Suffering from acute back pain, John Casey was ready to undergo major spinal surgery until he started taking CBD two weeks before the procedure. He is now back to his active lifestyle – and still hasn’t had to go under the knife.
The 51-year-old from Dover lives with spinal stenosis, a condition which causes bone to grow inside the spinal canal, applying painful pressure on the nerves.
He was diagnosed with the condition three and a half years ago with the pain becoming progressively worse and harder to manage over time.
John lives an active life. As a carpenter by trade and karate instructor in the evenings, his diagnosis came as a blow and caused major disruptions to his life.
His karate teaching became near impossible and he also experienced difficulties playing with his band, as singing caused pain throughout his pelvis, groin and legs.
“I really struggled,” John says. “It was really hard for me to carry on doing that kind of physical activity with my back locking up.
“I became very grouchy and down and it was getting to the stage where I couldn’t demonstrate [karate], and I couldn’t do my private classes. I was really struggling to turn up. It was difficult just walking the dog with my partner, I was hobbling around.”
As recommended by his doctor, John underwent spinal epidural injections a total of four times, which involved general anaesthetic, injections up through the spine and two days off work for recovery.
The first procedure was a big success, giving John three and half months of relief from the pain. Unfortunately, the following three procedures had less and less of an effect. The fourth and final injection gave him only a few days of respite before the pain returned.
“I don’t moan very easily but this pain was really, really getting me down to the point where I thought I need to have spinal surgery. I couldn’t carry on living with the pain. Being an active person, it was really destroying my life.
“It was the last thing I wanted but I decided that I had to book it in.”
John was introduced to CBD by a friend who was looking for a product for his wife who had recently undergone a leg amputation.
At this point, the pain was debilitating, and John was ready to try anything. Despite his scepticism about cannabis-based products, he ordered Canaxen’s 16% CBD oil and started taking the supplement just two weeks before his surgery.
“I was getting the pain every day and it was sometimes hard to walk. I took the first dose at midday and took a second dose under my tongue at about six o’clock before I finished work. I felt great,” he says.
“At first, I thought it must just be a coincidence, but then the next day there was still no pain. It was so much better than any of the epidurals I have ever had.”
John went to see his surgeon two weeks later and spoke to him about the effects that CBD was having on his body. He decided to cancel his operation.
Unfortunately, John hasn’t been able to return to his old karate training routine, however he still teaches regularly and is able to live without pain.
“CBD has given me a pain-free lifestyle,” John says.
“If I go and train, the pain comes back because I’m moving around a lot and pivoting the hip. I can do it for a couple of minutes before it affects me then I’m back to square one and the CBD won’t mask that.
“But it does take the pain away from my day-to-day life doing my job and teaching.”
John adds: “Who knows if the pain will return in the future, but at the moment, my body’s happy and I’m not in pain.”
“I’ve been given so many labels, but CBD made me feel normal again”
Founder of the cannabidiol brand, Euphoria CBD, talks to Cannabis Health about how CBD has helped him turn his life around and move on from the trauma of his childhood.
23-year-old Matthew Cobb says he has seen “way too much” for someone his age.
At the age of 12, Matthew was taken into the care system, suffering from serious mental health issues stemming from traumatic events in his early youth.
Throughout the course of his childhood, he was diagnosed with PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, multiple personality disorder and bipolar and was given medication in an effort to treat his mental health.
“I took medication from a very young age,” Matthew says over the phone.
“I suppose a lot of it at the time was my mum trying to find a reason as to why my behaviour was the way it was.”
His doctors prescribed him medications such as Ritalin, Concerta XL, sertraline and olanzapine to cope but none of them worked for him and the side effects were, at times, crippling.
“Prescribed medication was very prominent in my childhood. They didn’t really do anything for me but I was forced to take them every day,” he says.
“There was not one [medication] that I could take and feel myself. Some of them made me angry, some of them absolutely tore me apart and made me borderline suicidal.”
Eventually, the side effects became too much, and Matthew decided to stop taking prescription medication at 15-years-old.
Having first encountered cannabis at the age of 13, he began to solely rely on “medicating” through the drug. In his late teenage years, Matthew says he would often consume upwards of £70 worth of cannabis in one day.
“It was the only thing that gave me some sense of normality at the time. The fact that ‘stoned’ was the closest to normality that I could get at 17-years-old was a problem,” he says.
At the age of 18, Matthew stumbled across CBD for the first time in a local convenience store where he saw a pack of CBD flower for sale.
“I saw this thing that ultimately looked like cannabis. I’d never heard of CBD before,” he recalls.
He bought the 0.5 g pack and went to the local park to roll a ‘CBD joint’ and was astounded by the effects.
“It was just a feeling of constant relaxation. I didn’t feel paranoid. I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me,” he says.
Later, Matthew began to experience more profound benefits as his consumption of CBD began to positively impact his mental health.
“I started to notice that my depression was easing off and I was starting to feel better in myself,” he continues.
“It was completely different to smoking cannabis. I wasn’t getting high anymore, but I was sleeping again and I was eating properly. My head didn’t feel so up in the air, I didn’t feel manic.”
For Matthew, smoking cannabis was never about getting high. He just wanted to feel “normal”, and cannabis was the only substance he could find that got him close to that feeling.
“I had a lot of issues that I didn’t understand, a lot of issues that didn’t make sense,” he says.
“I was heading in a massive downward spiral and [cannabis] was the only thing that took the edge off.
“It was about making me feel some sense of normality. I got that with CBD, so it almost made cannabis null and void.”
With a renewed clarity of mind, Matthew realised that he had to make a change in his life.
“In two years, you’re going to be in prison or you’re going to be dead,” he thought.
Matthew says he hasn’t picked up a cannabis joint since the first time he tried CBD and from that moment, he was himself for the first time in his life. He no longer recognises in himself the mental health issues that he was diagnosed with as a child.
“My view is I don’t have any mental health issues,” he says.
“I was given many different labels, but they would change week to week; ADHD, bipolar disorder, personality disorder this, personality disorder that, depression.
“I had had a label for everything, but my life now is pretty normal.
“CBD has taken those labels away. It has given me something that no medication could; it’s given me – me.”
Having experienced first-hand the benefits of CBD, Matthew launched his own brand, Euphoria CBD, in July 2020.
It is set to launch a range of new products throughout 2021, including e-liquids, soap bars, bath bombs, moisturiser creams.
Frustrated with the lofty costs of CBD products, he set out to make high-quality cannabidiol affordable. Recalling a time in his life where he was struggling to make ends meet and pay for the supplement that had such a huge impact on his life, Matthew aims to make CBD accessible to everyone, regardless of their income.
“CBD is something that comes with benefits for so many different people, but the problem is that people don’t realise how much poverty there actually is in this country,” he adds.
“People can’t afford this kind of product, it’s just not possible. My goal is to provide an affordable product that genuinely helps people.”
“Cannabis is what helps me cope”
Cannabis Health speaks to cannabis and CBD entrepreneur, Susanne (AKA SusieHemp), about her thirty-year relationship with the plant and why she is now giving small doses of CBD to her non-verbal autistic son.
Susanne, a mother-of-three from Cheshire, has used cannabis since the age of 20.
Due to a number of traumas in her life, including the tragic passing of her partner, the 50-year-old says she has depended “heavily” on both alcohol and cannabis at points in her life.
She was able to stop drinking several years ago and hasn’t touched alcohol since. She did, however, continue to consume cannabis. She didn’t know why, she says, but it was “working” for her.
Eighteen months ago, Susanne was diagnosed with autism and ADHD and it suddenly made sense to her why she was benefiting from cannabis.
Although scientists are still in the early stages of research, anecdotal evidence and early studies suggest that cannabinoids such as CBD could help alleviate symptoms related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Research into cannabis and ADHD is equally patchy, however, many people with the condition report that cannabis helps manage symptoms such as agitation, irritability and lack of restraint.
