Marijuana and Post-Polio Syndrome

by Anonymous

Before the development of effective vaccines, about 20,000 people developed polio in the United States each year. There are now only about a dozen new cases per year, but many survivors of the old epidemics are having a second encounter with the illness. Thousands of people who recovered from polio many years ago are developing muscle weakness that appears to be a late complication of the original affliction. The disability is usually mild but occasionally involves paralysis of the muscles involved - usually the same ones affected by the original illness but sometimes entirely new ones. The weakness may be temporary or persistent and progressively worsening. In a National Institute of Health study, the rate of weakening was found to average about 1% of muscle strength per year. The syndrome is apparently neither a reactivation of the original infection nor a new disease process killing previously normal nerve cells. The most likely explanation (not yet confirmed) is that the body’s own immune system is attacking the muscles. No one knows how common the syndrome will turn out to be, and no treatment is available.

I am a 50-year-old male, twice divorced (1977 and 1997), father of four (ages 11-25). I work in a county government office, and I am an active church member who sings in the choir and serves on the board of deacons. I am also president of an international scholarly organization and editor of its annual journal. I received a Master’s degree in 1978.

I was born in Tanzania in 1948 and came down with a fever at the age of ten months. Ever since recovering, I have walked with a limp. According to my mother, a registered nurse, no one was sure exactly what disease it was. We usually referred to it as "sleeping sickness" (encephalitis), but recent consultations with a neurologist have persuaded me that it was polio I first used cannabis as part of the social ritual of my circle of friends in the early 1970s. I knew that it felt good, but did not connect it specifically with the treatment of post-polio syndrome until recently, when I read about its use for relief of multiple sclerosis and other neurological ailments and became convinced that it was beneficial for my symptoms.

The residual effects of polio include muscle weakness, fatigue, spasms, and pain. Cannabis has an immediate effect on the strength of my right leg, the most obviously affected limb. When I am fatigued, my limp is more pronounced and my foot drags. When I smoke, my leg and foot immediately feel much stronger and the limp is less noticeable. This effect lasts at least several hours. Though I cannot provide scientific confirmation, I am convinced that my regular use of cannabis has prevented the severe symptoms reported by other polio survivors. I cannot compare cannabis with conventional drugs, since I have never had any drugs prescribed for my condition.

Since cannabis is quite expensive, I have tried to bypass the market by growing my own, both indoors and outdoors, but have never been able to produce enough to avoid dealers entirely. As a minimum, I need two thin joints a day: one in the morning and one in the evening. I have also eaten cannabis, but not for a long time.

So far (fingers crossed) I have had no legal problems (I believe I have been divinely protected.) At least for the time being, please keep my message anonymous. I hope this information helps someone.

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