For the first few weeks of lockdown, I found myself smoking more than usual. When pain surges through my body I don’t reach for a NSAID; I break down some flower, roll it into a hemp paper, take a match to the wick, and inhale.
Since my freshman year of college, cannabis has been my go-to pain reliever for a skin condition I developed in middle school called Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) that causes boils and cysts to form in places where the skin touches the skin. For those of you unfamiliar with the chronic inflammatory skin condition, at its best, it manifests as pea-sized boils in areas such as the armpits, buttocks, and groin. At its worst, it exists as golf ball sized boils with additional scarring, tunneling, and sinus tract formations with pus draining from them 24/7 all over the body.
Some patients have reported boils and lesions on their scalps and on their ear lobes. Just imagine for a second a life where each time you lifted your armpit, sat down, or washed yourself, there is nothing but raw skin, open wounds, and pus. It sounds disastrous right? It is.
That’s why I smoke cannabis and strongly advocate for its decriminalization and destigmatization, especially for people of color. Cannabis has a long racial history I won’t get into in this article, but if you want a glimpse at some racist anti-marijuana propaganda, just watch the 1936 film Reefer Madness. It’s a great starting point in understanding cannabis regulation in this country.
Over the years I’ve empowered myself by taking my healing into my own hands because unfortunately there’s no cure for HS. I began with changing my diet by adapting a vegan/ vegetarian lifestyle, which subsequently resulted in me shedding 160 pounds from a 350-pound body. This began my deep dive into holistic medicines as a cure for chronic disease.
Remission and Relapse
For a period of two years, I was in remission. Wounds on my chest, back, and stomach began closing with no medical intervention, and my mood and quality of life began improving. During this time, my relationship with cannabis switched from using it as a natural analgesic to using it as a workout and sleep aid.
Then, after being in remission for two years, I got a tennis ball-sized boil in a very intimate space on my body. I couldn’t walk. I was bed-ridden for two weeks. About a week-and-half, I paid a visit to my primary care physician to get the boil lanced and relieve some of the pain. This is when my relationship with cannabis changed again.
I started smoking again for pain management as new lesions began popping up on my body. My theory is that dairy in my diet triggers my HS to flare up. It’s a theory because researchers haven’t discovered why and how HS manifests within the body. Some studies have shown diet may play a factor in its development, but there’s no concrete clinical research to back this up.
However, patients like myself have tested various dietary methods from veganism to the ketogenic diet to bring our HS into remission. Recently, I’ve gotten back on track with my dieting, somewhat, and my flares don’t happen as often as they used to. I still smoke to manage the pain that comes and goes, but nowadays I use flower for pain management and regulating anxiety.
Recently, though, I’ve found myself growing tired of smoking. I don’t know if my lungs are tired, my brain is tired, or both, but I’ve been more interested in consuming cannabis through tinctures, teas, controlled doses of edibles, and topical salves for the skin. Not only that, but I have a desire to test the multitude of cannabinoids the cannabis plant has to offer because each cannabinoid can have specific targeted benefits for the body.
When I smoke THC, I feel a sense of anxiety arise in my chest now more than ever. Because I’ve used this herb for analgesic purposes I’ve had trouble balancing my need to be pain-free with my desire to be less anxious. So, instead of giving up the herb all together, I’ve decided to research new ways of consuming cannabis that are non-psychoactive or have lower amounts of THC.
CBD, for example, is a cannabinoid with anti-anxiety, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, and anti-convulsive properties. Often when I consume CBD, it’s in an edible wax form with a smaller percentage of THC from a brand called Jetty. When I dose myself properly, my pain levels are tolerable and my anxiety is diminished, but when I overdo it, my pain is no longer present but my heart races.
The market is teeming with new products and services that offer a cornucopia of herbal experiences, from wax to vapes to salves/ balms to pills. If you find yourself growing tired of the traditional ways of consuming cannabis, don’t be afraid to try something new!
If you’re chronically ill like I am and have grown tired of toking the pain away, you might find more pleasure in sipping your cannabis in a tea or eating it in a delicious vegan burger. There’s no shame in experimenting with cannabis because it’s ultimately here to serve you.
You get to decide how, when, where, and why you consume the herb. Develop a child-like curiosity and begin reading articles on cannabinoids such as CBN (used for anxiety and nausea), CBC (consumed for mitigating pain, fighting bacteria, and depression), or CBG (known to inhibit cell growth in tumor/cancer cells, and promote bone growth).
My relationship with cannabis has changed drastically over the years. I’ve grown from a baby pothead who knew nothing about the medicinal properties to a cannabis advocate ready to stimulate my endocannabinoid system and share the benefits of cannabis with the world. This transition I am making, slowly but surely, is enabling me to have a deeper appreciation for weed because it’s no longer just a plant I can use to get high; it’s a plant I can heal myself with. And that makes all the difference to me.