1.6 million Australians are living with chronic pain, according to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates. Among them is 79-year-old Logan City resident Dee, whose life was changed for the better six months ago when she began medicinal cannabis treatments at Pharmaceutical Rehabilitation Services in Beenleigh.
Flashback to seven months ago and Dee was taking copious amounts of pain relief to treat multiple conditions. Often chronic pain such as hers is treated with morphine, but Dee, like many others, couldn’t use it. As she explains, “I’m allergic to morphine, so I was reduced to the only thing I could really take, (which) was Panadeine Forte. That gave me a few of hours of relief.”
The problem is, Panadeine Forte is only really intended to be used in the short-term, it can be addictive, and you can only take a limited number in a 24-hour period. In her experience, Dee would get around three-hours relief from the tablets. This left her with no option but to simply bear with her pain for hours on end every day, or risk damage to her liver.
“Some of the time you literally can’t think straight,” Dee says of life with chronic pain, “You wriggle, and you toss, and you turn and you’re all over the place. You sit down, you stand up, you walk around. You’ll try exercise; you’ll do anything, but it just doesn’t go anywhere, and you can’t go very far either.”
Dee knew a little bit about medicinal cannabis, having worked in palliative care for around 17 years. In that time, she had seen a few patients taking medicinal cannabis to relieve their pain, but back then, the products were illegal. So, while she was sure it could be advantageous for her own conditions, Dee wasn’t willing to risk trying it at the time.
“To live with the pain every day when you know the only alternative is something that’s not going to be good for you, that affects you mentally as well, because you worry about it,” Dee says.
That’s why she was one of the first to put her hand up for medicinal cannabis when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) allowed approved doctors to start prescribing the treatment. Dee visited Pharmaceutical Rehabilitation Services (PRS) in Beenleigh, where Dr. Guy Wright is approved to prescribe this ground-breaking medicine to eligible patients.
“I went along and was very impressed with the care the Doctor took to make sure what I was doing – my dose – was tailored to me,” Dee says, “You know it’s not just an across the counter thing it’s tailored to what you need. So, I’m totally impressed to be honest. Since I’ve been on the (CBD) oil, I’ve been able to give up my medication; with the cannabis oil being natural it’s not damaging the rest of my organs.”
Like many people, Dee wasn’t sure how she would feel when she started her treatment.
“I’d never used marijuana in the recreational sense,” Dee says, “I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was the way to go for me. I had no idea whether I was going to feel something physically or not – I had no idea. I was walking around the house waiting after I had my first dose and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I feel really serene’…I was calm and serene and… I was just me.”
Now, Dee has one message for anyone suffering from chronic physical or mental health issues.
“Hop in the car, I’ll take you up (to PRS) now,” she laughs, “Honestly I would suggest to anybody – and I do talk about it all the time – I would say, don’t hesitate. Don’t wait until tomorrow. I’m really thrilled with it. I’m grateful – so grateful – that at long last we can do something that’s legal, but that’s going to work.”
Name has been changed for patient confidentiality purposes.