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Case Studies

‘Our lives have been transformed with my CBD’

Following the birth of her first child Heston, now aged seven, Marie Emma Smith began experiencing stomach problems.

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Following the birth of her first child Heston, now aged seven, Marie Emma Smith began experiencing stomach problems.

Tests revealed she had a tumour on the pancreas, and further investigations showed there was one one her gall bladder, too. Marie’s mother Margarita died of a heart attack, aged 44, following the removal of both kidneys, which had developed tumours associated with a rare medical condition known as tubular sclerosis (TS).

This is the condition which Marie has inherited, and she believes her daily dose of cannabis oil helps nullify its effects. She says: “I was born with tubular sclerosis, my mum had it so we all had tests to see if we had it, too.

“Following the birth of my son I had a lot of problems with my stomach, going to the toilet all of the time,
feeling bloated and unwell. I had lots of different scans, and they found a non-cancerous tumour
on my pancreas, but, because of the sclerosis and the size it had grown, it’s best to take them out so
they don’t turn cancerous, mutate and grow into different things.

“They took most of the pancreas out -about two-thirds – the gall bladder had been affected and it was removed. “Now I have regular checks and have tumours on my liver, what’s left of my pancreas and one on my kidney.”

Epilepsy is very common in people with TS, and Marie recounted her first epileptic seizure in her late teens. She said: “When I was younger I used to blackout, although that was never investigated. I’d kind
of zone in and then zone out. “But then, when I was 19 and at university, I was doing a friends make-up and had a major seizure – a grand mal – they dialled 999, I went to hospital and the tests showed epileptic brain activity.”

The combination of epilepsy and TS, along with associated mental health issues, meant Marie was the recipient of 15 different types of medications. With their second child on the way Marie, and her partner Ross,became increasingly concerned over the plethora of prescription drugs.

Marie Emma Smith, partner Ross and Children Heston (7) and Jessica (2)

She said: “I refused some of the medication. I felt it was doing me no good, I had bouts of psychosis and
I was doing lots of stupid things, I knew the medication was wrong.“I was on Quetiapine and Keppra
(for mood swings and epilepsy), amongst the others, but I was getting neurotic, these drugs were
making me mentally unwell.

“I felt like no one was listening, so I just decided there and then that enough was enough and I wasn’t doing it anymore, and I went straight on the cannabis oil.

“My mother died of a heart attack at 44 and I will take anything I can to stop myself from going down that path.” Marie, now 34, says Ross had been encouraging her to experiment with a medical cannabis oil for a number of years. They’d both researched the benefits and effects via internet forums and support groups, learning how it was helping many who were struggling with epilepsy.

She says: “I’d smoked cannabis at uni and found it helped with the epilepsy. And then I just decided to take it again. Initially it was using oil and now I take capsules; the ones with the highest strength. It has really helped my mental health, and it may even help with the tuberous sclerosis, who knows? “One capsule a day, keeps the doctor at bay,” she chuckles. “Will it shrink the tumours? I’m hoping so. I have a 1.5cm tumour on my kidney and it it increases in size by another 1cm it will have to be removed, as it may turn cancerous.”

Marie buys her medical CBD (cannabidiol) legally from an on-line store, meaning it contains none of the
psychoactive substance known as THC. She continues: “I feel like a different person. I’m a lot more focused, a lot more relaxed, not so anxious and aggressive, the tablets before were making me very aggressive, and a nasty, horrible person.“I was very short-tempered, smashing things, taking things the wrong way, just not listening, so drugged-up to the eye balls on the medication, and now I wonder why I put myself through that?

“The cannabis has calmed me down, I do not respond like that anymore, I’m not so aggressive and I’m convinced it’s the cannabis that has helped, its the only thing that’s really changed in that time.”She says her medical team are now ‘kind of supportive’, although initially, it was different.

