Doctor advice recommended before using pot to ease pain

Despite what those who advocate for marijuana use say, the truth is that the drawer filled with good research about marijuana is remarkably empty. | Getty Images

Q: My wife and I are struggling with serious arthritis. It is like we have a race with each other early in the morning over who can get to the medicine cabinet first to swallow another tablet of Tylenol.

Lately my son and his wife have suggested Tylenol is not the route to go. They keep showing us articles written by various people who say they have challenged the pains of their arthritis by using marijuana. My son thinks my wife and I should try it.

Neither my wife nor I were couched in a veil of innocence in the 1960s. We were there with the rest of the youth movement, singing our songs and smoking our joints. But that was short lived and of course once we married and started having kids, the joints were long gone.

I have not looked at this stuff for years and, to be honest, I am not too thrilled about using marijuana now but, as my wife says, maybe if it has something to counter those daily shots of pain from our arthritis, it is worth the effort.

After all, it is now legal, which it wasn’t 60 years ago. I am just not convinced. What do you think? Pot or no pot?

A: Before directly answering your questions about marijuana, I remind you that I am not a physician. I have little or no medical background. I say this because I suspect the key person in your contemplative journey about marijuana is your family doctor.

Despite what those who advocate for marijuana use say, the truth is that the drawer filled with good research about marijuana is remarkably empty.

We do not have good evidence about what marijuana does to people’s systems and we certainly do not have data telling us what the long-term effects of marijuana might be.

If you and your wife choose to try marijuana, you could probably not do much better than consult with your family doctor to help both of you figure out what is happening. Your doctor might not have any more information about marijuana than you do but she can keep track of your overall general health and document any changes in your arthritis and your physical health.

She could know before you do whether things are going awry. That is good information. It will help you decide whether to continue.

Having said that, I would be remiss if I did not tell you that most testimonials from people who use pot to help them through the pain of arthritis are positive, but it is not just pot that makes the difference.

So does nutrition and following the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide. Those who eat a lot of fish, veggies, citrus fruits and what they call nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, etc.) and fruit juices suffer less pain. So do people who stretch exercise daily and, to the extent possible, take a morning walk.

The point is that if you are determined to get through the daily challenge of arthritis pain, you need to do more than take a Tylenol pill or smoke a couple joints. It is a lifestyle thing, and with the help of your doctor, you can figure out where your lifestyle is taking you.

Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.

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