May. 4, 2016


Medical Marijuana: An important ally for Sickle Cell BY JIMI OLAGHERE

In my last article I briefly touched on the perils of long-term opioid use on the mind and body. Admittedly, it was a bit gloomy as Sickle Cell makes a pessimist out of you — but nothing I wrote was hyperbolized. The side effects I mentioned don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what long-term opioid use actually does to the human body. Don’t get me wrong. Opioids are effective for treating acute and chronic pain, but the side effects could be deadly for patients who are in need of around the clock pain management.

The side effects are brutal, and they hit you like a succession of timed bombs. The first blast is always nausea, it seems like you’re always one pill away from losing your meal — if you can actually summon up the courage to have one. What usually follows is the astonishing irony of pain. Sometimes the medication you’re taking to alleviate your pain actually puts you in pain before it makes you feel better — yes, confusing. Individuals on long-term opioid use usually develop stomach ulcers that cause intense pain five to ten minutes after a pill is ingested. Finally when you think the coast is clear and you’ve avoided the land mine of side effects, constipation sneaks in like a thief in the night — leaving you very uncomfortable in the morning.

More serious side effects manifest in forms of opioid tolerance and dependency, of which the consequences can be severely adverse.

There are currently twenty-four Legal Medical Marijuana States in the U.S. The great state of New Jersey, fortunately, is one. Although not firing on all cylinders yet, the program has been decent enough to provide medicine that reduces pain which in turn gives me a breather to do the things I want to do as opposed to what I have to do. It also allows me to take a break from drowning in a sea of pointless pills so I can go out and enjoy a street taco.

Cannabis also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, which not only reduces my pain but also, stabilizes my hemoglobin and subsequently decreases the amount of transfusions I need to simply function. I am now able to get away with lower doses of opiates with better pain control.

With Sickle Cell in particular, it’s important to note that marijuana should mostly be ingested in vapor form. Smoking dehydrates and leaves one vulnerable to crises.

Overall, what I’m trying to say here is medical marijuana works. It may not work for everyone, but I believe the option should be available for everyone — particularly people living with chronic pain. Having options is a crucial ally in the war with Sickle Cell.