Medicinal Cannabis and the return to work.

Of a particular frustration to the chronic pain community, is those that are able to return to part time work, but have so many flare ups and days off sick that they are not able to work to a schedule, and unreliable workers in that sense.  This is a personal issue I have with the ACC system, as most employers balk at the idea of an employee who can’t reliably manage a few short shifts per week, as there is no guarantee when the flare ups of the pain will occur. Below is a story by another sufferer of a chronic pain syndrome, that evolved from an excruciating event with a kidney stone. In this patients case  moderated Cannabis use has saved the Govt thousands in hospital admissions, another few hundred in prescriptions, and with the patient actively trying to return to the workforce thanks to the relief obtained with Cannabis, one would anticipate a 5 figures  per year or so saving  in sickness benefits would be paid out in future.

The night before my 20th birthday I was watching TV and I started getting what I thought were period pains. They kept on getting worse and worse until I rang Healthline and told them what was happening. They told me to go into A&E and there I was told I had a kidney stone.

That passed on its own no problems, then a few months later I had the pain again, went in and they said the same thing it’s a stone, don’t stress you’ll be sweet as, here have some more morphine.

The pain started coming more and more often until I was going into A&E a couple of times a month with pain that was out of control in my lower left abdomen.

Eventually I was diagnosed with a Chronic Pain Syndrome, a neurological condition where my wiring in my nerves send out pain signals for no reason. My GP referred me to Burwood Pain Clinic and there I saw Dr Alchin and the pain team. There I was put on gabapentin in combination with an anti-depressant called Venlafaxine. Apparently these 2 drugs work well together when it comes to relieving chronic pain. I also was referred to a psychiatrist and physiotherapist.

Nothing worked and the side effects of the venlafaxine were making me SO unwell. I was also prescribed Morphine, Tramadol, Codiene, pretty much every painkiller they have which all help the pain slightly for a little bit of time but cause horrible side effects like nausea, vomiting, BAD temper, bad dreams, bad memory, dizziness, stopping in the middle of a conversation and forgetting what we were talking about, leaving stuff behind ALL the time and a whole lot of other crap.

Then after awhile they said there wasn’t any more they could do and that I was just going to have to do my best to live with it.

Before all this started I was working as a nanny in Auckland and I had to quit as I was so unreliable, I had no idea when the pain would hit and when it did all I could do is ring 111 and ask for an ambulance. I tried working part time in a supermarket deli, was fired from that too because I was 2 unreliable and took 2 much time off sick.

For 3 years since my 20th I had been going to A&E about 2-3 times a month with very strong 10/10 uncontrollable pain. More than a few times I was told GO HOME YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A DRUG SEEKER. This is one of the worst things I think, as the pain was neurological, there was no other symptoms other than pain and raised pulse/BP, so they couldn’t find a source for the pain so obviously I was faking it for attention/to get opiates. When you are in that much pain and you get told you’re faking it, you do not usually react very well, your reaction is noted in your records and the next time you go to A&E in pain the exact same thing will happen.

I started reading up on a support group for people with chronic pain which is mostly based in the US and Canada. The people on the page had such amazing stories about how MMJ helped them with their chronic pain and I had to try it.

I researched methods of using it, as I was in this for the long haul, I didn’t want to smoke it and ruin my lungs.  I discovered many people were using vaporizers, the good ones have been tested and found to remove 90-95% of the extra crap that ends up in the lungs. Basically they work just be applying heat without flame to the material, and the active ingredients boil off and are inhaled, without burning the material. I have a portable one that allows me to discreetly get pain relief while out and about, allowing me to get more active without fear of being disabled by my pain while in the middle of town.

I started as soon as I could find some and I noticed my whole body relaxing as I was “vaping” it. My pain which was sitting at about 6/10 at the time went away almost completely.  I thought “nah surely it wouldn’t work that fast” but it really did.

After around 2 months, one day I realized OMG I haven’t been in a&e this month!! And I didn’t go back in for about 6 months. I was amazed and I’ve never looked back.