“They thought I was crazy, absolutely crazy, they told me it was in my head that tablets could cause me so much trouble, even though you only have to look at side-effects of these drugs to realise the chemicals
they contain have an impact on the neuro-pathways in your brain.

“When I tell people I’m taking cannabis their first reaction is ‘how quickly does that make you stoned?’.“I tell them ‘No, it doesn’t do that’ and once I’ve told them there’s no THC they start to understand.” However, her family is split: “My dad is 1000% against it. It’s still cannabis to him, it’s still bad, ‘you shouldn’t be taking this’, he says. He needs to educate himself, it’s annoying and I tend not to talk about it with him.”

Although Marie’s sister is full supportive, after overcoming her initial doubts. Marie is delighted that cannabis will be available on prescription in the coming months and years. She says: “I worry that it’s Government, what are they going to do to it? Is it pure cannabis oil; other things, the right strength. I need the highest strength possible due to the epilepsy.

“I’ll carry on taking it from where I buy it, rather than messing about with it.“If I can match the same dosage and I get it on prescription, and if it can be tailored to my needs, and I can get it from the GP, that would be great.”

Like many medical cannabis users, Marie is fascinated by, and excitedly recounts, how our human cells have cannabinoid receptors. “It’s as though we’re built to have a relationship with cannabis,” she ponders.
Marie’s epileptic attacks were previously regular – averaging once a week – now it’s once every three
months.

She says: “When the attacks come it’s like turning off a switch, it’s horrible, you cannot function.“But, now I’ve got so much more energy, more drive, more focus. I’m no longer tired all of the time.” With two active youngsters – as well as Heston there’s Jessica, aged two – this improvement in her health is bringing great benefits to the family life in rural Oxfordshire, as well as bringing renewed hope for Marie, currently a ‘full-time mum’.

In time she would like to return to work having previously enjoyed life as an adult learning development
worker and hotel receptionist. And, who knows, eventually she may be able to one day finish her training as a nurse; the university training which was cut short with her first epilepsy attack 15 years ago.

What is tuberous sclerosis?

Tuberous sclerosis is a rare geneticcondition that causes mainly non-cancerous tumours to develop
in different parts of the body.

The tumours most oftenaffect the brain, skin, kidneys,heart, eyes and lungs.

Tuberous sclerosis is present frombirth, although it may not cause obvious problems immediately.

The tumours caused by tuberous sclerosis can result in a range ofassociated health problems, including:

  • epilepsy
  • learning disabilities
  • the kidneys not working properly
  • breathing difficulties
  • a build-up of fluid on the brain
  • skin abnormalities
    such as patches of light-coloured or thickened skin, or red acne-like spots on the face
  • behavioural problems such as hyperactivity or an autistic spectrum disorderRecent clinical trials have shown that the CBD element of cannabis can control symptoms of epilepsy.

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Case Studies

From catwalks to cannabidiol – a former fashion model’s journey to CBD discovery

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Model Kelly Brooks was forced to give up her dream career when Lyme disease left her unable to get out of bed. She tells Cannabis Health how she is rebuilding her life with the help of CBD.

A few years ago Kelly Brooks, 27, was living her dream on the catwalks of New York, modelling for Jean-Paul Gaultier and gracing the pages of Vanity Fair, Glamour and Italian Vogue.

Now her life couldn’t be more different. In 2018 she moved to the UK with her husband Layton and the couple are looking to start a family in their hometown of Ringwood, Hampshire.

Kelly is the operations manager of a five-star spa and teaches barre fitness classes to those living with an illness or injury.

You would never know that she has endured years of symptoms such as agonising joint pain, extreme fatigue, tremors and at her worst being unable to walk, as a result of chronic Lyme disease.

Growing up in Maine in the United States, Kelly first felt something was wrong in her early teens. She went from being an ‘active, healthy kid’ who was hardly ever sick, to experiencing periods of blackouts and vomiting.