A research paper from 2016, for example, analysed just under three hundred online forum threads. I found that 25 per cent of posts were from people reporting the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Only 8 percent of posts reported negative effects.
“I self-medicate,” Susanne says over Zoom.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke [cigarettes], I have an addictive personality, I am autistic and cannabis is what has helped me cope.”
She continues: “Cannabis lifts my mood instantly. I self-sabotage and that’s all part of autism. I look in the mirror and I would hate myself because of the traumas that I’ve been through. But after taking cannabis I can focus, it just changes how I think from negative to the other way.”
Having researched the potential benefits of CBD for ADHD and autism, Susanne wondered if it could help her son, Lucas.
Lucas, who is 12-years-old, lives with non-verbal autism. It is clear from talking to Susanne how much she loves her son, however as a single mum caring for a child with such a severe form of the condition, it has taken a toll on her wellbeing.
“I can’t speak to anyone when he’s around. I can’t have relationships with people, I’ve lost a lot of my social life because he consumes all of my time,” she says.
“He terrorises the house, he destroys everything to the point where I’m in tears, but he’s my son.”
During the Covid-19 crisis, Susanne describes being traumatised as the lack of respite from her care duties caused her mental health to plummet.
“My mental health has declined a lot because I’m in a very difficult situation, she says.
“A lot of people don’t have to cope with what I’ve had to deal with during Covid.”
Lucas has been prescribed ADHD medication on several occasions, but Susanne describes these periods as being “dreadful” for her son.
“They suppressed his appetite so much that I actually saw him wasting away in front of my eyes,” she says.
“I got to the point where I just couldn’t deal with it.
“It wasn’t doing him any good. I thought, ‘why am I giving him these tablets?’ I had to make the decision to stop it.”
She made the decision to bring Lucas off of his ADHD medication two months ago.
Having experienced for herself the benefits of cannabis for addressing mental health issues, autism and ADHD, Susanne decided to try Lucas on CBD.
He now takes just one drop of CBD oil a day in the form of a patch which he wears in bed.
Susanne says she saw a change in Lucas instantly after he started taking CBD.
“I had to look for alternatives to help us as a family, nobody else can,” she continues.
“I noticed a huge difference in his behaviour. I see it visually, he’s more relaxed and calm.
“With the patches, I have noticed that he wakes up in the morning and sits in bed for a while. Normally he would be out banging the doors, but now he’s lying in his bed happy.”
Things also changed for Lucas at school. Regular reports from his teachers show periods of time where he was disengaged and eating very little or nothing at all. This coincided with the periods that he was taking ADHD medications.
After he started taking CBD, his behaviour at school dramatically improved. She recalls receiving a recent report praising her son for being “lively as ever, engaged and eating us through the house.”
In her professional life, Susanne built a successful career in social care, working with children with attachment disorder, special needs and autism.
However, due to the lack of support from social services, Susanne was forced to leave her job five years ago to care for her son.
“I couldn’t put Lucas into [care] during the holidays, so I ended up having to come out of work and as a result, I struggled financially,” she adds.
Living on a carer’s allowance of £67 pounds per week, Susanne was unable to afford her car and struggled to keep up with mortgage payments.
“It was a nightmare,” she says.
“I was a lone carer trying to pay a mortgage.”
She also had to face the stigma of being a cannabis user on a day-to-day basis. On one occasion a neighbour reported Susanne to social services, leading to police and social workers “invading” her home and personal life.
“People are allowed to take antidepressants and that’s okay, but if somebody wants to take cannabis, that’s wrong.
“I was put in a position where I was discriminated against for using cannabis. It led me to think, ‘why am I being pushed into a corner like this? I’m doing nothing wrong here’,” she says.
In an effort to find other people like her, Susanne turned to social media where she posted about her experiences as a mum of a neurodiverse child and her passion for cannabis and its medicinal benefits.
She continues: “I just couldn’t find other people like me. People would look at me and judge me and think I’m a stoner.
“But I held down a job for 37/40 hours a week, I brought up three children on my own, I have my own home.
“Why are people judging me? Because I choose to smoke a plant?”