I’m turning 26 in March and I’ve been vaping regularly for 2 years, I am about to start looking for part time work!  I haven’t been into A&E for (around about) the last 6 months with the pain and the gaps between flares are getting bigger and bigger.

I personally don’t think it’s fair that someone who doesn’t even know me, has the authority to tell me “you can’t smoke that its illegal/bad for you” when it’s the only thing keeping me going!








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  1. This needs to be sent onto ministers Adams, Dunne & Coleman.. who appear to think that medicinal cannabis, is just an excuse to legalise recreational use. As long as there IS a perception that ‘its just an excuse to abuse the system’ it will just remain ‘in the doldrums’ (going nowhere, fast).. every genuine case like this, needs to be highlighted to disprove their B-S assertions.

    Unfortunately there probably are a ‘few bad apples’ BUT; they don’t have to spoil the whole TREE !

    keep up the good work SLB

  2. Mike C

     /  31st January 2015

    I have actually come around to the idea that cannabis should be legalized for personal use, and not just medicinal use.

    The only things that I would want put in place law-wise, would be that people can’t grow it to sell, and for the people in certain types of jobs get random blood tested, to make sure their blood ratio wasn’t above a certain limit (like alcohol and drink driving).

    • Thanks for the support Mike, yes full legalization would solve our problems in the chronic pain arena, cutting the red tape etc, but that probably wont fly any time soon………… In my chronic pain advocacy group we have a lot of “high quality” pain patients, most have been to see Burwood pain clinic etc, as opposed to a bunch of people milking rather minor injuries for all they are worth. On a side note I just about went to the daily blog, But the demands of exclusivity and my media savvy advisers suggesting that I stick to the middle ground,meant I pulled out at the last moment. I quite like this blog, as it has no ads, and is somewhere in the middle, though I feel that PG is on the slightly progressive end of the spectrum on social issues such as Euthanasia and MMJ.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  31st January 2015

        What law has to change to allow medical prescription? After all morphine is heavily prescribed yet banned otherwise?

        • The Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, which had a law commission review/report in 2011 which suggested police back off from medicinal users. As raw cannabis is Class C and preparations are class B, they don’t need to be rescheduled from a medical use standpoint, and those classifications actually make sense, as opposed to the USA where Cannabis is the equivalent of Class A. Currently doctors can, but rarely do, prescribe raw cannabis, its the obtaining of the prescription that the laws get broken. All the 2011 law commission recommendations regarding medpot were ignored by the Govenrment, though I have OIA requests in to confirm this, as they may haves told police to back off in private without telling the public…………

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  31st January 2015

            So what change are you actually seeking?

            • That’s where things get interesting, there is more than one way to skin a Cat!!! The”what” is that cannabinoid medicines are treated in the same manner as opiates. I would point out that Codeine, Tramadol, Morphine, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, and Methadone are all subsidised by Pharmac, while Sativex, the only Cannabinoid medicine is ridiculously hard to obtain, and costs $900 or more for 3 bottles. As to the how, there are plenty of countries that have implemented MMJ, being slow off the start we could copy paste another countries MMJ laws, with fine tuning of the negative effects or things that were overlooked, as we have the benefit of hindsight. The medical profession demand control and transparency on how much is consumed and how strong the product is, while the patients want to claw back some control over their own lives, and this includes growing their own, as cripples don’t fare well in tinny houses 😦 The 2 desires are hard to reconcile, but it must be attempted to alleviate so much suffering.

    • Greg

       /  31st January 2015

      AWesome post …took the words right out of my mouth

  3. Peta S

     /  31st January 2015

    Excellent story to raise awareness on this issue! Through MMJ she has got her life back compared to being on massive doses of deadly drugs which leave a person hardly able to function at all. Well done to her for looking into it. The vaping seems to be a great way to use it, though I would suggest to her maybe try taking it as an oil (cold) also as it has amazing healing properties. It would be worth seeing if it could work toward actually healing the problem rather than just relieving the pain. There are a lot of processes that happen neurologically, and while it may be that the body is sending false messages of injury/pain, SOMETHING is causing that, and I don’t believe Drs should be writing it off as ‘all in ones head’.

