Contraindicated & Cockblocked from Cannabis
By Edie Brooks
Like many anxiety sufferers, I have found cannabis to be highly therapeutic. There have been maybe two exceptions to this plant being the best solution I’ve found to immediately relieve my severe anxiety, depression, and IBS-D symptoms.
I was first diagnosed with IBS-D in my mid-twenties; a physical manifestation of generalized anxiety disorder and dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder (PDD), both of which I have been diagnosed with since my teenage years. Vaporizing a bowl of sativa in the morning when the symptoms were most acute was the best, least disruptive medicine for me. I have also used it occasionally during the day when anxiety interfered with my ability to concentrate and focus on my demanding creative job.
Back to those two possible exceptions - I have had two “nervous breakdowns” in adulthood. Call them what you will; a break, a breakdown; a massive, multi-day panic attack and terrible moods swinging from high anxiety to insane depression, a rapid cycling of all the negative thoughts and memories I carry inside me daily, but without control. These are what have been described to me by medical professionals in both instances as “manic episodes.” One of the things I learned from these awful experiences is that when you present with severe psychiatric symptoms and are honest about how you use cannabis to treat your anxiety, suddenly the anxiety is the product of the cannabis and it was clearly, clearly the cannabis that caused this “psychosis.”
I also learned recently that when you start getting stuck with incorrect labels or misdiagnoses for things like bipolar disorder and psychosis, or present with “severe anxiety,” your options for medicating become narrowly limited to what the pharmaceutical world can provide you because of a little phrase known as “contraindication.”
Contraindication, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is something (such as a symptom or condition) that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable.
It turns out that for most major psychiatric disorders, cannabis is “contraindicated.” Wait, what? So, you’re saying if you have been legally mandated to be held for your own safety and health, that it would later be used against you in limiting your medication options to what man can produce in a lab versus what is grown in the ground? Say what?!
I am currently not using cannabis because I have these mental health challenges and have been advised not to by doctors now not once, but twice—in 2012 when my first breakdown happened in the United States and now again in Canada.
If I’m totally honest, it’s been a little frustrating to hear. As I've since learned, even in progressive, liberal as f*ck Canada, once you've had the labels "psychosis" or "breakdown" attached you and on your records, nobody, I mean literally nobody, will prescribe you medicinal cannabis. This is because it is currently contraindicated for people with severe anxiety and a history of “psychosis”, based on just a mere handful of studies conducted on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for such conditions.
A 2010 Harvard Mental Health Letter states that “unfortunately, most of the research on marijuana is based on people who smoked the drug for recreational rather than medical purposes. A review by researchers in Canada…identified only 31 studies….specifically focused on medical benefits of the drug.”
So, I'm contraindicated AKA cockblocked from legally purchasing and consuming this medicine until Canada becomes a legal recreational "state", which happens in July 2018. Ironically, I can still use it "recreationally" and access it "illegally" through all the gray area dispensaries that have popped up in the interim period, but that comes with inherent risks to my immigration status and in turn, my life here and my marriage. These are risks I am unwilling to live with to consume cannabis at this time.
However, I am a long-term cannabis user who effectively used it to treat my anxiety disorder and depression for many years in the absence of other, more efficient solutions. I've been on pharmaceutical medications before for my aforementioned conditions and it's always had disastrous consequences, including a freak drug allergy to Seroquel in 2012 which resulted in my second major hospitalization as an adult, that time for heart inflammation. I had/have no personal history of heart conditions or illnesses. But who knew, that a very rare side effect of that antipsychotic mood stabilizer is myocarditis?! I sure didn't know that! Nobody informed me of those risks.
I know my research, coming from a background working with data, and when I went looking for what this contraindicated business meant and came from, I found some pretty wild answers that quite frankly, really pissed me off. (Really guys, check out that Harvard article.)
It's ridiculous in this modern age that there isn’t enough research to prove definitively that cannabis is therapeutic for many different mental health disorders. It is also absurd that the research they do have to back it up is “anecdotal” only, which is not sufficient for medical doctors to make evidence-based decisions, diagnoses, and treatment plans for patients.
I'm now seeing a naturopathic doctor and taking lavender pills as part of my myriad holistic, natural treatments replacing cannabis currently to address my severe anxiety. Someone please tell me how lavender is different from this other plant? How have they done more peer-reviewed research on f*cking lavender than the highly effective, healing, well-documented (throughout history, anecdotally) herbal remedy that we call cannabis/marijuana/pot/weed?
I know how...it's because the United States (sorry to hate, but I am not feeling the cheery love-being-American-vibes these days...how about you!?) has cockblocked almost all research on this plant. Literally. We have put the kibosh on the entire world—even our neighbors to the north—doing the necessary research to save lives and enhance them through cannabis.
I think we need to bust down these stigmas and misperceptions on all fronts. All they do is harm people, not help people come to understand the compassionate, naturally healing perspectives and aspects of cannabis for nearly whatever might ail you. Who knows what they will find in the wake of a true legalization here in Canada. Maybe new research will come out on my side eventually, but right now the lack of quality evidence to the benefits of cannabis for a variety of disorders is seriously hindering my options for natural, holistic treatment, and I find that to be total bullshit.