  You see, that’s what I am in the eyes of our justice system, a criminal.

 “My government considers me a criminal.”

    I used to be a hard working, respected member of society.  In most every way, I resembled the typical Republican opinion of what it meant to be middleclass.  I was married; I had three kids, a mortgage, and a car loan.  I worked with my hands, and I went to church on Sunday.  Then I got sick.

    I have worked with not-for-profits since the 80’s, having founded Victory Storehouse, Inc., a benevolence ministry that strived to meet the needs of our county’s poor.  During that time, I also founded a food pantry association that coordinated the efforts of pantries over a three county area.
    By the early 90’s, I was working for the local electric utility, Ameren, as a certified welder and pipefitter.  It was hard work – heavy work, but it paid very well.  I also worked on the side as a computer consultant. 
    All in all, I was accustomed to working eighty plus hours a week.  It was regular fair to find me stocking shelves at the pantry from two ’til five most mornings after I got off from my pm shift at the power plant.

    I currently live in St. Louis, though that’s not always been my home.  I was born and raised in Herculaneum, Missouri.  The Doe Run Lead Smelting plant, its smoke stack and constant noxious discharge were an ever-present reminder of the toxic chemicals that my friends, family, and of course, myself, were ingesting every hour of every day.  But just the sight of the enormous chimney reveals little of the more ominous impact this industry has had on this community.  The clandestine, twilight plumes from the stack, deliberately planned for moonless nights, or the heavy trucks with loose tarps and gaping cargo beds, scattering their loads to the wind as they rolled through the neighborhood streets – for those of us who grew up in Herculaneum, we were exposed to carcinogenics – basically our whole lives.

    Doe Run Company is the largest integrated lead producer in North America and the largest primary lead producer in the western world.  The company has been producing lead in Herculaneum since 1892. 
    Ira Rennert, its present owner, has the dubious title of being the single largest owner of polluting companies in the country.

    It was there in Herculaneum, while remodeling our home that I was exposed to very high levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic, byproducts of lead smelting.  Soon after, I became very ill.
    The affects that Doe Run was having on our community attracted national attention in 2002 when local and national television news programs investigated the large number of varied illnesses due to the pollution that the local industry had and continued to create.  My ex-wife and I, along with other residents, were featured on local news programs and on the CBS News Program 20/20. 

    Lead can be ingested many ways; through food contamination or contaminated drinking water, and through inhaling Lead dust into the lungs.  It can also be absorbed through the skin.
    Lead poisoning can cause nervous system and kidney damage, learning disabilities, speech and language problems, behavioral problems, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, hearing damage, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, cataracts, memory problems, concentration problems, muscle and joint pain, pregnancy complications, damaged sperm production, and cancer.

    Cadmium is extremely toxic even in low concentrations and will bioaccumulate in organisms and ecosystems. Cadmium can cause flu like symptoms, chills, fever, muscle ache, tracheo-bronchitis, pneumonitis, pulmonary edema, cough, dryness and irritation of the nose and throat, headache, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, kidney damage, liver damage, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, joint pain, increased risk of fractures, coma, gout, and cancer.

    Arsenic, a well known poison is known to cause violent stomach pains, tenderness and pressure, retching, vomiting, dryness and tightness in the throat, thirst, hoarseness, difficulty of speech, diarrhea, tenesmus, convulsions, cramps, clammy sweats,  lividity of the extremities, countenance collapsed, delirium, skin cancer, and death.

    Independent testing revealed high concentrations of these byproducts throughout our property and within our home:

    On our refrigerator,  lead, as high as 9,000/parts per million
        – Standard is 40/parts per million indoors

    In my office at same residence, lead, as high as 7,745/parts per million
        – Standard is 40/parts per million indoors

    On the awning over window on the front of the house, lead, as high as 10,500/parts per million
        – Standard is 400/parts per million outdoors

    In the front yard, cadmium, as high as 10-15/parts per million
        – Average is less than 1/parts per million

    We live in a polluted society.  To bring home that fact, all we have to do is look at other species that share our homes.  50% of all dogs and 30% of all cats die of cancer.  In Herculaneum, dogs rarely die of natural causes.

