Marijuana and Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy
by Anonymous

I am a 37-year-old, single female.

College degree: B.A., English

Occupation: totally disabled

I hope the following information assists you with your book and perhaps your very informative rxmarijuana site. I smoke marijuana and have for many years. I do not drink alcohol and have not done any other drugs. Yes, I am from the Woodstock generation. However, I never was interested in trying LSD (did not want to see something that was not there!), speed (too high-strung), cocaine, or downers (no pills, a natural herb is fine).

You must first read the BEFORE so you may fully understand the AFTER. This way you will know why what I have to say is relevant.

My disability: I became disabled in the Fall 1995 due to a very rare condition called Hashimoto’s encephalopathy. It causes "stroke-like" symptoms. I have right-sided hemiparesis, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, concentration and attention span problems, some memory problems, speech difficulties (not aphasia), difficulty with letters "L", "F" and "V". I have been told for three years that there is no treatment for this very rare condition. What happens is this. Your antibodies (the good guys in the white hats) attack neurons in your brain - hence the above symptoms. It is classified as an autoimmune vasculitis condition, according to case studies I have recently received from the National Institute of Health (NIH) Department of Rare Diseases. In the United States there are three such cases. There are perhaps 25 people in the entire world with this condition.

So I walk with a cane and have an exotic accent. Quote from medical records:

"Patient has incredible sense of humor considering overall circumstances."

What do you expect? Having this happen to you (you are terrified) and in addition being caretaker for my mother in Stage 5 Alzheimer’s, and a sister in the Northeast, age 56, who is now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. Am I next? No, too stubborn...keep using my brain. Stress? Acute anxiety attacks? Oh, I would say so.

I have lost my "contact" and have not had any marijuana in one year. Six months ago, after two years of being stable (and smoking during those two years) my condition began to deteriorate. I am now experiencing poor coordination and weakness in my left side, the dominant side. I am a southpaw! And additional memory/concentration problems. Remember, stable for two years, one year without marijuana, and six months ago condition progresses. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

BEFORE: Prior to my disability I achieved many goals. Smoking marijuana did not prevent me from obtaining my B.A. in English with a GPA of 3.75. (Keep in mind that I decided to attend college after being out of high school for five years). It did not prevent me from climbing the ladder of my career. In 1995, I held an upper management position at a salary of $40,000 per year. I was a big fish in a little sea. When the director of my department was not in the office, I was in charge. I was responsible for $10 million in procurements. In one year, my boss, the director, was retiring, and my chance of procuring his position was very, very good. Which means I would have been director of that department and making a salary of $75,000 per year. So yes, I was successful.

I never smoked during the day or while working. I feel that is stupid. Perhaps some people after putting in a 10+ hour stressful day would come home and have a martini, or a glass of wine, or maybe a beer. Not me. At around 8:00 pm I would smoke half a joint. Relax. Maybe indulge in a small bowl of Haagen Dazs and a Marx Bros. movie. Is that so bad? I have always maintained a high caliber selection when it comes to TV. I did not and still do not watch ridiculous sitcoms. I watch The History Channel, The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, A&E, American Movie Classics (OK I confess, and the X-Files) I am constantly using my brain. I was successful and still am.

AFTER: Now, ZAP! You are hit with this disabling disease, and you deal with it as best you can. There are no family members around. I am not about to move and become helpless. I am too stubborn and too independent. But whatever came naturally is now very much an effort. I can no longer perform multiple tasks (concentration/attention span, inability to focus), I lost my ability to comprehend what I read, I could no longer write my name or understand my electric bill. I could not speak properly. My language skills changed. I spoke in a monotone. I left out prepositions. When I could not write, I tried to print (looked like a first-grader) and found out I left out vowels. I could no longer play the card game Solitaire. I was terrified, alone and still caretaker for my mother. In about a year and a half the neurons rerouted themselves, but never completely. I will never be what I was. I still have many difficulties.

But during the first two years of my illness I still smoked marijuana, just half a joint in the late afternoons and evenings. I was curious. And indeed, amazed. When I smoked that half a joint I found out that I could balance my checkbook in 20 minutes. Prior to smoking, this task would take me two hours, with beads of sweat on my brow from frustration. When I smoked, I could read the subtitles on a foreign movie on TV. I could read articles in my Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery, Archaeology, and Natural History magazines. I COULD BREATHE! There were no acute anxiety attacks. I could focus and concentrate. When I was alone with my cat and spoke out loud, my speech was fine. The letters "L", "F" and "V" were pronounced nearly perfectly.

When I smoked half a joint I no longer needed the following prescription drugs: 1) Soma (muscle relaxer) for severe fibromyalgia; 2) Darvocet to relieve pain of fibromyalgia and intense headaches; 3) Xanax for acute anxiety attacks. I would much prefer to smoke that half a joint and not use any of the above-mentioned narcotics and addictive drugs. I actually felt NORMAL! (No pun intended).

So here I am, without the medicine that actually helps me. I am presently scheduled to be hospitalized for high-dose IV steroid treatments followed by corticosteroid tablets. The side effects of these drugs are extremely unpleasant and dangerous. I am thinking about asking my physician if the drug Marinol would help.

I am very grateful that marijuana does indeed help cancer patients, AIDS patients, glaucoma patients, and multiple sclerosis patients. I know it helps me. I have experimented and I know the difference is profound. Why is something so simple, so natural, so impossible? I do not sell it. It is for my use alone, medically, in the privacy of my home.

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