By Maya Novikov.
It is 4 am, but I have not slept yet. My stomach is rumbling, but I can not eat without throwing up. Sudden electric sensations in my head, known as brain zaps, are irritating. I also have to deal with mild, but persistent headache: it won’t respond to over-the-counter painkillers. Restlessness. Nausea. Shivers. It has been five days I got off Lexapro, the most popular SSRI antidepressant in the United States.
What does it have to do with legal cannabis, one might ask. Well, Lexapro is widely used to treat anxiety disorders, be it generalized anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In legal states doctors are allowed to recommend patients with anxiety to try CBD (cannabidiol, one of the dozens of cannabinoids, marijuana’s ) tinctures and high-CBD low-THC strains of marijuana. According to several recent studies, cannabidiol proved to be effective in treating anxiety. Pure CBD tinctures do not contain THC, therefore they are not psychoactive, in essence, they can not get anyone high. That means there is no risk of abuse.
Lexapro has plenty of side effects: dry mouth, dizziness, insomnia, significantly decreased libido, even suicidal thoughts on early stages. Patients who has been on it for a long time, especially those who were treated for depression, also report weight gain and “zombie-like feeling.”
Meanwhile people who use CBD to treat their anxiety, sometimes combining edibles, drops, or vaping liquids, with cognitive-behavioral therapy, do not report any significant side effects except for the cotton mouth. Frankly, I would be OK with that.
Please do not get me wrong: I can not complain, Lexapro has done miracles for me. My social anxiety is gone, I have no panic attacks and unexplainable aches anymore, and I am definitely not depressed. But I still think about how would I feel at this very moment if my doctor had the right to recommend legal cannabis products before putting me on SSRI.
By the way, unexplainable aches were not easy to figure out. I have visited several medical professionals, and, unable to find anything, some of them just prescribed Vicodin or Tylenol-Codeine to me. They give these pills away as they were Halloween candy. Which they are not.
According to American Society of Addiction Medicine 2016 factsheet, four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. Sound scary, right? There’s more of it: “People often share their unused pain relievers, unaware of the dangers of nonmusical opioid use. Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative.”
Every day, 52 Americans die from opioid pain medication overdose, National Safety Council reports.
Is there a way to stop opioid epidemic in the United States? Medical marijuana could be the key. In the states, where medical cannabis is legal, opioid overdose rate decreases substantially. In many cases, marijuana can be used as a safer alternative to opioid painkillers, especially when a patient needs a long-term solution for chronic pains. Besides that, there is some evidence that marijuana can be effective in treating addiction and preventing overdoses.
What if my doctor could just recommend marijuana instead of antidepressants and painkillers? Most likely it would help me with anxiety and aches, and I would not be going through this nightmare called “withdrawal.” Should I self-medicate? I would, but CBD products with their groundbreaking healing and relaxing power, are not even sold in my state legally. There is only one answer to this problem: legalizing medical marijuana on federal level, the sooner the better.
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