    After an exhaustive line of expensive medical tests at the hands of the best physicians and specialists St. Louis had to offer, my condition was labeled “Fibromyalgia with severe migraines”.  Hardly a suitable description for the agony I suffered daily. 

“Cannabis helped my memories return.”

My illness: The Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is the catch-all diagnose of the medical community.  It’s what physicians label your illness when they have exhausted all other possibilities. 
    The defining symptoms of Fibromyalgia are chronic, widespread pain and tenderness to light touch.  Other symptoms can include moderate to severe fatigue, needle-like tingling of the skin, muscle aches, prolonged muscle spasms, weakness in the limbs, nerve pain, irritable bowel syndrome, myofascial pain syndrome, sleep disturbances, cognitive dysfunction, impaired concentration, headaches, myoclonic twitches, and hypoglycemia.
    In most instances, this condition seems to be linked to events and/or periods, triggering circumstances in one’s life, that are especially traumatic or stressful. 
    Even when the targeting event is independent and fleeting, subsiding completely, the Fibromyalgia remains.

     Gulf War Syndrome, which gained its ominous notoriety following the Middle East conflict of the early 90’s, was perhaps our first inclination that Fibromyalgia may have an environmental link.  Soon after their tour of duty, a relatively large number of our military and support services personnel developed Chronic Fatigue, loss of muscle control, headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, memory problems, muscle and joint pain, indigestion, skin problems, shortness of breath, and even insulin resistance.  Brain cancer, Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Fibromyalgia are recognized by the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments as potentially connected to service in the Gulf War.
    Probable causes for these illnesses have been linked to exposure to depleted uranium munitions, side-effects from the early 90’s anthrax vaccine, and chemical weapons such as nerve and mustard gas.

    Popular treatments for fibromyalgia include hormones, analgesics, muscle relaxers, and antidepressants.

Hormones, like Cortisol (Hydrocortisone), are used to treat inflammation and to supplement natural Cortisol when its production is too low. It’s also used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, allergies, Multiple Sclerosis, and skin conditions.
    Hydrocortisone can cause difficulty sleeping, dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, increased appetite, increased sweating, indigestion, nervousness, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, black, tarry stools, changes in menstrual periods, chest pain, eye pain or increased pressure in the eye, fever, chills, or sore throat, joint or bone pain, mood or mental changes (depression), muscle pain or weakness, seizures, severe or persistent nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, bloating, swelling of the feet or legs, and unusual weight gain or loss.

     My doctors would periodically put me on extended doses of Prednisone.  To this day, I really am not sure why.  Yes, I know it’s an anti-inflammatory, but, like so many drugs used to treat chronic illness, there’s just so much collateral damage.
    The side effects of Prednisone are hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat, vision problems, rapid weight gain, severe depression, unusual thoughts or behavior, seizures, bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood, Pancreatitis, low potassium, dangerously high blood pressure, insomnia, acne, dry skin, thinning skin, bruising or discoloration, slow healing, increased sweating, headache, dizziness, spinning sensation, nausea, stomach pain, bloating, and changes in body fat. 
    I would gain considerable weight, particularly in my abdomen.  I got a lot of work done – it was like being on speed, but my heart would often feel like it was going to beat out of my chest and I became very irritable and short-tempered.  And, it tore my stomach up.

Analgesics, like Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Ultram), anti-inflammatories (aspirin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Anaprox, Aleve), are all used to address the milder symptoms of Fibromyalgia. 
    I was on most of them with only very minor pain relief.  However, large doses of these over-the-counter drugs tore my stomach up, as well.  The next course of action would then be for physicians is to recommend over-the-counter or prescription stomach meds in an attempt to counteract the side effects of the first round rather than trying to find a less problematic anti-inflammatory pain reliever since, quite frankly, in the realm of conventional medicine, it doesn’t exist.

    Tylenol, as most everyone on the planet knows, is used to treat everything from minor aches and pains to fever.  It lowers a chemical in the brain that stimulates pain nerves and the heat-regulating center in the brain.
    Side effects can include rash hives, itching difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, dark urine or pale stools, unusual fatigue, and yellowing of the skin or eyes. 
    Most who only occasionally use this medicine will probably never experience the more serious adverse reactions.  But for those of us who suffer from chronic illness, we’re more likely to experience most if not all of them due to the ever increasing dosage required to alleviate the pain and discomfort. I was one of them.  I experienced the “Tylenol headache”, another name for the liver damage that comes with overdosing; not once but a number of times.  It was excruciating beyond words.

    Aspirin, an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), is a willow bark extract. It received its name back in 1899 from Bayer, who holds the registered trademark to this day.  Though its been given a rather benign status of late as a preventative for heart attacks, there are up to 500 deaths attributed to Aspirin every year.
    Side effects for Aspirin are heartburn, nausea, upset stomach, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, black or bloody stools, confusion, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, severe or persistent stomach pain, unusual bruising, vomiting, and of course, death.

    Advil, also an NSAID, is yet another mystery to its creators and distributors (doctors, hospitals, drug merchants).  No one actually knows how it works.  What do you think would be the chances of you or I receiving a patent for a medical device, let alone getting it to production, if we didn’t know what made it tick? Kind of strips the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of all credibility, doesn’t it?
    Possible side effects for Advil are constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, gas, headache, heartburn, nausea, stomach pain or upset, rash, hives, itching, trouble breathing, tightness the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, bloody or black, tarry stools, change in the amount of urine produced, chest pain, confusion, dark urine, depression, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, or persistent sore throat, mental or mood changes, numbness of an arm or leg, one-sided weakness, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin, ringing in the ears, seizures, severe headache or dizziness, severe or persistent stomach pain or nausea, severe vomiting, shortness of breath, stiff neck, sudden or unexplained weight gain, swelling of hands, legs, or feet, unusual bruising or bleeding, unusual joint or muscle pain, unusual tiredness or weakness, vision or speech changes, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.  Taking Ibuprofen increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.  It also increases the risk of fatal stomach ulcers and bleeding.  This is not a complete list.

    Aleve, is also an NSAID.  Another mystery drug, its function is largely a mystery to modern (?) science.  Amazing what we are forced to gamble just for relief of “minor aches and pains”.
    Side effects to Aleve are constipation, diarrhea dizziness, drowsiness, gas, headache, heartburn, nausea, stomach upset, stuffy nose, rash, hives itching, trouble breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, bloody or black, tarry stools, change in the amount of urine produced, chest pain, confusion, dark urine, depression, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, or persistent sore throat, mental or mood changes, numbness of an arm or leg, one-sided weakness, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin, ringing in the ears, seizures, severe headache or dizziness, severe or persistent stomach pain or nausea, severe vomiting, shortness of breath, sudden or unexplained weight gain, swelling of hands, legs, or feet, unusual bruising or bleeding, unusual joint or muscle pain, unusual tiredness or weakness, vision or speech changes, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.  Like Ibuprofen, Naproxen increases your risk of heart attack and stroke and your risk of fatal stomach ulcers and bleeding.  This is not a complete list.

Muscle relaxers, like Flexeril and Zanaflex are commonly used to ease the pain of Fibromyalgia.
    Curiously, physicians and scientists don’t know exactly how Flexeril works, either.   All they know for sure is that it relieves pain and muscle spasms.  Like so many drugs that are approved by the FDA, little details like “not knowing how it works”, are apparently not considered when tabulated with yet another profitable revenue stream.  Just who does the FDA work for, anyway? 
   
    Flexeril is what is called a tricyclic muscle relaxant.  It is marketed to reduce muscle spasms.
    Side effects of  Flexeril are constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, nervousness, stomach pain or upset, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, chest pain, confusion, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, mental or mood changes, numbness of an arm or a leg, one-sided weakness, seizures, sudden severe stomach pain, severe dizziness or vomiting, speech or vision problems, trouble urinating, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.

    Zanaflex  is a skeletal muscle relaxant that is used to treat muscle spasms. 
    Side effects include constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, flushing, tiredness, weakness, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, change in emotions, mood, or behavior, hallucinations, increased muscle spasms, muscle weakness, slow heartbeat, trouble urinating or lack of bladder control, urinary tract infection, and yellowing of the skin eyes.

Antidepressants, like Amitriptyline, Sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and Fluoxetine (Prozac).  I ran the gamut on these guys. 

    Amitriptyline is a very old, well known, and popularly prescribed antidepressant.  It is thought to increase the activity of certain chemicals in the brain like Norepinephrine and Serotonin, but no one knows for certain (who’d have guessed). 
    It did little if anything for me. 
    Side effects of Amitriptyline are blurred vision, change in sexual desire or ability, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, tiredness, trouble sleeping, weakness, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, chest pain, confusion, dark urine, delusions, difficulty speaking or swallowing, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, or sore throat, hallucinations, new or worsening agitation, anxiety, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, restlessness, or inability to sit still; numbness or tingling in an arm or leg, one-sided weakness, seizures, severe or persistent dizziness or headache, severe or persistent trouble sleeping, slurred speech, suicidal thoughts or actions, tremor, trouble urinating, uncontrolled muscle movements, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual or severe mental or mood changes, vision problems, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.

    Zoloft and Paxil caused sexual side-effects that I would really prefer to not go into.  Beyond that, they did little for me to curb the Fibromyalgia symptoms.

    Zoloft is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and Social Anxiety Disorder, to name a few.
    Side effects can include anxiety, constipation, decreased sexual desire or ability, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating, loss of appetitive, nausea, nervousness, stomach upset, tiredness, trouble sleeping, vomiting, weight loss, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, bizarre behavior, black or bloody stools, chest pain, decreased bladder control, exaggerated reflexes, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, hallucinations, loss of coordination, new or worsening agitation, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, restlessness, or inability to sit still, persistent or severe ringing in the ears, persistent, painful erection, red swollen, blistered or peeling skin, seizures, severe or persistent anxiety, trouble sleeping, stomach pain, suicidal thoughts or attempts, tremor, unusual bruising or bleeding, unusual or severe mental or mood changes, vision changes, and worsening of depression.

    Paxil is also used for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder( OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder.
    Side effects of using Paxil include anxiety, blurred vision, constipation, decreased sexual desire or ability, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, gas, increased sweating, increased urination, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, stomach upset, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, unusual skin sensations, weakness, yawning, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, bizarre behavior, black or bloody stools, chest pain, exaggerated reflexes, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, or sore throat, hallucinations, loss of coordination new or worsening agitation, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, restlessness, or inability to sit still, persistent or severe ringing in the ears, persistent, painful erection, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin, seizures, severe or persistent anxiety or trouble sleeping, significant weight loss, stomach pain, suicidal thoughts or attempts, tremor, unusual bruising or bleeding, unusual or severe mental or mood changes, vision changes, and worsening of depression.

    Over 22.2 million prescriptions for Fluoxetine, the generic of Prozac, were filled in the United States in 2007.  It’s been approved by the FDA for treating major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, and panic disorder.
    Wow, Prozac.  That was what I took the longest.  It seemed to help, but it also took away something; my confidence, my sanity, maybe a piece of my soul.  I was still paying a price for taking Prozac long after I stopped taking it.  Read through the side-effects.  I can vouch for most of them.
    Side effects for Prozac include:  anxiety decreased sexual desire or ability, diarrhea, dizziness drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, stomach upset, trouble sleeping, weakness, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face lips, or tongue, bizarre behavior, black or bloody stools chest pain, confusion, exaggerated reflexes, excessive sweating fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, or sore throat, hallucinations, increased urination, joint or wrist aches or pain, loss of coordination, new or worsening agitation, panic attacks, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, hostility, exaggerated feeling of well-being, restlessness, or inability to sit still, persistent or severe ringing in the ears, persistent, painful erection, red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin, seizures, severe or persistent anxiety, trouble sleeping, significant weight  loss, stomach pain, suicidal thoughts or attempts, tremor, unusual bruising or bleeding, unusual hoarseness, unusual or severe mental or mood changes, unusual swelling, vision changes, and worsening of depression. 
    Of course, as it is with most of the over-the-counter and prescription meds listed here, if you’re on other prescription medications, drug interactions open up a whole new list of side effects.

