Using Medical Marijuana to Treat Illnesses
About 15 years ago, James O’Hara began experiencing an aching pain and stiffness in his left hip, symptoms that were eventually diagnosed as osteoarthritis. The former banking executive, now 60, managed the condition with Tylenol and Advil for a while, before finally turning to a prescription drug. After a few years, one of the medication’s side effects—stomach upset—became so severe that it caused what’s known as refractory pain, which travelled up a nerve to O’Hara’s left ear. “It was horrific,” he says, and for years he relied on an ever-changing cocktail of prescription medications to combat the side effects from the first one, with varying levels of success.
The idea of trying cannabis as an alternative came to O’Hara five years ago, after several of his friends began using it for their own health problems. Despite not having smoked pot regularly since his early 20s, O’Hara experimented with recreational marijuana for pain control and eventually got a formal prescription from a cannabis clinic.
“I was shocked at how well it worked,” says O’Hara, who this March became CEO and president of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana. “With it, I could function better, and mentally, I was a lot clearer.”
As well as suffering from osteoarthritis, O’Hara experiences focal seizures as a result of an old head trauma, which make him forgetful and disoriented. Since beginning to take medical marijuana, he says these seizures have been reduced by about 85 per cent. On top of that, he believes cannabis helps his chronic asthma.
“I was surprised by these unexpected benefits,” he says. “For me to realize I had gone through my life not knowing that this was available to me made me quite angry. It made me ask, ‘Why aren’t we talking about this more?’”