Patrick’s medical cannabis experiment
Ian Cook meets a man who is giving cannabis a go for his MS symptoms.
Daily life for Patrick Burke revolves around taking a cocktail of prescription drugs to stop his multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms from becoming intolerable. These symptoms include pain, twitches and restlessness in both legs.
Patrick, 67, from Berkhamsted, has had MS since 1972 and is now at the secondary progressive stage of the illness. Symptom relief drugs are an essential part of his life but sadly these drugs are not always effective. While they ease the symptoms, they have never gone away. In fact, over the last ten years, Patrick says his symptoms have steadily worsened.
So, earlier this year, Patrick decided it was time to look at other solutions, do things differently and carry out a trial of his own. He decided to conduct his own cannabis experiment. He puts it as follows
“I have read that medical cannabis helps reduce many MS problems and does not make you feel ‘stoned’ or leave you with ‘the munchies’. I asked myself, ‘should I find out if it would help me with my advanced MS?’
“I made an appointment at a medical cannabis clinic and the doctor wanted to know if I suffered any pain and muscular problems. When I described my symptoms and added that I had multiple sclerosis there was not a problem. After a couple of weeks, a bottle of cannabis liquid arrived. Everything was done privately. A 50ml bottle of the cannabis medication called NOIDECS T10 C15 cost me £175 so I thought it had better be effective at this price.”
The medication contains a mix of the psychoactive THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Over four weeks Patrick’s dosage of NOIDECS T10 C15 increased from 0.1 ml twice a day to 0.4 ml twice a day. Patrick says he has now been on this higher amount for two or three weeks. The directions are never to take more than 1.4ml a day so he doesn’t. The 50 ml bottle costing £175 should last for at least a couple of months on current usage.
So, is it working? Patrick puts it as follows, “I am pleased to say ‘yes, yes, yes’. Cannabis has improved my life in so many ways. To my knowledge, no one drug is as effective in so many ways.
“I used to wake up most nights to go to the loo. Quite a performance because I self-catheterise and also use a walker to get to the bathroom. After taking cannabis, I’m now sleeping through the night, and my sleep quality has improved. I wake up feeling rested and fall asleep much more easily in the evening.
“My bowels and bladder have both been a constant worry for years and have left me living in fear of ‘an accident’. I won’t go into any details except to say that since taking cannabis life has now become a whole lot more manageable. People who experience problems with peeing and pooing will know exactly what I’m talking about and understand how disabling it is when events catch you out. This elephant in the room has definitely shrunk. My other MS problems including pain and stiffness in my legs have eased too. My feet have hurt for years. Well, after cannabis the constant pain has disappeared.
“I can’t claim cannabis is the magic bullet for all my MS-related problems and my problems connected with my balance and walking are still there in trumps. Walking might not be so painful but I’m still a frequent faller. However, one very positive additional outcome is that I am steadily reducing my intake of symptom-management drugs.
“I presently take three prescription drugs, clonazepam, gabapentin and tizanidine. I want to eliminate clonazepam, as it is a benzodiazepine drug and I know that this class of drugs, including clonazepam, can be addictive and I am worried I may become an addict at some point in the future. Also, clonazepam does not help me at the current dosage of 1mg each night. So, in six weeks since taking cannabis, I have halved my intake. I ask myself, “If I stop taking cannabis will I still need to take any of these three drugs?”
Patrick says he doesn’t know the answer to this question but he knows that medical cannabis has improved his quality of life. “I feel happier, more alert and with better control of my life. I know it is not as effective for everyone and it does not help to ease my fatigue. But, just name another drug that ticks so many boxes to help people with advanced MS. It’s no cure but it helps me. So far, my cannabis experiment is a big success.”
Spurred on by Patrick’s story I too phoned the Medicinal Cannabis Clinic and am waiting for my first appointment. If I am prescribed NOIDECS T10 C15 I am optimistic things will improve for me too as I take many of the same drugs as Patrick and have many of his symptoms. I just hope that medicinal cannabis helps me as much as it has helped Patrick. As he points out medicinal cannabis isn’t the answer to everything but if it helps with spasms, spasticity, bladder and bowels then I will happily settle for that. I hope that like Patrick I too will be able to say “yes, yes, yes,” to better management of advanced MS symptoms very soon.
To read more about Patrick and his experiences tackling advanced MS check out his website aid4disabled.com