Severe Back Pain
by Anonymous

I am a 52-year-old wife and mother of three grown children and three grandchildren. In the 18 years prior to my back problems and the resulting complications, I enjoyed a very successful career in real estate. I had won honors for excellence in sales volume and had spent the last seven years running my own real estate office for one of the largest real estate brokers in the country. My life was very active with work and social activities and I had been remarried for less than two years when the sad event occurred that has forever changed my life.

In 1992, sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee, I coughed and badly fragmented the disc at L4-L5 and was in excruciating pain. Two weeks later I had the first of four laminectomies over an eight-month period. In the next 24 months I had these surgeries plus two spinal fusions. My last surgery, in 1996, was the removal of the instrumentation in the hope that it would give me some pain relief.

Since that day in 1992, I have been using stronger and stronger narcotics. I now fall in the category of failed back syndrome, radiculopathy, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, complex chronic pain syndrome, or just pick a label. The result is I suffer from debilitating pain, severe muscle spasms of the back, legs, and both feet. I have vascular complications in my legs which are now swollen most of the time, sometimes with + 4 edema, complicated with vascular and/or capillarities in my legs. I have used almost ever therapy available including six continuous epidurals that lasted from four to nine weeks. I have been using MS Contin, immediate release morphine, baclofen, and soma for the last six years without a break. Desperate for pain relief in December 1999, I had an intrathecal pump implanted hoping to cut back or eliminate use of these drugs and gain back a quality of life. As of today's date, 3/5/00, this pump has proven to be only marginally effective.

My use of marihuana is the only thing that has been successful in relieving the severe spasms and pain and allowed me to sleep. Prior to this medical disaster, I smoked only occasionally. When I am able to smoke marihuana nightly, all the spasms are relieved and I can get 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Without its use I sleep only for 2-3 hours before waking up in a great deal of pain. Unfortunately the only source of finding marihuana is a nephew who lives out of town. He brings it to me when he comes to visit and I have to hope that my supply will last until he visits again, sometimes three or four months. We are deathly afraid of using any form of mail due to legal problems if we were caught. I am afraid to grow plants for the same reason. I am certainly not in the position to spend large amounts of money in legal fees, proving the medicinal need, should we/I run into legal problems. This situation is very unfortunate because the longer I can smoke marihuana daily the better my physical condition becomes and the more I am able to cut back on prescription drug use. But due to availability and of course the cost, the best that I can do is daily use for about two weeks. Then I cut back my use to stretch my supply. The other problem is the potency of the marihuana. It is of no use to me if what I buy happens to be weak in strength and then I have wasted my money and gain little or no medicinal benefit from its use.

While I have a great pain doctor who has been open to any therapy that might help me, I would never consider telling him of my success with marihuana. I have worked with him for six years and never once have I felt that he was of the mindset to be open to this type of therapy and the success I have had with its use.

Approval of marihuana for medicinal purposes would certainly improve the quality of my life, but there is little hope that the state of New York is going to pass positive legislation anytime soon. I would be more than happy to discuss my situation and experiences with you, but I do not trust the government and its attitude on this subject to have my name published. I feel badly about this because I would love to share my experiences with others and to learn of others' success with this method of treating spasms and pain.