Medics put it down to everything from a sodium deficiency, fibromyalgia and Epstein–Barr virus, to depression, an eating disorder and even attention-seeking. It took almost a decade for doctors to diagnose the tick-borne disease. Even when things took a turn for the worse at the age of 17.

“All of a sudden I was completely exhausted. I went home from school one day, got into bed and didn’t get out for weeks,” Kelly says.

“I had joint pain, migraines and extreme exhaustion – I was sleeping about 20 hours a day. I wish they had taken me more seriously at that point.”

A year later, aged 18, she was eventually tested for Lyme disease at the suggestion of a doctor who happened to be a family friend. It came back positive.

Despite her diagnosis, Kelly was determined to follow her dreams and moved to New York to go to study fashion buying. When a chance opportunity to help out a fellow student ended up launching her modelling career, she ended up quitting college to focus on it full-time.

She was living the dream, walking in runways shows at New York fashion week, working with household brands such as Bumble and Bumble and travelling across the world to Paris and Milan. But she was secretly struggling to balance a blossoming career with her crippling health condition.

“At first I could push through it and rest when I got home, but over the years it became really difficult, especially dealing with the pressure of losing weight – I wasn’t eating enough and was exercising too much – and was struggling to stand for long periods of time. I did faint at a couple of jobs,” says Kelly.

She got into a cycle of treating the Lyme disease with strong antibiotics for several weeks and before returning to the same lifestyle and running herself into the ground.

But as her symptoms became more neurological, leaving her struggling to walk and lift her legs, her then-boyfriend Layton gave her a much-needed wake-up call.

“One evening I came home from doing runway shows at fashion week and I completely collapsed. I couldn’t walk across the room.

“Layton said ‘ I can’t watch you keep doing this to yourself, you need to stop’,” she says.

“It was really hard to give up, I felt like it was so unfair, but by the end, I just wanted to do anything to feel better.”

It was a fellow Lyme disease patient in New York who introduced Kelly to CBD.

“I’ve never really done the herbal route, so I was sceptical,” she admits.

“They sent me a cream and I put it on the joints that were hurting me the most and within a few minutes, the pain had subsided.

“I couldn’t believe how much it helped because I’d had prescription medication for joint pain and nothing had worked but CBD did.”

When the couple moved to the UK to be closer to Layton’s family, the CBD industry was just in its infancy. She struggled to find a good quality, reasonably priced product and was confused by a wealth of conflicting research.

Layton took matters into his own hands to help his wife and reaching out to a colleague with previous business experience, Claudio Santos, they founded CBD Shopy.

Now a leading online retailer, the website aims to help customers find reputable and high-quality products, while also educating people about CBD.

Claudio Santos said: “Studies have indicated that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties and we’ve had numerous customers giving feedback that CBD oil and cream has helped them with joint and muscular pain.”

And Kelly is its biggest advocate, claiming CBD has allowed her to rebuild her life.

“I use the CBD cream on all of my joints every day and currently don’t have the constant pain,” she says.

“I still have some symptoms and when I overdo things it takes me longer to recover, but I’m quite good now at managing how much I can do each day.”

CBD has helped with her mental health too, easing symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.

“I was formerly on sleeping medication, but now I use CBD before bed and no longer have to take it,” she says.

“I do still suffer from depression and anxiety but I have pretty good days where I’m at 80-85 per cent. I even get some 95 per cent days.

“I’m really happy with where I am now.”

To find out more visit www.cbdshopy.co.uk

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Case Studies

“I’m not a zombie anymore”: Why this mum-of-five is speaking out about her medical cannabis use

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Mum-of-five Kayleigh Compston is the first Scottish patient to be legally prescribed medical cannabis as part of Project Twenty21. Now she’s speaking out to tackle the stigma.

“Medical cannabis has one hundred percent made me a better mum,” says 26-year-old Kayleigh Compston.

A mum-of-five, she has recently become the first person in Scotland to be prescribed cannabis legally, having enrolled in Project Twenty21, the pioneering study led by Dr David Nutt.

Kayleigh, who has fibromyalgia and functional neurological disorder (FND), which cause chronic pain, paralysis and muscle spasms, had spent years being prescribed heavy opiates such as morphine to manage her symptoms.

But now she says medical cannabis has allowed her to feel human again.

“There have been no negative side effects from cannabis whereas with pharmaceuticals there were many,” says Kayleigh, who lives in the Shetland Islands with her partner Matthew Ross and is mum to Tyler, nine, Teegan, eight, Tommy-Lee, seven, Teejay, five and Tianna, four.

“The issue with opiates is that your body gets used to it, so the doses get higher and higher and stronger and stronger.

“Now I’m not a zombie anymore, I lead a much more normal life.”

Kayleigh, whose conditions have been known to leave her bed-bound, continues: “It doesn’t take away the symptoms, but it helps you to forget about them and it relaxes my muscles spasms.

“It’s actually made me feel human and I’ve been able to get on with doing things for my kids,” she continues.

“It’s nice to be able to play games with them and drop them off at school – things which I couldn’t do when I was paralysed in bed for months.”

Kayleigh says she is also less reliant on Matthew now, who is her full-time carer.

“It’s hard work with the kids and I still have to rely on him for things, but much less so.”

And the cannabis – which she grinds and vapes in a herbal vaporizer eight times a day – also helps relieve her symptoms of anxiety and PTSD.

Matthew, 25, is also enrolled in Project Twenty21 and previously had a private prescription for medical cannabis to help manage his Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

The project is aiming to enrol 20,000 patients by the end of 2021, creating the largest body of evidence for the effectiveness of medical cannabis. Its goal is to demonstrate to policymakers that medical cannabis should be as widely available, and affordable, as other approved medicines for patients who would benefit from them.

Project Twenty21 is covering the costs of a private prescription up to £150 per product per month for those with Anxiety Disorder, Chronic Pain, MS, PTSD, Substance Use Disorder (as a harm reduction strategy) and Tourette’s Syndrome and researchers will collect data about their quality of life for up to two years.

It is hoped that the findings will make a powerful case for NHS funding.

Despite first trying weed as a curious teenager, Kayleigh never thought about it medically until a few years ago and admits to self-prescribing in an attempt to find an alternative to opiates.

Now they have legal prescriptions, the couple are advocating for wider access to medical cannabis and are keen to speak out to help change attitudes in their home country.

“I feel like the Shetland Islands are quite behind anyway, and some of the older generation still have outdated views,” says Kayleigh.

“There is still a stigma, but I think people need to open their eyes and realise that all the evidence is out there as to how much it actually changes people’s lives.”

“Like any medication, it can have side effects but it’s not what people say it is.”

Kayleigh is starting her education close to home, by being open with her children about her prescription.

“My older three children know what my medication is now. It’s about educating them that cannabis is a medication, just like any of the others I have taken.

“I wanted them to know before they get told that it’s ‘bad’.

She adds: “The children have seen how much better quality of life I have now.

“They know first-hand how much it has helped mummy.”

For more information about Project Twenty21 visit www.drugscience.org.uk/twenty21-is-now-live

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Case Studies

Save your HRT, give me CBD

Going through the menopause hit Jenny hard, with an array of side-effects leaving her exhausted and wanting to hide from the world. Here, she shares her story of how CBD is helping her to rediscover the fun-loving woman she used to be.

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As a woman in my 50s, it’s perfectly normal to be going through the menopause. But while I’ve always known it was coming, I had never appreciated how bad it would actually be.

Menopause, as all the women’s magazines tell you, happens to us all. A few hot flushes, bit of difficulty sleeping, stick on an HRT patch and you’ll get through.

For many that may well be the case, but the reality for me has been so much worse.

The sweating at night has to be one of the most awful parts. Waking up night after night, dripping in sweat, the bed sheets drenched, has become the normal over the past 18 months.

And once I’m up during the night, I can’t get back to sleep. Regularly I get up at 3 or 4am, and go downstairs to watch whatever appallingly bad TV shows are shown at that hour.

I’ll then find myself falling asleep during the day if I’m at home, which I feel is me slipping further down the slope into old age.

Hot flushes happen all of the time. And when we say hot, it’s not just a case of taking your cardigan off, the heat is incredible.

Regularly I’ll be out at lunch, sitting in just a camisole while everyone else is in jumpers, fanning myself down with whatever beer mat or menu card comes to hand.

I may as well just have Menopausal Woman written on my top as it’s so obvious.

I didn’t think the menopause would affect me so much, and I also didn’t expect to cope this badly with it.

I have always had a fantastic social life, going to dinners and lunches several times a week, and I love getting dressed up.

Since the onset of my menopause, with the tiredness and the unexpected hot flushes in particular, I’ve lost my enjoyment of it all.

The worry you’re going to fall asleep at the dinner table (that has happened before, but thankfully in my own home) or aren’t going to feel great when you’re there has seen me decline so many invitations.

Friends are asking whether I’m OK, whether I’m ‘me’, as this is so out of character.

And in truth, over the last 18 months, I do feel like I’ve lost my old self to quite an extent – although in the last few weeks, I do feel like I’m getting her back thanks to a chance discovery while online shopping.

While browsing for some new shoes, I hadn’t felt like going out that day, I came across one of those pop-up adverts for CBD.

I knew it was associated with cannabis but didn’t really know much more than that, but I continued to shop for heels and forgot about it.

That night, again, I couldn’t sleep. Having watched three back to back Judge Judy episodes, which is surely enough for anyone, that CBD advert came into my mind again.

I’d read a lot about cannabis over the past few years and the wonderful effect it had had on so many children.

I’d never had a personal interest in or connection to cannabis, but the fact people in desperate need had been denied it was something I believed was wrong.

For some reason, I decided to search CBD and menopause. HRT for me had been rubbish, so it was worth some investigation at least.

To my astonishment, there were so many stories about the strong connection between the two, the many benefits there could be, how CBD could help with so many symptoms.

I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure I believe in fate, but there was a reason that random advert popped up on my shoe site that day.

I bought some CBD in my local shopping centre – it’s perfectly legal and readily available, which is something I hadn’t realised.

I thought it must have been a banned substance because of how it’s spoken about in whispers.

It’s not something I feel I could tell my friends I’m using as I’m not sure how they’d react. But discovering CBD has been the most fantastic thing to happen to me in a long while.

The past few weeks have been so much better. I have enjoyed a good sleep for the first time since my menopause symptoms began and am sleeping through the night again.

I’ve also felt so much better in myself, like I want to make an effort and put my make up on and put some nice clothes on.

If I had anywhere to go at present, I’d love to put my heels and best dresses on and get back out there. While I still have hot flushes they haven’t been anywhere near the extent they were before.

This is probably due in great part to the fact I’m sleeping, and sleep is at the root of so much in terms of quality of life, but CBD is said to have mood lifting properties, so that could well be another benefit.

Nothing else in my routine has changed apart from my use of CBD so I can only conclude that is the reason.

The difference in only a few weeks has been a great surprise. I do feel like I have the confidence to start accepting those invitations again.

The COVID-19 lockdown has come at a good time for me, as CBD is doing its thing for me, and I’m getting myself back to a position where I feel like ‘me’ again.

There is undoubtedly a taboo around the use of CBD, which I think is unwarranted.

I think we are far too closed-minded as a society and we don’t talk about these things which seem a bit awkward.

Even trying to discuss the menopause with some people is a conversation-changer in itself.

I do think I’d get some difficult reactions if I talked about my CBD use, which is a real shame.

Id love to share my CBD secret with my friends, and perhaps I will at some point. Or perhaps theyre all already using it anyway.

Jenny did not wish to give her full name.

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