    • Hannah

       /  1st February 2015

      This is my story 🙂 thanks for the info I’ll definitely look into it.
      At the moment I do the best I can with the small amounts I can afford.

  4. Greg

     /  31st January 2015

    That scripted cannabis can be obtained legally, the scripting physician can import in accordance Medicines Act?

    • Mike C

       /  31st January 2015

      @Greg. I think scripted cannabis would be open to too much abuse, at the expense of the New Zealand Tax Payer.

      Controlled and restricted growth of plants for personal use of Cannabis, is something I am capable of supporting.

      But I am not prepared at this point in time to condone the New Zealanders Tax Payer Dollars being used on an untried scheme.

      Anyone who wants to use Marijuana on a regular basis, needs to be transparent.

      • Even if scripted, It doesn’t have to cost the tax payer money. The NZ Pharmacies have already confirmed in the past they they are capable of handling Cannabis preparations, the simplest being 5gram bags, through to liquids which would be no different to them than handling Morphine elixir. I wouldn’t expect Pharmac to subsidize any of this, but it would be possible to reduce costs if managed properly, such as Pharmac running a separate Business unit, a professional grow op as a low profit entity. Alternatively a Charity being allowed to run a large grow op as a non profit, similar to “compassion clubs” in Canada/USA, but on a larger scale to supply pharmacies. Allowing controlled grow your own is easy, and has been done in MANY places, but for those that cant grow their own their must be a legal alternative, using existing pharmacies instead of starting Seedy dispensaries could be a kiwi spin on the international developments in the arena.

  5. NZ is totally dragging the chain on this.. most other ‘western nations’ are already allowing or trialling medicinal/therapeutic use of the ‘raw natural’ plant drug. (cannabis)
    Most of the current NZ political rhetoric is actually scare-mongering & misinformation, to keep it in the ‘too hard’ basket &/or keep the prohibitionists & their massive industry (police, judiciary, customs, corrections) happy. BUT the reality is that the ‘cat is out of the bag’ & increasingly people are becoming aware of this !

  6. Brown

     /  1st February 2015

    This was an informative lot of comments. I’m not sure what works within the “dope” to reduce pain but if its just the drug making you dopey overall that’s not a solution for people working. If that’s the case its like hurting yourself when drunk and thinking nothing of it until you sober up and wonder where all the blood came from.

    I may be missing something but it looks to me as though you can use dope for pain relief and not attract the attention of the plod although you will have to pay for it out of your own pocket. My dodgy recollection is that the few times I’ve seen someone pleading a medical defence they have hardly looked convincing. Is there a real problem in this (apart from failing drug tests)?

    • @Brown, there are 2 variables about the level of intoxication, firstly Its about dosing, 2-3 puffs on a pipe or vaporiser, versus the old stereotype of smoking a blunt. Secondly there are strains of cannabis that are more intoxicating and those with more pain relief, my wife has tried twice, and the first one was a medical strain, with 5/10 pain reduction and the level of intoxication of about 1 beer, this is mainly to do with the second active compound in Cannabis, CBD, which generally neutralizes intoxication from the primary ingredient THC, while amplifying the pain relief effect, which leads to more pain relief, less stoned. That is why the high CBD strain used in colorado on the epileptic kids was first coined “Hippies dissaspointment”
      Brown, of those that were pleading medicinal and didn’t look the part, have you considered what other drugs they were on? The wife had a whole year of her memory virtually wiped by prescription pharmaceutical cocktails, and at that time she would struggle to spell 5 letter words, people in that position pleading medicinal may not scrub up so well, but the claim would certainly be legitimate, my Chronic Pain group has what would be considered “high quality patients” google CRPS, its the worst pain disorder in existence and I have at least 10 of them in my group.


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