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Cannabis: Can it Help Those With Spinal Cord Injuries?
Kyle Gieni, Resource Coordinator, PIRC
November 2, 2018

Cannabis: Can it Help Those With Spinal Cord Injuries?

Medical Cannabis

 

O Canaba, our home we grow 4 plants,

True patriot buds, in one household one grand, grams.

With growing large, we see them rise,

Skunk, dank, green, grass, weed.

From far and wide O Canaba, we stand on guard for trees.

Gods keep our land, free of mold and mites.

O Canaba no mold or mites please, please,

O Canaba we stand on guard for trees…

 

As you are no doubt aware, cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17, 2018. All kidding aside about changing the national anthem, what does this all mean for the general Canadian population who has had little to no exposure to this ancient, once illegal, substance? For most Canadians, this drug has been illegal their whole lives, but for myself, it has been officially legal for the past 9 years and for some people, the past 17. This is because cannabis has been prescribed as medication since 2001 by a small number of doctors (about 1 in 25 from my experience).

I have a mid thoracic spinal cord injury (SCI) leaving me with no feeling or movement below my chest. Being paraplegic has many complications since I am sitting in a wheelchair all day not being able to walk like normal. The pain and spasms that come along with an SCI can be debilitating and dangerous depending on the circumstances. If I have a bad spasm while doing a transfer, I will miss the target and find myself on the floor because I cannot control these bodily tremors which send my body into a shaking fit. Cannabis is relaxing, melting away the pain from a tight body and relaxing the spasms that come from being so constricted. One year after falling off my bicycle in 2003 and being rendered a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, I tried my first joint since I could not handle all the prescriptions I was on and knew of some positive effects of cannabis. Unofficially, I have been using marijuana as medication for the past 14 years and I can say that it has been the difference maker in living a manageable, positive lifestyle.

Since people know my public use of this type of medication, a doctor in research at the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre asked me to be a research coordinator to help develop studies surrounding spinal cord injury and cannabis use. We would like to first find out how this medication is being used and the effects of the various types of cannabis. There are different types of strains and there are different ways to take them. One can smoke, vaporize, eat, apply topically, or take oil drops under the tongue. There are hundreds of different types of marijuana from indica (short, dense plant) to sativa (tall, narrow leaves). There are strains high in better known cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol) that help seizures, arthritis, and heart disease, as well as strains high in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which is the main contributor to the psychoactive effects users feel. Other ingredients also found to have varying effects found in marijuana are THCA (tetrehydrocannabinolic acid), THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), CBDA (cannabidolic acid), CBN (cannabinol), CBC (cannabichromene), CBL (cannabicyclol), CBG (cannabigerol). There has not been much research in this field due to the illegality of marijuana in the past. As the first G7 country to legalize this drug, Canada has the opportunity to be a front runner in studying the potential benefits and limitations of cannabis as a medication. The research has the potential to be ground breaking for people with spinal cord injuries among many others.

Having attended the Cannabis Hemp Conference and Expo at UBC last month, I came away with information that left me questioning the effectiveness of certain cannabinoids and like CBD and THC versus the various terpenoids that are found in marijuana which have altering effects on the consumer. For example, some research done in the US explains that different types of cannabis plants have high THC, High CBD, or a mix of CBD and THC, yet still have the same effects on the user if the terpenoids are the same in the various types of cannabis. Terpenoids (terpenes) are the essential oils found in the trichomes of marijuana that give it the certain smell and ultimately will dictate how you feel. Common terpenes such as pinene, myrcene, limonene, and linalool are found respectively in pine, hops, lemon, and lavender, which all have differing effects for the consumer. There is much research yet to be done but we are living in unique times with a huge potential to find new ways to help people who are coping with various health challenges.

Welcome to Canaba, growing since 2018!

Disclaimer: Given the need for more definitive research on the use of cannabis as a medical treatment, anyone contemplating the use of cannabis to help treat any health condition, should consult with their physician before taking any action.

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