For one prostate cancer survivor with severe radiation burns, medical cannabis offers effective pain relief.
Radiation treatment for Kelly Oliphant’s Stage 4 prostate cancer left him with radiation colitis and cystitis. “I have, from one hip to the other in the front, a six-inch belt that burns constantly,” Oliphant explains. “It’s like having a sunburn on the inside of your skin. One doctor related it to having shingles.”
Oliphant endured a year-long process of trying different pain treatments and medications that caused unpleasant side effects with little reprieve from the burning pains. That was until a doctor at a Saskatoon cancer clinic suggested Oliphant give medical cannabis a try.
“The effects were almost immediate,” Oliphant attests. “It dulled the pain and numbed it off.” The pain-killing effects of medical cannabis allow Oliphant to resume some of his regular activities, like landscaping the garden of his Battleford, SK home. “Before I started using it, if I was to get down on my hands and knees, I needed a cane to get back up because the pain was that intense. Now I can get back up on my own.”
Oliphant is just one of many Canadians benefitting from the use of medical cannabis, helping to improve qualities of life by delivering effective chronic pain management. But, patients still face stigmas due to inaccurate notions and beliefs linking its use to the street drug.
“Everybody thought I was just going to be a stoner and laying around,” Oliphant says. “They’ve seen that it’s not like that at all.” In contrast, Oliphant is able to go about his day as normal — gardening, shopping for groceries, and interacting with the community. “It affects the nerve endings or pain that I’m having more than it affects my level of consciousness. If I was to have some and five minutes later I was talking to you, you’d never know.”
The science of medical cannabis
While Oliphant chooses to vaporize his medical marijuana, patients can also take cannabis orally using an oil extract, which results in a slower release.Either way, medical cannabis treatment works by interfering with pain signals sent to the brain. Two active chemical ingredients in medical cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), bind to nerve receptors which can help to relieve the symptoms of chronic pain.
“Despite the stigma that still exists, for many of our patients cannabis is a tool to help mitigate the symptoms they feel as a result of their condition,”shared Brent Zettl, President and CEO of CanniMed Ltd., one of Canada’s licensed producers of medical cannabis. “In the majority of instances, patients use an extremely small amount of medical cannabis per day to manage symptoms such as pain.”
In Oliphant’s case, he only requires a half a gram per day at most, vaporized about four or five times a day, depending on his activity level. “If I’m outside working in the yard, I might take it a little bit more than if I’m just sitting and watching TV,” Oliphant explains.
For sufferers of migraines, musculoskeletal disorders including arthritis or any conditions that cause chronic pain that hasn’t found effective treatment with conventional medications, Oliphant encourages them to give medical cannabis a try. “Don’t be held up by the stigma of it,” he says. “I would definitely tell them to try it for any kind of chronic pain. I’m using it because it works. It saved me.”