     More recently, anti-seizure medications, like Neurontin and Lyrica have been used to treat the pain of Fibromyalgia.

    Neurontin was originally developed to treat epilepsy.  It’s widely used to treat neuropathic pain and frequent migraines. 
    Side-effects include dizziness, drowsiness, peripheral edema (swelling of extremities), mild-to-moderate mood swings, hostility, concentration problems, hyperactivity, and hepatotoxicity (chemically caused liver damage).   

    Lyrica, an anticonvulsant that is also used for neuropathic pain and seizures, has been popularly advertised to treat the pain of Fibromyalgia. 
    Side-effects include hallucinations, vivid dreams, weakness, fever, low blood pressure, dehydration, severe drowsiness, fluid retention in the legs, feet, arms, arms, or hands, dizziness, disease of the nerves, blurred vision, sensation of spinning or whirling, weight gain, infection, dry mouth, infrequent bowel movements, chronic pain, head pain, double vision, Pink Eye, middle ear infection, ringing in the ears, hemorrhage of blood under the skin, inflammation of lining of the stomach and intestines, hives, skin blisters, muscle spasms, difficulty with voluntary movement, water retention, puffy face, difficulty speaking, wheezing, trouble breathing, chest pain, difficulty with bladder control, numbness and tingling, low blood sugar, decreased blood platelets, confusion, suicidal thoughts, problems with eyesight, involuntary eye movement, sinus irritation, and congestion, Bronchitis, erectile dysfunction, twitching, fingernail and/or toenail disease, joint pain, backache, abnormal increase in muscle tone, muscle weakness, muscle pain, leg cramps, inability to concentrate, memory loss, stupor, fever, low energy, quivering, twitching, difficulty walking, increased hunger, nausea, gas, diarrhea, frequent urination, stomach cramps, abdominal swelling, nervousness, anxiousness, loss of reality or identity, and sexual problems.

The headaches

    Many weeks, I experienced two to three moderate to severe migraines a week.  Each migraine was like a mini seizure, with a little more of my short and long term memory disappearing with each episode.
    Pharmaceuticals did little to control the headaches.  Consequently, my migraine specialist regularly injected me with experimental medications, often with horrific results.      

    A migraine is a neurological syndrome that can exhibit altered bodily experiences, painful headaches, nausea, vomiting, heightened, often painful sensitivity to smells, bright lights and noise, sometimes preceded by an aura.
    For most all of us who suffer or have suffered from migraines, self-treatment begins with over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol or Advil and nausea medicine like Tums, Gaviscon, and Maalox.
    We also quickly learned to avoid things that can trigger them, like certain foods, bright lights, loud noises, certain odors, physical and emotional stress, changes in sleep patterns, smoking or exposure to smoke (including but not reserved to cigarettes), skipping meals, and alcohol.  Other things specific to the individual can set off a migraine.  Often they occur seemingly without reason.  
    Unfortunately for me and so many like me, we’re forced to seek the help of physicians and specialists who immediately begin a procession of pharmaceuticals.

    Common prescriptions that are doled out for migraines are Triptans like Imitrex, or mix and match cocktails – Fioricet and Ergot Alkaloids like Cafergot.

    Imitrex works by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain.  When I was first diagnosed, it was only available in an injection.  Soon after, it was made available in a pill, though the injection had a much more immediate effect.
    Side effects include burning, dizziness, drowsiness, feeling of heaviness or pressure, muscle aches, numbness or tingling of the skin, sick feeling, tingling, tiredness, warm/hot sensation, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, bloody diarrhea, chest pain, confusion, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, hallucinations, hearing problems, numbness or tingling of an arm or leg, one-sided weakness, pain, tightness, or pressure in the jaw, neck, or chest, seizures, severe headache, dizziness, vomiting, severe or prolonged flushing, severe stomach pain, shortness of breath, speech changes, very cold or blue fingers or toes, vision changes or loss of vision, and wheezing.

