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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

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   In spite of everything he’s been through, Richard is a remarkably easy going guy.  Unless you knew him, you’d never know that he was chronically ill.  But then, his more obvious scars have healed. 
    In 1991, while working construction, Richard fell over 40 feet, severely dislocating his left shoulder.  Five surgeries were to follow, so was pain that would not go away.  This was in addition to three herniated discs in his neck and seizures that he has suffered from as a result of multiple head injuries.
     Through it all, he has seen 7 pain management Physicians.  They intern doled out the usual fair of highly toxic prescription pain killers,  – OxyContin, Methadone, Morphine, and Percocet – common opiates.  In addition, the was given Dilantin to offset the seizures.  
    These drugs, though highly addictive, can be quite affective in reducing or even eliminating pain in the short term.  Unfortunately, because of their toxicity, they are normally only prescribed for short durations.  People with chronic pain are almost always left lacking once their physicians have exhausted their short list of narcotics.

Richard uses Cannabis to treat his chronic pain and seizures 

    These toxic pain killers racked Richard’s body with a host of side effects:

OxyContin is a narcotic pain reliever.  It’s used to treat moderate to severe pain.  Side effects include:  constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, sleeplessness, vomiting, weakness, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, confusion, difficulty urinating, fast or slow heartbeat, seizures, severe dizziness, lightheadedness,, or fainting, slowed or difficult breathing, tremor, vision changes.    

Methadone is a narcotic analgesic.  It’s used to treat moderate to severe pain. Side effects include:  constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, confusion, excessive drowsiness, fainting, fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat, loss of appetite, mental or mood changers, seizures, severe or persistent dizziness or lightheadedness, shortness of breath, slow heartbeat, slow or shallow breathing, swelling of the arms, feet, or legs, trouble sleeping, trouble urinating, unusual bruising or bleeding.

Morphine is a narcotic pain reliever.  Side effects include:  constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, exaggerated sense of well-being, headache, lightheadedness, nausea, restless mood, vomiting, rash, haves, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, throat, or tongue, excessive drowsiness, hallucinations, pounding in the chest, seizures, shock, shortness of breath, sudden chest pain, and sweating.

Percocet  is a combination of a narcotic and an analgesic/antipyretic, Acetaminophen and Oxycodone. It’s used to relieve moderate to moderately severe pain.  Side effects include: constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, flushing, lightheadedness, mental/mood changes, nausea, vision changes, vomiting, rash, hives, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue, change in amount of urine, dark urine, slow or irregular heartbeat, slow or irregular breathing, stomach pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes.

Dilantin is an anti-epileptic drug, an anticonvulsant. Side effects include:  hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, tongue, or throat, swollen glands, fever, sore throat, headache, skin rash, confusion, hallucinations, unusual thoughts or behavior, slurred speech, loss ob balance or coordination, restless muscle movements in the eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck, tremor (uncontrolled shaking), extreme thirst or hunger, urinating more than usual, nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), easy bruising or bleeding, swollen or tender gums, changes in the shape of the face or lips, itching, dizziness, nervousness, sleep problems (insomnia), twitching, vomiting, constipation, headache, and joint pain.  Other side effects may occur.

    A common complaint among chronic pain sufferers is constipation.  Physicians are hardly quick to tell us that a side effect to Opiate pain killers is an apparent shutdown of internal function.  Only those who have experienced it know the terrible pain and humiliation that we experience as a trade-off for the pain – and this is only one of many terrible side-effects.  Rarely do physicians tell you, when this awful side effect sets in, that the cause isn’t a symptom of the disease, but actually caused by the pharmaceuticals that are supposed to be treating the condition.  
    The next thing one can expect their physician to order is a stool softener, and maybe an exchange of medicine to another narcotic, but once someone has been graduated to an opiate/narcotic pain medication, there is very little else available on that level. 
    If this condition persists, one can eventually expect to be fitted with a Colostomy bag.  

    For Richard, there was still yet another hardship to face.  He contracted Hepatitis C.

    Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease affecting the liver.  It is a very serious, potentially fatal condition.   An estimated 150-200 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C.

    Hepatitis C compromised Richard’s liver.  Now he must be very careful about toxins like Opiates.  Dosages that his physicians used to prescribe would most certainly kill him now.
    His only choices were to live out the rest of his life in excruciating pain and disability, or seek out a holistic alternative that would by-pass the liver entirely.  Cannabis is the only medication that fits that bill.
    When Cannabis is smoked or vaporized, it provides a holistic treatment for pain, seizures, and many other very serious health conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalgia, Lou Gerick’s Disease, and others.  For those who are suffering from liver disease, Cannabis can be safely ingested through the lungs, thus bypassing the liver and  avoiding any unnecessary distress
    What’ more, studies have shown that when heavier narcotics are required for pain or relief from seizures, dosing with cannabis can reduce the amount of prescriptions required to as little as 1/3.

