Many of us were offered a hit. While some may have said “No thanks. I have fill in blank for excuse,” some of us tried it and coughed up a lung. As the others laughed at the consequence of your first puff, you hold in the smoke, inspect the object within your fingers, and either shake your head in disgust or nod your head with a grin. After that first time, a few of us (who grinned) returned to claim a cushion of an old sofa (or an old futon or floor space or fold-out chair on the balcony) and performed the classic ritual of puff-puff-and-pass while watching Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke” or an episode of Family Guy. If you are chuckling at this very moment, then one of two things can be assumed, 1) I am f*#cking hilarious or 2) you were (are??) a stoner.
- WHO CELEBRATES: Anyone who is a pothead. Of course, college students roam free on some grassy field. Other devout-users, who happen to have a job, will take a vacation-day. I know someone who is thirty-something and never takes a day off– EXCEPT on April 20th of every year.
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Of course the origin of 420 is shady. Some sources say it was a code for marijuana spread among California-pot users in the 1960s and spread nationwide among followers of the Grateful Dead. There is even legend that says that 420 was once police code in Southern California to denote marijuana use.
- FUN FACT 1: Today in Austin, Texas, country music legend and an open devout-user, Willie Nelson, helped unveil an 8-foot statue of himself in downtown Austin at 4:20 p.m. local time.
- HOW MANY STATES HAVE LEGALIZED MEDICAL MARIJUANA? Sixteen states (starting with California in 1996) now allow the use of medicinal marijuana.
- REMINDER: Marijuana use, sale and possession are STILL illegal under federal law.
- FUN FACT 2: Archaeologists have identified fibers from cannabis stems in specimens dating back to 4000 BC, and its incorporation into textiles and paper was found in the tombs of the Chinese Han dynasty (∼100 BC) (Zuardi AW. Rev Bras Psiquiatr 2006).
- FUN FACT 3: I am high-as-a-kite as I am writing this. (go ahead… catch all the mistakes and typos within this post)
So, other than joining all the other bloggers’ attempt to get some attention on April 20, why do I dedicate a post to this?
Fellow lupus warriors, do you remember that first time when you described your intense pain to an outsider? Unless that person was made out of coal, he/she empathized with you, and immediately tried to help you find a solution. Remember those first couple of suggestions?
“Have you ever… um… tried smoking weed to deal with the pain? [sometimes followed with] I know a guy…”
We have all been asked. We have all researched it. We have all considered it. Many websites are dedicated with the use of marijuana and lupus. What does the medical research say? Using my research skills for some good, I performed a medical literature search on the topic– using the search terms “cannabis” and “lupus”– one article from 1998 comes up. A result of 148 articles come up when I broaden my search (using the terms “cannabis” and “chronic pain”). In summary: The analgesic effects of smoking weed remain controversial. That really doesn’t stop anyone, a (under)reported 10-15% of patients with non-cancer pain still light up a doobie (Ware MA, Doyle CR, Woods R, et al. Pain 2003).
Why Mary Jane to Treat the Pain?: The first record of cannabis as a medicine can be found in the oldest Chinese pharmacopeia, written in AD 25 to AD 220, which was indicated for rheumatic pain, malaria, constipation, and disorders of the female reproductive system (Touw M. J Psychoactive Drugs 1981). Without going through all the pharmacological mechanism on the nervous system, let me just say there is a biological plausibility for smoking to reduce pain.
Does it Work?: Based on personal experience, HELL YES IT DOES. But it is no miracle drug, just like all good things in life (i.e., vicodin), the effects do not last long nor are they powerful. Smoking dulls the pain and puts me at ease. Also, smoking helped solve my appetite-loss and nausea associated with beginning uses of methotrexate.
When Do I Light Up?: Not everyday. I am not going to lie, when I first got my hands on marijuana, I would light up every night. Sounds fun, eh? EXCEPT I started to realize that the effects were faaaaaaading away fast. In other words, the potency of smoking weakened with every light. Similar to other painkillers, I became use to its effects and more was needed to dull the pain. Also, lighting up everyday did not work well with my lupus CNS. Marijuana can cause multiple psychmotor symptoms, including impairment of cognition and memory. I already experience foggy-moments, shakes, memory loss and etc… I certainly did not want to intensify these symptoms! Currently, I save my joints for those special occasions. You know- those days when you are at the point of tears from the pain and frustrated with the situation. On those special days, I hobble to the balcony and “take a breath.”
Why the Doctors Are Not Handing You a Joint with Your Painkiller Prescription: Weed/cannabis/mary jane/pot is recognized as a substance with a high potential for dependence, which occurs in 1 out of 10 people of anyone who takes a puff. It can lead to behaviors of preoccupation, compulsion, reinforcement, and withdrawal after chronic use (Dragt S et al. Can J Psychiatry 2010). Smoking can also cause some other bad things to happen to users, especially the first-comers. So, it just comes down to balancing the risks and benefits. The potential risks are known and the benefits are not that great to trump the risks (boooooo!!!).
You thinking about it? I believe we should try anything once, how else will we know if we like it or if it even works. USE CAUTION! Tell your doctor that you are using. There is no shame in being open about it when using for pain treatment. Get your dose from someone dependable— NOT from your friend’s, friend’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s roommate. As with any new treatment, use your common sense and don’t be dumb.
Enjoy 420. Light up, take it easy and zone-out, lupus warriors. I leave you with three of my favorite smoking songs: