Cannabis Patient Care - August 2022

Cannabis Patient Care - August 2022

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19 patient focus july/august 2022 | cannabis patient care C ARLA BASANTE BEGAN using cannabis about 15 years ago to manage chronic pain from a severe back injury and symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). A breast cancer survivor, Carla has had two back sur- geries to treat the damage caused by a bad car accident when she was in her early 40s, as well as a nerve ablation, and oth- er procedures. After doctors had trouble explaining the various symptoms she was experiencing after that accident, an MRI revealed she was also suffering from MS. The trauma of the back injury had "activated" her lurking MS, leading to seizures and other de- bilitating problems. What followed was a medicine cabinet full of powerful pharmaceutical drugs. "Oxy, Percocet, valium – they'd prescribe anything, even steroids," Carla remembers. The unpleasant side effects of the medications she was initially prescribed for her conditions led her to investigate alternatives. "My son was a factor. I wanted to be a mother, but I didn't recognize myself," Carla says. She found that cannabis provided relief without the many side effects of other medications. Once she found a canna- bis regimen that worked, she was able to go take herself off of 10 drugs. "It's horrible to live with chronic illness and chronic pain, but it's been years since I've had to take steroids, and I hav- en't had MS episodes," Carla says. "If I wasn't medicating with cannabis, I couldn't function." Her research on medical cannabis also led her to Amer- icans for Safe Access (ASA). She has attended ASA's annual unity conference in Washington, D.C. three times, first in 2017, and has lobbied on Capitol Hill. "That ASA conference changed my life," Carla says. "I met patients from all walks of life – lawyers, doctors, parents of children with Dravet Syndrome." Carla's direct advocacy work began when she had to go in for another back surgery and was told she couldn't use can- nabis at the hospital. After her procedure, she was sent to a rehabilitation center that weekend, the staff asked her if she was using any medications. When she told them, yes, she used cannabis, the staff said they were sorry, but this was a "no flame" facility. "No problem," Carla said. "I've got a vape pen, so no flame." Stumped by that, the nurse set up a medication schedule with her for her cannabis use. When the administrative folks returned to work on Monday, they told Carla she'd have to stop. "I told them, no, we've already got a schedule, and it's not causing anyone any problems," Carla recalls. They said she would have to switch to dronabinol, the Food and Drug Ad- ministration's (FDA)-approved synthetic tetrahydrocannabi- nol (THC) medicine. Instead, Carla opted for cannabis oils and medicated baked goods. In the future, Carla would like to see cannabis be more available to those in need, and for medical facilities to pro- vide cannabis lounges for patients so that they can get the treatment they prefer to use. "The number of pills being doled out is frightening, particu- larly for our elderly population. It's a free for all," Carla says. "If they were able to use cannabis in different forms, it would save them from the dangerous side effects." Carla was back at that rehab center a year ago because her mother was receiving care there and was surprised to have the staff remember her. "I was wearing a mask, but aides were pointing. 'You were here before,'" Carla says. "They remembered me going outside in my wheelchair to use the vape pen." Carla's self-advocacy had made an impression. "My thing is cannabis use for facilities, hospitals, prisons, nursing, rehab, even schools – all the places that receive fed- eral funds and say you can't use cannabis as medicine," Carla says. "I have a friend with a son in high school in New Jersey who is finally able to administer his cannabis in school." Because of her son, Carla has had to deal with the an- ti-cannabis messages common to schools. He was 7 years old when she started using cannabis, and she worked to educate him about "mom's medicine", but things changed when he got to middle school and was exposed to strident anti-can- nabis messages. Carla had been showing him ASA materials and her collection of books about the medical uses of canna- bis, but the conflicting messages led to arguments. He want- ed her to stop. "I'm more engaged, more active – don't you see the differ- ence?" Carla remembers asking him. "It's not taking away all Patient and Activist Profile: Carla Basante B Y W I L L I A M D O L P H I N

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