    Fioricet comes with or without codeine.  It’s a combination of Acetaminophen (for pain and fever), butalbital (a muscle relaxer), and caffeine (relaxes the contraction of blood vessels).  It’s used to treat tension headaches that are caused by muscle contractions.
    Side effects include fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat, feeling light-headed or short of breath, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness, fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion or lightheadedness, dry mouth, loss of appetite, feeling anxious or jittery, drunk feeling, and headache.

    Cafergot is a combination of Caffeine and Ergotamine, both vascular constrictors.  It’s used to treat migraines by constricting blood vessels in the lining of the brain.
    Side effects to Cafergot are nausea, rash, hives itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, blue color of the fingers or toes, chest pain or tightness, cold or pale fingers or toes, diarrhea, dizziness, hallucinations, headache, irregular heartbeat, leg cramps or weakness, mental or mood changes, muscle pain, numbness or tingling of the hands, feet, or skin, ringing in the ears, seizure, severe or persistent nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, swelling, temporary fast or slow heartbeat, vomiting, and weak pulse. 
    My migraine specialist had me on something similar that he had concocted.  He called it Pink-Ergot/Caff/Butal/APAP.  Ergot for Ergotamine (like Cafergot), is derived from ergot fungus, the same stuff that’s used to make LSD.  Caff is for Caffeine (also like Cafergot).  Butal is for Butalbital, a barbiturate.  APAP is for Paracetamol or Acetaminophen, a widely used analgesic, (the same stuff as Tylenol or Ultram).
    It actually did help stem off a migraine if I caught it soon enough.  Of course, with it containing four harmful drugs, most that I have already addressed here, you may have already guessed that the side-effects were longer than your arm and leg combined.

    Methylphenidate is a drug that most might recall was given to children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  It’s a stimulant that seems to have the reverse effect on someone who is legitimately hyperactive.  It was prescribed to me to counteract the one most prominent symptom of Fibromyalgia, “brain fog”. 
    Brain fog or fibrofog is a cognitive dysfunction which may be characterized by impaired concentration, problems with short and long-term memory, short-term memory consolidation, impaired speed of performance, inability to multi-task, cognitive overload, diminished attention span, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
    Side effects of Methylphenidate are dizziness, drowsiness, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, stomach pain, trouble sleeping, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, joint pain, purple or brownish red spots on the skin, behavior changes (aggression, hostility), blurred vision or other vision problems, chest pain, confusion, dark urine, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, or sore throat, hallucinations, agitation, anxiety, depression, irritability, persistent crying, unusual sadness, seizures, severe or persistent dizziness or headache, suicidal thoughts or attempts, uncontrolled speech or muscle movements, and yellowing of the eyes or skin.  

    My stomach was constantly upset; from the illness and the continually changing regiments of prescription drugs.  The pain, weakness, and confusion made it impossible for me to work.  I had to leave my certified welder and pipefitter position with Ameren, our local electric utility, my computer consulting business, and close our much needed food pantry.  Later, we lost our cars, our home, and eventually our marriage. 

    In 1997, I went on full disability.  It was also that year that I discovered information regarding cannabis and its treatment for Fibromyalgia. 
    What followed was anything short of miraculous.  After just a few weeks of dosing with cannabis, my short and long term memory began to return – a bonus I didn’t expect.  The pain from the Fibromyalgia lessened substantially.  After a few months, my migraines became largely non-existent.

    According to Wikipedia.org, Fibromyalgia patients frequently self -report using cannabis therapeutically to treat symptoms of the disorder.  Writing in the July 2006 issue of the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, investigators at Germany’s University of Heidelberg evaluated the analgesic effects of oral THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in nine patients with fibromyalgia over a 3-month period. Subjects in the trial were administered daily doses of 2.5 to 15 mg of THC, but received no other pain medication during the trial. Among those participants who completed the trial, all reported a significant reduction in daily recorded pain and electronically induced pain.  Previous clinical and preclinical trials have shown that both naturally occurring and endogenous cannabinoids hold analgesic qualities, particularly in the treatment of cancer pain and neuropathic pain, both of which are poorly treated by conventional opioids. As a result, some experts have suggested that cannabinoid agonists would be applicable for the treatment of chronic pain conditions unresponsive to opioid analgesics such as Fibromyalgia, and they propose that the disorder may be associated with an underlying clinical deficiency of the endocannabinoid system.

