Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Pot calling the Kettle

I only talk about it once in a while, but my wife suffers from chronic pain issues. She's been seeing a number of doctors for a number of years, some better than others, trying to keep her going. As the years have gone on and the pain has gotten worse, she's ended up on gradually stronger and heavier doses of narcotics. And she hates it.

She's always been intelligent. She used to catch on immediately to the most subtle nuance. And then, as the cloud of narcotics around her head got thicker and heavier, she found it harder and harder to concentrate. She couldn't easily focus her attention on anything.

The tradeoff between being less intelligent and not being in pain was difficult for her. It was a different kind of pain, but there it is.

But New Mexico, unlike many more "civilized" states, has medical marijuana laws. And after our daughter suggested medical marijuana, she started doing her research. (OK, technically, our daughter suggested Marinol - she didn't think there was a chance in hell that her mother would smoke.)

New Mexico issues licenses to its known users, and the process for getting a license, while not particularly complicated, is rigid, structured, and annoying as hell.

We gathered all the documents that they wanted: the completed five-page application, a copy of her driver's license, her medical records, and certification from two different practitioners (her primary care guy, and her Pain Management guy).

(Weirdly, we also got a call from the Department of Health asking permission to contact a third doctor - she had an x-ray in her records, and they wanted to contact the radiologist who read it: possibly as evidence that she had cysts where he said she did - we've never really been certain.)

We had different problems getting the two medical authorizations. The first one, and easily the strangest one, was from our primary care guy. We've been seeing this short, elderly guy, and he wanted us to make an appointment with him. He'd apparently reviewed her records, and he sat down with her, looked her in the eyes, and asked her if she was aware of the possibility of the drug causing severe schizophrenia?

Yes, that's right. A medical doctor, concerned about Reefer Madness. (That was actually the incident that caused us to reevaluate our primary care provider.)

The second problem was came up later. It seems that the Pain Management doctor's paperwork didn't meet their requirements, and we'd been back-burnered for three weeks before we found out.

After a long and angry phone call with the Department of Health, I got them to finally explain what the problem was: the doctor's Physician's Assistant (PA) had filled out the paperwork for him - that, after all, is what PA's do. But she wasn't a Board Certified Pain Medicine specialist - the doctor was.

The next day, I overnighted updated paperwork from the doctor to them, and my wife now has a bright, shiny green card from the New Mexico Department of Health. It has a fascinating statement on the back: "card holders are legally permitted to use and possess up to six (6)ounces (170 grams) of usable marijuana." As opposed to all that unusable marijuana that people are caught with every day?

She also has a list of all the non-profit pot stores certified by the State of New Mexico (I think they should call them "dealerships"), along with an admonition not to disclose their locations. My wife is now a state-sponsored stoner.

So there's the trick: the government has a program, but they don't have a lot of inclination to help you themselves. You have to push them into doing their job, and you have to keep resubmitting anything they have a problem with - all it takes is one comma out of place, and everything comes to a halt.

She has a vaporizer (smoking irritates her throat, so we avoid that), and the store has some fairly high-quality pot, with names like "Wow" and "Shiska-berry", along with information on which of the various cannabinoids each brand contains.

And while she spends most days mildly buzzed, she no longer feels like her head is wrapped in cotton. She can concentrate on things for an extended period; she can read books again, and not have to go back over the same page three or four times.

There are conflicting theories regarding the use of marijuana; I just know this. It helps my wife, and that's what matters to me.


Reamus said...

Excellent post and a most revealing look at the "process."
I may be headed r=ther myself one day but delighted that the stuff has made her feel herself again.

Thanks and best of luck finding a new MD!

blow Hookah said...

I really think that vaporizers are the real substitute for leaving tobacco habit
E Hose

Nameless Cynic said...

I guess that's possible. But since neither of us has ever smoked, that point's kind of moot.