Having built a dedicated following on social media over the past three years, Susanne is now setting up an online platform to promote the medical benefits of cannabis.
The website, called Susie’sHemp, will publish interviews with cannabis advocates and promote both her own and other cannabis brands.
Lucas will also be the subject of a blog about autism, neurodiversity and the potential benefits of CBD for autism.
“I want it to be a diversity of interests for lots of different people, pulling together those that I’ve worked with for the last three years and have helped me.
“A lot of people don’t know about the different cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. I have to advocate for it and the website will be a platform for educating people,” she adds.
“It’s about getting the message out there to society and ultimately, the nub of it is education.”
“My generation should try CBD – what do we have to lose?”
Annemarie Bousa, 81, on CBD for sleep and anxiety – and why others of her generation should give it a try.
Three years ago, Annemarie Bousa began suffering from an extreme nerve pain extending from her hip down into her leg.
Living in Germany at the time, the 81-year-old grandmother went through three operations to free up the nerve and reduce the pain, however none of these worked and she continued to live with the debilitating condition.
Labelled a “pain management patient” by her doctor, she was prescribed Fentanyl patches, a strong pain-relieving opioid which is infamous for being more potent than heroine and equally as addictive.
“I felt elated as the Fentanyl patch immediately dealt with the pain, so I went along with it all,” Annemarie told Cannabis Health.
“But now I’ve become reliant on it.
“Every three days I need to get the patch replaced. On the first day I always feel a bit light-headed, on the second day I feel normal and on the third day I start feeling a bit fragile, nervous and anxious.
“It’s always a bit of a rollercoaster, but it is better than the intense pain.”
Three years later, Annemarie was still being prescribed Fentanyl patches and continued to experience anxiety which was starting to affect her sleep.
She tried sleeping pills that were available from the pharmacy, but they had little effect.
“I didn’t sleep for three nights in a row,” Annemarie recalled.
“I was really worried and tired. I felt this pressure to sleep well the next night and it became a cycle of anxiety and extreme tiredness.”
At this point, Annemarie had moved to Portugal to live with her son, Ingo, and his young family. Since she had moved in, Ingo had started to notice that his mum’s sleep and anxiety were getting progressively worse.
As as one of the founding team behind the CBD company, Ardoa Organics, Ingo wondered whether the company’s broad-spectrum oils could help his mum, but was unsure about combining the cannabis-based supplement with her fentanyl medication.
“I did some research on how the Ardoa broad-spectrum night-time oil could help my mum to get better sleep and get her anxiety and stress levels down,” Ingo said.
“I was obviously sceptical because of the Fentanyl, so I did some research and found clinical trials where CBD and Fentanyl was given to patients to combat heroin cravings.”
Ingo was referring to a 2019 study which looked at CBD’s potential for reducing opioid cravings. It found that combining the two substances did not cause any serious adverse effects.
Two other studies, both published in 2015, also revealed that CBD had minimal adverse side effects when used with fentanyl.
With these initial studies giving Ingo the peace of mind he needed, he introduced his Mum to CBD, starting on one drop per night and increasing the does until settling on five drops.
“She had a full night’s sleep for the first time in days and woke up rested,” he said.
“Then, after a couple of days, her mood really changed for the better.”
CBD has been shown to help manage various health conditions commonly associated with old age, however many elderly people may be reluctant to try the supplement due to its association with cannabis.
Annemarie thinks people of her generation should “just try it”.
“People shouldn’t be afraid of it, especially people my age,” Annemarie said.
“What do we have to lose?
“We can only make ourselves feel better. For me, I take a little spoonful of medicine, which is 100 percent natural and legal, whenever I feel anxious and want a good night sleep. That’s it.”
Since Annmarie started taking CBD oil, other members of her family have also started taking the supplement for reasons such as managing arthritis and recovering from fitness training
“Taking a couple of drops of natural oil to help me sleep and feel much less stressed seems normal now,” she added.
“Maybe my story helps others who are sceptical to overcome their prejudice – that would be nice.”
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