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Cannabis and motherhood: “I can’t be a mum without medical cannabis”

In a new series we share the stories of mothers who use medical cannabis – and the stigma they face.



medical cannabis patient
Catherine has suffered chronic pain following a car accident n 2014

After a serious car accident which wasn’t her fault, Catherine* was left with debilitating chronic pain as a result of her injuries. Seven and a half years on, medical cannabis has finally given the quality of life to be a mum to her four-year-old daughter. 

In December 2014, Catherine was a passenger in a vehicle which was involved in a high speed, multi-collision car accident. 

Though it was no fault of her own, the injuries she suffered as a result would leave her struggling with debilitating chronic pain for years.

Within a couple of days of the accident, she had lost all movement in her neck and was experiencing pain all the way down her spine, but didn’t receive any physiotherapy treatment until two months later.

Catherine continued to hold down her job, as a practicing optician, while battling the side effects of opioid medications, including suffering painful stomach ulcers and paranoia from Tramadol.

Not receiving the support she needed from her husband, just 10 months after the accident she made the decision to leave her marriage.

“I just couldn’t go on anymore,” she says.

“I wasn’t getting any help with housework and because I worked away from home, I wasn’t getting back in time to pick up prescriptions and had no support from anyone who was willing to do that for me.”

Catherine fell pregnant with her daughter, now four, in 2017 and was forced to reduce all of her medication, relying only on over-the-counter co-codamol when things became unbearable.

“Throughout my pregnancy I had nothing to help with the pain and it was tough, I had to carry on working because I have to have money,” she says.

Despite planning to return to her career full time, six months after her daughter was born she suffered a severe flare up and was prescribed gabapentin. 

“It was effective for the pain, but quite quickly you need more and more of it and as soon as I started increasing the dose, the side effects were too much,” says Catherine.

“I was literally a zombie, I put on half a stone in a week, I couldn’t look after my little girl and I wasn’t able to take care of the home properly.

“One of the reasons I felt I couldn’t return to my career was because of how impaired I felt by the drugs.”

After trigger point injections – a treatment route which she had pinned her hopes on – failed to help control the pain, Catherine began looking into medical cannabis.

Last year she saw a private consultant who prescribed her a CBD dominant oil and later, cannabis flower containing CBD and THC.

“For the first time ever someone acknowledged what was actually happening, for the first time I felt as if I was believed,” says Catherine.

“There were so many years of being fobbed off and having drugs thrown at me, it was just nice to have a doctor who did believe me.”

She adds: “After finding the right oil, for the first time in seven and a half years I’ve got some quality of life back.”

But Catherine has been more wary about the vaporiser, admitting she resisted using it – despite the fact it was more effective for the pain – due to the stigma attached to it.

“The vape has been the hardest thing for me to get my head around,” she says.

“I’m always conscious of the smell and worry what people’s assumptions will be of me if they see me vaping or smell cannabis.”

Catherine continues: “The vape can get me out of pain immediately, but I was still turning back to the prescription medications for a while because it’s easier to disguise the fact that you’ve popped a couple of pills.

“I feel like I have to tell people about it and explain what I’m taking, which is madness because I didn’t ever feel I had to justify taking Tramadol to anybody.

“I do say to friends, if you’re uncomfortable then I won’t do it in front of you. There is a part of me that is willing to keep myself in pain, because people might view it as not being okay.”

Catherine’s prescription currently costs her around £700 a month, an amount she will be unable to sustain in the long-term. 

But she says she would rather run up debt than take the risk of accessing it illegally.

“I’m faced with the option of losing the prescription, or taking out some sort of loan to cover the costs and getting into debt,” she says.

“In the position I’m in now I don’t think that I could turn to the street, for me the debt option is better than turning to illicit ways.”

Although she hasn’t had any negative responses to her medication and is “fully supportive” of medical cannabis, she blames the stigma she feels from how she has been “conditioned” by society.

“I think it’s down to me and the fact that I view myself as a mum and there’s a certain responsibility attached to that,” she admits.

“In my eyes, someone who consumes illegal drugs is not a good parent, but then on the flip side, I can’t be a mum without medical cannabis. I can’t be a good mum without it anyway.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those in the story

In the run up to our women’s health webinar on Tuesday 3 August, we are sharing the stories of mothers who have found cannabis medicines helpful in the management of their health conditions – and how they’ve coped with stigma from the rest of society. 

women's health webinar

The second episode in this ground-breaking series, will focus on the complexities facing mothers who are both prescribed medical cannabis and those whose children require cannabis medicines to manage their conditions.

Join speakers Hannah Deacon, patient advocate and mum-of-six, Gillian Flood and clinicians Dr Sally Ghazaleh, pain management consultant at the Whittington Hospital and Women’s Health Consultant at Integro Clinics, and Sarah Higgins CNS, women’s health lead at CPASS to explore cannabis and motherhood on Tuesday 3 August at 7pm.

The webinar is free of charge, register here


Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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