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Medicinal cannabis: 'It's magic. I now swim three times a week and can take steps in the water'

This evening the Dáil is debating the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

IF LEGALISED IRISH patients would be able to obtain a legally protected, secure supply of medicinal cannabis.

MS Ireland, the national organisation supporting people with multiple sclerosis, is welcoming the move. Ava Battles, CEO of MS Ireland says,

“Ongoing research into the benefits of medicinal cannabis and cannabis-based medication extract has shown the efficacy of such treatments to reduce spasticity, pain, sleep disturbances and other symptoms associated with MS. MS Ireland believes people should have access to all and any appropriate and licensed treatments.”

We speak to two people living with MS about the virtues of the cannabis-derived medicine: Sativex.

Anna O’Connor

MS causes spasticity in my legs when I go to bed. This makes falling asleep very difficult.
I understand that Sativex might help these muscles relax and alleviate the pain which would allow me to get a peaceful night’s sleep.

During the daytime, spasticity in my right hand makes using any tools eg knife and fork, scissors etc, almost impossible, particularly in a social situation. This can influence what I eat in the company of others thus inhibiting my social life.

I have been prescribed and taken Lyrica in the past but discontinued taking it as it didn’t work very well for me and also left my brain “fuzzy” the following day.

Spasticity in my leg and hand also prevents me from working because I worked as a restorative architectural artist which requires meticulous use of my limbs. Obviously, climbing ladders/scaffolding is no longer a possibility.

I believe Sativex sometimes helps with bladder problems in MS. This would be a huge benefit as a constant problem if I go anywhere is looking for the loo.

British patients have access

From what I have read and heard from users of Sativex in the UK, it helps considerably with sleep and relaxing muscles during the day. It is difficult to understand why it is not available in Ireland when patients in the UK and Northern Ireland can get it if it helps them.

Sativex was supposed to have been signed off on about two years ago, but that never happened.

I remember at the time that the media reported it in a poor and biased way by emphasising that cannabis was going to be available on prescription to MS sufferers in Ireland. It would not surprise me if those reports had a negative effect on it being signed off for use.

shutterstock_502682110 Source: Shutterstock/Swapan Photography

Fionnuala Thornton

My diagnosis of MS didn’t come swiftly. It took almost seven years from early onset and so I was forced to endure the unknowing, disbelieving and sometimes condescending attitudes of physicians born in a pre-MRI world, prior to my final diagnosis.

Needless to say, the impact on my life over the 30 years since has been shattering. It’s left me in a wheelchair and powerless to help myself.

Nothing was as devastating, however, as the onset of muscle spasm three years ago, upending a life already consumed by disability and pain. Spasm locked my body with cement-like stiffness.

My legs lost the strength to remain standing safely on any surface, affecting my ability to shower, dress, leave the house, or get into my car.

Consequently, antispasmodics and botox injections were prescribed in an attempt to lessen the severity of the spasm, but to no avail. The effect was to further weaken already weakened limbs.

Benefits of hemp oil supplement

Enter hemp oil, which before long loosened and relaxed my body, lessening the spasm, giving me an opportunity once again to regain a little control over my life.

It’s magic. I now swim three times a week and can take steps in the water: forward, sideways, backwards, hold my balance. I’m correcting my posture and gait. The spinoff effects are also dramatic. My mood and concentration have also benefitted from that innocuous, natural “Godly” oil.

Why are we limited to prescribed manmade chemicals when the elixir is at hand? Thousands of people could benefit from this wonderful method of controlling spasm. There is a cost factor, however. Hemp oil is quite expensive to buy on a regular basis, which is why we should now consider Sativex.

Sativex is a drug containing cannabinoids, the same properties that are found in hemp oil. It is available as a treatment for spasm in Britain and Europe, and it was expected that Ireland would follow suit. Unfortunately for us, the HSE and the makers of Sativex have been unable to agree a price for the product to date.

We need to set this wrong to right and do all in our power to make sure that Sativex is a given to all who need it.

Debate Room: Should we legalise medicinal cannabis?>

‘It’s time we got on with it’: Support for medicinal cannabis bill could mean it’s a runner>

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About the author:

Fionnuala O'Leary & Anna O'Connor

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