By Sharon Letts
Knee surgery this past week has me thinking about pain, true tolerance, and why so many Americans are bent on being anesthetized.
The Institute of Medicine states, 100 million Americans suffer from some kind of pain at a cost of $635 billion a year.
ABC News reported in January of 2012, 80 percent of the world’s pain meds are consumed in the good old U.S. of A.
Experts site our increased life expectancy, cancers, and a soft, sedentary lifestyle as the cause, but what of the rest of the world? Why are Americans suffering so? Or are we?
Virginia Woolf, who suffered from mental illness that eventually caused her to end her life, said that someone in pain is “forced to coin words himself, and, taking his pain in one hand, and a lump of pure sound in the other (as perhaps the inhabitants of Babel did in the beginning), so to crush them together that a brand new word in the end drops out.”
In other words, a person’s pain is their own and relative to their experience, and putting a meter on it is illusive at best.
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, I only remember simple aspirin as a remedy for everything from headaches to fevers. And really, even aspirin wasn’t always the answer, as a headache could be quelled with a glass of water and nap – it still can, but most today run to the medicine cabinet for a pill.
Sometime during the time between 300 and 400 B.C. Hippocrates discovered that a powder from the bark and leaves of the willow tree held healing properties for headaches, pains, and fevers. According to an entry in About.com, by 1829 scientists named the active compound, “salicin.”
Many more chemists would experiment with the compound, but it wasn’t until German chemist Felix Hoffmann, who worked for a German company called Bayer, rediscovered Gerhardt’s formula for his father who suffered from Arthritis, declaring it the “wonder drug.”
|Aftercare of incisions after surgery was soothed with “Hemp-Eaze,” one of many salves I (writer Sharon Letts) use.|
Dulling the Pain
Who knew aspirin was created for arthritis? Today, the average arthritis suffer pops from a list of meds often associated with accidental death, liver failure, and other side effects too lengthy to list – numbing much more than the area affected.
Aspirin sufficed until 1953 when acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, was marketed, soon followed by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, opening the door into the 1960s for more brands in pain management than I can list here.
Our bodies are the same, why the increase in pain medication?
Americans as Marketing Lab Rats
In the film Love and Other Drugs, Big Pharma reps are taught to suggest pharmaceutical drugs for other than originally developed uses, i.e. anti-depressants for pain. In my mind, this demonstrates how marketing and profits have surpassed true need or even morals when it comes to medicating the masses.
I liken it to a chemical company telling me I don’t need to scrub, that simply spraying and wiping will get everything clean. This is insulting. Do they really think I can’t put a little elbow grease into it? Do they think I can’t handle a little discomfort?
I think they do, and often – to the point of negative influence – hiring marketing companies for billions of dollars to tell the public what they want for us, not what we need.
The bottom line is profits, not people.
Would you like a seizure with that?
After deciding to continue the trials begun with my breast cancer scare, the first synthetic elimination from my medicine cabinet was the Valium typically needed for pre-medical procedure phobias. Two doses of Nternal cannabis oil prior to surgery was all that was needed to calm me.
Completely relaxed without being wasted (Valium is given to rehab patients in recovery and mimics alcohol), I was in charge of my own dose and kept the bottle with me up until I was put under.
Nurses and attending staff were fascinated by my choice, and I was happy to lead by example.
After surgery I was offered Vicodin, the number one hit on the Top Ten pain numbing chart.
Already under the influence of the anesthesia, I’d be adding this other pain killer to the mix, further lowering my heart rate, causing me to feel light-headed, be further constipated, possible seizure, problems with urination, stomach pain, itching, jaundice… the list goes on.
After surgery I continued taking Nternal cannabis oil – one to two doses (droppers full) every one to two hours was all that was needed for breakthrough pain. But I must say, the pain wasn’t that bad. It stung, really, and in my humble opinion, didn’t warrant a heavy prescription pain killer – surely not one that would numb more than my knee, and wreak havoc with my liver.
At night I continued using RSO (Rick Simpson Oil, or Phoenix Tears), which gave me a good night’s sleep, continued to aid pain during the day — and being a natural non-inflammatory — there was no swelling to speak of from day two.
I also continued my daily regimen of ingesting raw leaves daily in a green smoothie during the day, something that began with my cancer scare. This also eased constipation caused from the anesthesia, and anyone who has gone through anesthesia, then pain killers, knows the discomfort of constipation.
For after-wound care I used a gifted cannabis salve that included Burdock Root, Chamomile, Comfrey, Dandelion, Lavender, Plantain, Red Clover, and Rosemary, among other healing herbs.
Big Pharma: Drug Dealers to the Masses
Had I opted for the Vicodin, the outcome would have been much different. I would have been swollen longer, constipated for sure, and completely wasted the first several days.
After taking the highly addictive pharmaceuticals for the required amount of time — one to two tablets up to four times a day for up to two months after surgery — chances are, I might have wanted more. Kind of like the “If you give a mouse a cookie” syndrome. This seems to be a given, as you can’t search for Vicodin online without finding withdrawal information at its side. It’s as if they expect you to become addicted.
A quick search found a plethora of stories describing desperate pain patients addicted to prescription drugs — robbing banks to get their fix — with one man declaring relief when arrested with the hopes of getting clean.
A docu-drama on television tells the story of a young woman who went from being an injured college athlete on full scholarship, to turning tricks in a motel for heroin when her health insurance and subsequent Oxycontin prescriptions dried up. Did she begin her pain management with Oxycontin? No, she started with Vicodin – gateway drug to heroin.
Surgery = Party Time!
A friend used to say, “My drug of choice is Midol… with a glass of red wine.”
“People like to party,” as chef Cheri Sicard penned in The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook.
The problem is, according to television personality Dr. Sanjay Gupta, someone dies every 19 minutes due to prescription medicine abuse – and often it’s done with alcohol added to the punch.
I’ve said for years, as a species, humans aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed. We put things in our mouths before fully realizing dangers. We put things in our mouths when we know something is bad for us, and if it tastes good or feels good, we keep on doing it.
For me, the key to good health is being informed of all my options.
With legalization approved in both Colorado and Washington state just this past week, it seems that public perception may be turning around sooner than later on cannabis as good medicine. Hopefully, it will at least open the doors for real research.
My surgery was a cake walk due to my cannabis use, with no pain to speak of, no swelling, no constipation, no fuzzy head, and no looming addiction.
While the rest of America quells the daily pain of living through the colored glasses of modern medicine, I’ll continue to use the green, encourage others to do the same, and pray for the rest of the country — and the world — to follow suit.