    Cannabis is not only the best choice for Richard medically, it’s his only choice.

    Back in the early 90’s, William was in a car accident.  He sustained whiplash, a couple of herniated discs, and a few broken bones.
    Complications from the back injury prompted his physicians to put him on a cascade of lethal pharmaceuticals.
    A couple of drugs put him in the hospital, some caused hallucinations, others – uncontrolled body temperature, still others – violent fits.  “The anti-depressants basically made me happy I was in pain,” remarked William.

    Anti-depressants are routinely doled out to the chronically ill under the premise that, whether the cause or the effect, the patient must be depressed.

    William suffered with a migraine that lasted for a year.  He would have to lock himself in the bedroom, pull the shades and lay there in the darkness.  Often he would cry from the intense pain.

William struggled with prescription narcotics

    The drugs that his doctors had him on put him in another world.  They robbed him of his short-term memory.  The only thing that kept him grounded to reality while he was on prescription meds was the pain.
    The only drug that he found that sufficiently relieved the pain was Percocet.  But because of its toxicity, physicians will only prescribe it on a limited basis.

    Percocet, a narcotic analgesic, is used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain.  It contains two drugs – Acetaminophen and Oxycodone.  Acetaminophen is used to reduce both pain and fever.  Oxycodone, a narcotic analgesic, is used for its calming effect and for pain.
Percocet is known to cause dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, sedation, and vomiting, but most serious is its high tendency for dependence.

    William had a friend who asked him if he had ever tried Cannabis.  He admitted that he had used Cannabis on occasion recreationally.  His friend asked him if he’d ever used it to treat his pain.  William realized that when he used Cannabis, he felt better.
    He and his friend went out and obtained some “black-market” Cannabis and William began dosing.
    That day was the first time that he had control over his pain in 14 months.  He cried that day, not because he was in pain, but because he was released from it.

    He’ll always have the injuries that he sustained from that car accident long ago.  But he’s able to manage his pain now, with Cannabis and physical fitness.  He finds that he doesn’t have to dose on a daily basis anymore, but only on the days when the pain is too much.  On those days, Cannabis “… does the job for me.”  With it, he no longer takes any pharmaceutical meds for pain.
    The only side effect he has experienced from dosing with Cannabis is that he got hungry.

    But the story doesn’t end there.  William was diagnosed with Epilepsy when he was eight years old.  He’s been on a wide range of medications to treat it.  Depakene, Depakote, Tegretol, Dilantin, Phenobarbital, Klonopin, and many others.

William realized that he had one month to find an alternative.

    With some of his medicines, all he wanted to do was sleep.  He spent much of the time unconscious.  The Tegretol gave him violent mood swings.  Others would cause him to break out in rashes or hives; one even caused him to bleed on the surface of his skin.
    It was Klonopin that finally enabled him to gain control of his seizures.
Due to the seriousness of Klonopin, physicians only prescribe it as a last resort.  Two of the many side-effects of this serious drug are short-term memory loss and coma, but with the high frequency of seizures that William was experiencing, he considered it a worthwhile trade off. 
    At one point, he was experiencing 12 to 15 seizures a day.

    For years, wherever he moved, whatever doctors that he would have treat him, they would always prescribe Klonopin.
    A few years ago, he fell on hard times.  He owed his physician money, so the physician refused to treat him or sign for refills of his prescription.
    It’s hard for him to discuss this time of his life without him becoming emotional.  He remembers going to his physician’s office, with other patients there, pleading with him to give him his medicine – so that he could work, so that he could drive – he was a single father with two kids – so that he could do the things he normally did that he knew he wouldn’t’ be able to do without that medicine.
    The physician begrudgingly agreed to fill William’s prescription for Klonopin just one more time, but that was it.

    William realized that he had one month to find an alternative.  He got online and looked up alternative treatments for Epilepsy.  He found a vegetarian diet, exercise, meditation, prayer, and Cannabis.  Because he only had 30 days, he did them all.  he turned vegetarian, he started a strict exercise program, he meditated and prayed every day, and he started smoking Cannabis religiously.
    When the 30 days were up, the prescription was gone, but he didn’t have anymore seizures.
What’s more, they stayed gone.  After a year, he was no longer a vegetarian, he didn’t meditate and pray every day, and he didn’t exercise like he should, but he continued to dose with Cannabis.  It’s been three years and he has not been on any prescribed medicine and it’s also been three years that he has been seizure free.
    About six months after he had been off the Klonopin, William’s physician ordered an EEG at the local hospital to check the progress of his Epilepsy.  What they found was that the seizure activity in his brain had actually increased, but they no longer surfaced.  He no longer had any visible seizures.