    I have now been a medical cannabis patient for over ten years.  My memory has continued to sharpen with the years.  The only difficulties that I have encountered with my health have occurred when my medicine was not available.  A few months ago, while rationing my meds, I had my first full blown seizure.
    As far as side effects from the use of Cannabis, I have noticed an occasional drop in cognitive function, (i.e. short-term memory loss and impaired concentration), but these are also symptoms of Fibromyalgia and also seem to coincide with stressful events and changes in barometric pressure (also characteristic of Fibromyalgia).
    Interestingly, despite the government’s classification as a “hallucinogen”, I have NEVER suffered hallucinations while using Cannabis.  You may have already noticed, many of the pharmaceuticals described here list hallucinations as a side effect.

My work 

Up until 2006, my involvement in the medical cannabis movement was limited to writing on the web and contacts with state Representatives and Senators.
In April of 2006 I left Charleston, South Carolina bound for San Francisco, California with a group called Journey for Justice 7.  I drove a support truck and was the on-road coordinator for the project, which featured three bicyclers.  The lead biker, Ken Locke, who founded Journey 7, is also a medical cannabis patient.
Our purpose was to educate people across the country about the benefits of cannabis for the treatment of the chronically ill.  That was also when I began collecting the testimonies of medical cannabis patients, their family members, and physicians on video.  I have continued to collect testimonies, making it the primary focus for my activism.

    The work I am doing has come to be called Cannabis Patient Network.  Up until the first of August, 2008, I was the only one working on this project.  During my most recent visit to North Carolina, I enlisted the assistance of videographer Ervin Dargan, my good friend and fellow activist.
Currently, we have over 70 videos of cannabis patients on our youtube channel, CannabisPatientNet, with another 7 or so still in edit.  We should well exceed 100 interviews by the first of the year. 
    I have interviewed patients with Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Fibromyalgia, Epilepsy, chronic pain, migraines, breast cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, Acoustic Neuroma,  skin cancer, brain aneurism,  stuttering, PTSD, Crohns, Lupus,  chronic depression and anxiety, other mental issues, Neuropathy of the feet, Neurological pain due to paralysis, and many more that I don’t venture to try to spell or pronounce.
    My goal is to have tens of thousands of Testimonies, from every District of every state in the Union.

    We provide science and medical research to back up the testimonies of the chronically ill of whom we interview.  In addition, we extensively research the illnesses and injuries, the pharmaceuticals that the patients have taken, their side effects, and results of their regular dosing with cannabis.

     I have the curious ability to gain the trust of otherwise reluctant chronically ill individuals.  Perhaps it is because I am also a patient and have regularly told my story publicly.  For whatever reason, this work has grown exponentially, building on the interviews that we have already done.  That gives us validity, creating confidence in prospective patients and their communities. 

    We’re constantly looking for more of the chronically ill who would be willing to sit for an interview.  I’m convinced that most people don’t realize the power they have in their personal testimony.

 “We have something that relieves suffering.”

 What works

    The vast majority of the chronically ill don’t know that cannabis is real medicine and that this God given plant could give them a better quality of life.  That’s where we, the cannabis patient, come in.  Its so simple that most activists can’t fathom it. 
    All we have to do is tell the truth.  Our own, personal story.  That’s all.  The world wants to hear it.  They know that the drug companies are killing us.  What they don’t know is that cannabis could very well save their lives, or at least, make them more tolerable. 

     The truth is in the telling.  We are real people.  We are a portion of the middleclass that affects 100% of America, because every family in America has at least one member who is chronically ill. 

     Join with me.  Lift up the hands that hang down. We’ll save lives and change law.

 Mark D. Pedersen
www.cannabispatient.net
cannabispatientnet@swbell.net