What’s it like to use medical marijuana to help me cope with my MS symptoms.
My Sativex journey – medicinal cannabis is a powerful anti-spasmodic drug, which helps with my worst painful MS symptoms but it comes with some pretty hefty side effects initially. Definitely worth a try, but to get the most out of medicinal cannabis, you must proceed with caution.
Cannabis, Ganja, Hash, Weed are just some of the slang names on the street used to describe cannabis-based drugs and their derivatives. Though several countries and states have legalised or at least decriminalised cannabis sale and consumption for recreational purposes (Holland, Spain, some US states, Canada, Australia etc) in the UK, cannabis is still classified as a Class B drug, illegal for production, sale and recreational use. However, as of November 2018, the use of medicinal cannabis in the UK has been legalised when prescribed by a registered specialist doctor, but only for certain medical conditions. Wales is the first nation in the UK where patients can access medical cannabis, specifically prescribed for symptomatic relief in MS. This is my story of using Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine to help with my MS symptoms.
I took my first ever dose of Sativex (administered in a calibrated oral spray to the mucosal membrane of the mouth) on Christmas Eve 2019, just before bedtime. Straight away, the spray affected me – within 5-10 minutes, I felt intensely relaxed and warm which made it easy to slip into a comfortable long sleep. There was some giggling and plenty of smiling but nothing alarming. I felt very relaxed and had no muscle spasms in my legs at all that night, which was a comfortable improvement. I found that the anti-spasmodic effect persisted through most of Christmas Day – so far so good!
For the next couple of days, I continued with a single spray before bedtime and found this to be beneficial in terms of relieving spasms and spasticity. I noticed few side effects beyond a propensity to feel less pain and anxiety. I felt happy – I was responding to the drug and so far it was a very positive experience.
Unfortunately some problems started when I began upping the dose I was taking according to the suggested schedule (maximum dose allowed is 15 sprays per day!). Taking additional doses (I managed to work up to 3 sprays a day – one in the morning and two closer to bedtime by 29/12/20). 3 sprays was too much for me and I experienced significant side effects:
Extreme hunger pangs
Extremely dry mouth at night (which interfered with my sleep)
Drowsiness and lack of attentiveness (general vagueness)
Increased level of urination
Irritation/pain at site of administration of spray in my mouth
Itchiness of scalp after dose
Upset and crying for no reason
Due to the impact of the tripled dose and following a chat with my MS medical specialist, I decided to halt the increased dosage schedule and went back to a more manageable single dose at bedtime and one spray during the day, if needed. Cutting down the dose eliminated the worst side effects but enabled me to continue with the beneficial effects. I feel comfortable continuing with this single/double dose regime till my next medical review at the end of the month.
The whole experience with medical cannabis has been really good to date. It’s great to have access to medication that effectively dampens down my worst MS symptoms. Especially due to improving my ability to exercise without spasming (and exercise is really important to me!), I feel that my whole life has changed for the better.
Humanity has recognised the huge power of medicinal cannabis, which has been used in many cultures worldwide for millennia. The time has come for governments to decriminalise and regulate the use of medicinal cannabis, recognising and using its benefits to help ill people feel better.
Sativex really works but if the dose is too high, it can lead to serious and annoying side effects that can deleteriously affect quality of life. Perhaps dosing per spray could be modified (decreased) to better take account of body weight and individual responsiveness. This would make using Sativex less frightening, more effective and more accessible.
Both of these active compounds are found in Sativex: