Thursday, 6 August 2015

Let's talk about weed

I'm going to write about an issue I haven't written about before, partly due to a large amount of recent press about the subject, and also due to recent personal events which are relevant to the subject matter.

The issue I'm talking about is marijuana, in this instance medicinal marijuana specifically.

A lot of people will have noticed that a petition on the official government petitions website, calling for the legalisation of weed, has reached nearly 200,000 signatures, nearly twice the number needed to be considered for debate in Parliament. While I believe marijuana should be legal for all uses, including recreational (for adults), I'm going to focus on the need to legalise marijuana for medicinal purposes and explain my own story relating to this.

I am an epilepsy patient, and I was diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy when I was 17 years old (25 now), due to a lesion on one of my hippocampi. As a result, I have never had a drivers' license, have had more trips to the hospital than I should at my age, and have been on medications with some rather severe side effects. When I was 19, I dropped out of university due to the side effects of my medication. I never had any energy, I persistently felt like the skin was slowly melting off my cheekbones, and I was persistently depressed. Getting out of bed was a struggle. I sometimes spent 14-16 hours in bed in a single day.

Eventually, I unilaterally stopped taking my medication because of the impact of the side effects on my life. Soon after that, I started smoking weed recreationally. I didn't make the link at the time because of my general ignorance about medicinal marijuana, but my seizures disappeared around the same time. For about 3 years, I was seizure free without prescription medication, until my supply of weed stopped. And again, I didn't make the link at the time, but my seizures returned shortly afterwards. I returned to my doctor and I was put on my current medication, which I've been on since. It's somewhat effective, but far short of entirely. Apart from a very subtle sapping of my energy levels, it's been, superficially at least, side-effect free (read on about this).

Now, despite my supply of weed in that time being sporadic, I've still noticed, and started connecting the dots, that my use of weed is correlated exactly with an absence of seizures. Even after forgetting to use my regular medication due to being stoned, I never had a seizure (and bear in mind that withdrawal from anti-epileptic medication can induce seizures in itself). I started doing some reading, and found some convincing papers regarding its use on temporal lobe epilepsy. I know that this works for me, but it's illegal for me to use it in this country.

Meanwhile, in recent months, I've been dragged into the doctors' surgery over and over trying to diagnose the cause of abnormal liver test results (done as a routine test because, you know, these medications can fuck your liver). Yesterday, I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as a direct result of my use of this medication. It's something that won't go away so long as I depend on this medication, and it's something I'll have to constantly look over my shoulder to avoid exacerbating to prevent the disease from progressing. In other people, this medication is known to cause nausea, fever, life threatening skin conditions, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, suicidal ideation, blurred vision, etc. etc... And this is supposed to be safer than marijuana?

I know that marijuana works in my case, and in many other peoples'. But rather than allow me to explore its potential uses as an alternative to a medicine that is literally slowly destroying my liver, I'm told that doing so is a criminal offence. Think what you will about recreational use, but as a medicine, marijuana is invaluable, and for many people, the only effective or safe lifeline to a normal functioning life.