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Patient Perspective

Opioid-Free Since Medical Cannabis

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Dave Ardito has lived much of his adult life in pain. Multiple shoulder surgeries, an elbow surgery, a knee operation, and an arthritic condition that manifested from plaque psoriasis caused him to use opioids to ease his discomfort. But his reaction to the drugs still left him in agony as he spent sleepless nights in pain.

“The last Percocet I ever had was after my latest shoulder job,” says Ardito. “My wife came home and said, ‘Oh my god, you’re green.’ I felt really sick. I had been pacing around the house, not knowing if I was going to vomit, or what was going to happen. And that was it. I threw out the bottle and said I would use anything rather than another opioid.”

“I started to search for alternatives and discovered medical cannabis. It seemed like a good substitute,” Ardito says. He did a lot of research, including where he could get a professional and experienced consultation for medical cannabis, and chose Apollo Cannabis Clinics — a Toronto-based centre dedicated to medical cannabis research, education, and patient support.

Patient safety is paramount

Ardito had his first appointment at Apollo in April of 2017, where he consulted with Dr. Vahid Salimpour, a physician who prescribes medical cannabis. Dr. Salimpour believes that medically-prescribed cannabis is a viable alternative to opioids.“Not only does my day-to-day practice show promising results with opioid reduction, but research also suggests improvements in patients’ sleep and improvement in overall quality of life,” says Dr. Salimpour. “The substitution of cannabis for opioids is legitimate.” 

“One of the main factors when determining what to prescribe for pain is the patient’s safety. It’s practically impossible to overdose on cannabis,” he adds. According to Health Canada, there were 3,987 opioid-related deaths in 2017, and there has never been a recorded death due to cannabis. Most of Dr. Salimpour’s patients use cannabis products with rich levels of the compound CBD, or cannabidiol, which is non-psychoactive and does not cause a high. “Medical cannabis with good levels of CBD is a much safer option than opioids when it comes to risk prevention and patient safety,” he says.

I’ve been in treatment since last April and I don’t have any pain anymore.

Dave Ardito, patient at Apollo Cannabis Clinics

A comfortable future

Now that he’s off opioids, Ardito is much more comfortable. In the evening he uses a strain of cannabis intended to help him fall asleep and relieve his pain. During the day, he uses a CBD oil that contains almost no THC, which is the chemical compound that makes one feel high. “I am fully functional,” he says.

Dr. Salimpour believes that patients like Ardito are successful in their treatment because Apollo patients are fully supported with personalized treatment plans and ongoing support that considers their health care goals and level of comfort with medical cannabis.

Yet despite the remarkable effect medical cannabis has had on Ardito’s pain and quality of life, he feels that the subject is still taboo. “I’m 61 years-old and have two daughters,” he says. “For years I told them not to take the stuff. Then I told them I’m in a medical marijuana program.”

Although medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, it’s still controversial within the Western health care community and not widely recognized as a legitimate medication due to its longstanding history as an illegal recreational substance. 

Dr. Salimpour thinks there are many misconceptions about medical cannabis, and says that even members of the medical community stigmatize its use. “There needs to be more research and education available for both patients and the medical community,” he says.

Apollo Cannabis Clinics is dedicated to this mission, empowering health care providers and patients to feel confident with the science and efficacy of medical cannabis. In addition to its clinics, Apollo conducts its own clinical research studies and shares the results worldwide. 

Ardito is hopeful that other patients will be given the opportunity to improve their lives with medical cannabis. “I’m so happy to be on this program, and I’m glad I chose Apollo,” he says.

When asked how he feels now, Ardito smiles and says, “I’ve been in treatment since last April and I don’t have any pain anymore. Plus, I sleep like a rock.”

Janice Tober

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