Please Stop Telling Me To Try Marijuana
When I hear the words “have you tried…” tumble out of someone’s mouth after I tell them about my chronic illness, it is most commonly followed by “yoga?”, “a chiropractor?”, or “medical marijuana?” It’s a fun guessing game — which equally predictable and unhelpful suggestion for my back pain will it be today?
Yes, I've tried it, and no, it doesn't help
Medical marijuana tends to be suggested to me by younger people (usually young men) that do not live with chronic pain. It’s usually presented in a light, almost trivial way — because weed is cool, and wouldn’t it be even cooler if I had a medical reason to get high all the time? Sometimes, they joke about how I could get a medical marijuana card and share some with them. It rubs me the wrong way because living with my illness is the farthest thing from cool or funny. Also, I wouldn’t share it with you.
When I get this suggestion, I eye-roll internally and tell them, “Yes, I’ve tried it. No, it doesn’t help.” Now would be a good time to mention that marijuana is legal where I live in Canada. I have tried multiple forms and strains of marijuana, but the most it’s ever done for me is help me sleep. It has never improved the awful pain of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) for me. In fact, on one occasion, the experience caused my brain to “zero in” on the sensation of pain, inhibiting some of my usual coping strategies.
It works for some people
For some people with AS, marijuana really works. I think that’s great — but it doesn’t work for me. And no, I don’t need to “try a different strain that you heard is the best kind for pain,” nor do I need to hear about your aunt’s friend’s cousin’s grandma whose pain was cured by marijuana. If you had any idea what I’ve been through and the treatments I’ve tried, you would realize how laughable the phrase “have you tried weed?” is to me. I’m on intense prescription medications in order to function, but sure, maybe I’d change my mind if I lit the right joint.
I think part of the reason that medical marijuana is suggested so frequently is because it has been recently legalized and pushed into the public eye. It’s trendy. But why do people think that they’re aware of a pain management method that I am not? I have obviously already looked into it and given it a chance.
AxSpA can't be cured by natural remedies
The suggestion also goes hand-in-hand with the ableist perspective that disabilities are best “cured” by natural remedies. You’ll notice that the other most common suggestions I get (yoga and a chiropractor) are also non-traditional, non-medicinal treatments. There is a narrative that those who “win” chronic pain are those who manage it without needing medical intervention. It would not only be trendy if I used marijuana for my pain, it would be admired.
In conclusion, I do not care if you personally consume marijuana, but please stop telling me to do the same. In fact, while we’re at it, it’s best not to suggest anything within the first five minutes of learning about my illness. I’m happy for the people who find relief from marijuana, but I’ll stick to the medications that help me — more weed for you.
Does reading AxSpA patient stories help you in your journey?