    William is a hard working American.  He works a full time job and contributes greatly to his community.  William takes care of special needs children.  So much so that a number of local agencies compete for his services.
    He’s raised two children on his own.  Now he’s helping others raise their children.
    All William wants – instead of pumping his body full of pharmaceutical toxins, making him sick, lose his memory, lose his mind – is just to be able to medicate with Cannabis once in a while, so that he can be clear headed and pain free, so that he can continue to be an asset to society.

    To view more of our Medical Cannabis Testimonies, please visit our website at www.youtube.com/cannabispatientnet .  We need your Testimony.  Please contact me today about scheduling your interview.  Help us change law through your personal story.  I can be contacted at seren001@swbell.net.

    Eddie & his wife, Diana were the first two patients that I interviewed back in April of 2006 prior to the beginning of Journey for Justice 7.  Their story epitomizes the heartbreak endured by many of the chronically ill.

    When Eddie was 7 years old, he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle.  He sustained a serious head injury.  Diagnosed with Epilepsy, anti-seizure medications like Dilantin quickly became a part of his every day life.
    Though Eddie grew up, he was never quite free of the seizures, that is until much later when he tried cannabis.  To his surprise, not only did it alleviate the seizures.  It also put an end to the blackouts and the “funny feelings”  that he has had in his head since the accident.

    He wasn’t sure if it was the cannabis that was countering the seizures, so he stopped taking it for a short while.  Soon after, he suffered an Epileptic seizure, totaling out his wife’s car.  Fortunately, he had just dropped his son off and was alone when he hit a telephone pole.

Eddie suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and Epilepsy

    In  2004, Eddie was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.  At this point, he realized that he needed stronger medicine.  something that would relieve the pain; an anti-inflammatory for the cramps in his legs; something viable; something that would help him keep the weight on.  Something that wouldn’t further compromise his frail immune system with toxic side effects the way pharmaceuticals most certainly would.
    What he discovered was , again, cannabis.  Only cannabis could adequately treat his varied illnesses.  He could eat.  He gained 45 pounds.  With his small frame, every pound is a blessing.
    He could distance himself from the pain.  Simple movements were again possible.  With cannabis, Eddie could do without his cane and his wheelchair more frequently.

    Eddie’s wife, Diana was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  She discovered that with cannabis, she not only could feel better and fend off the onslaught of her disease, but could even go back to work.

    Even though the $350 to $450 a month for commercial, black-market cannabis was often more than their meager budget could bear, Eddie made every effort to dose regularly with cannabis, because both he and his wife realized that with it, they felt better and were more productive.

    Unfortunately, the state did not see or care what benefits Eddie and Diana were receiving from cannabis.  The state of South Carolina apparently has a blind adherence to the law.  Because of that, the powers-that-be didn’t care about their crippling disabilities.  They didn’t care that the healing benefits of cannabis was all that was holding this family together.
    The state took Diana and Eddie’s children.  That was a couple years before my first interview with them.  Still, now, four years later, they can only see them during a supervised visits.
    Their kids have suffered abuse while in foster care and their grades have suffered.

    Eddie, like so many other chronically ill Americans, has found that his greatest adversary is not his life threatening illness, but the very government that was pledged to preserve and protect him.

    To view all our Medical Cannabis Testimonies, please visit www.youtube.com/cannabispatientnet.


    Mark lives in the City of St. Louis. He had been living a relatively healthy life up until about a year ago. A seemingly innocent sinus infection turned life-threatening, culminating in brain surgery. His life was turned upside down.

Mark suffers from seizures

    Mark soon found himself on many prescription drugs, disabled, and prone to seizures. Mark discovered that cannabis eased his anxiety and lessened his seizures.

    To view all our Medical Cannabis Testimonies, please visit my youtube channel CannabisPatientNet, and to view our legislative reform, go to http://www.markpedersen.com and http://www.gstlnorml.org.

Rod’s house burned down in January 2007.

Rod suffers from Epilepsy

While his house was still burning, the fire department there in St. Charles, Missouri chose to break down the door into his grow room, even though that part of his house wasn’t involved in the fire. They also chose to pry open the locked drawers of a steel desk looking for cash rather than fight the fire that was consuming the rest of his house. Rod’s lacerations and burns had to wait while he was handcuffed in the street in front of his neighbors and children and hauled off to jail, while his home still burned.
Though Rod used cannabis from his personal garden for his personal use to treat his Epilepsy, he was charged with manufacture, distribution, and other felonies just like a street drug dealer. To add insult to injury, the St. Charles Fire Department distributed a video of their heroic efforts, rummaging through Rod’s home looking for cash and contraband, among other fire departments around St. Louis and St. Charles County.

His pharmaceutical use is reduced to a third with Cannabis

To view all our Medical Cannabis Testimonies, please visit my youtube channel CannabisPatientNet, and to view our legislative reform, go to http://www.markpedersen.com and http://www.gstlnorml.org