health mystery solved: cannabinoid allergy
This is a story nobody will want to hear. Very few will listen and I can already feel the eye-rolling commencing. I’m the real-life Debbie Downer. Remember the SNL skit from the early 2000s? Yeah, that’s me. If I ever had any doubt about my purpose on this earth, it’s clear now: to be wildly unpopular due to truth-telling nobody wants to hear. Here’s my latest truth:
My name is Gina and I am allergic to America’s newest cure-all and favorite past-time, cannabis.
I’d like to say it again because even I have a hard time believing it. I’m severely allergic to cannabinoids in all their various glories. This story is going to start out personal, but will transition into medical/personal. Hopefully, it will read as a personalized public service announcement. Personal aspects need to be included in order to flesh out the full story. And really, who wants to read a public service announcement which simultaneously reads as a medical journal? Okay, I would, but that’s just me. I also really like office supplies.
To fully understand this story, we have to go back to high school in the 1980s. As a student at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, CA, I was nothing short of a pariah with leprosy. I was an untouchable on every level: fat, weird, colorful, opinionated, pimply and, ultimately, unacceptable. My “undesirableness” was made clear day after day by peers, by parents of peers, by school teachers and by complete strangers alike. In my sophomore year, I worked up the nerve to tell a boy I had crush on him and he rewarded my efforts by making my life a living hell for the next three years. He spit phlegm on me, called me names, turned what few friends I had against me…let’s just say it wasn’t easy and I had developed a very real belief that he wanted to kill me. I turned to a new friend named Mary Jane for comfort. Mary (Ms. Jane, if you’re nasty) was introduced at age fourteen through a very unsuccessful bong made from a toilet paper roll core and allot of wondering what the hell I was doing. I had already tried smoking banana peels with no success. As far as I could surmise, “mellow yellow” was a fallacy. I’m talking to you, Donovan! Yet, I still had high hopes for this new, iffy cardboard and open flame contraption with the most minute piece of bud stuck in there somewhere. Again, nothing. One year later, I had my first successful go at what would become a very reliable friend.
My best friend’s brother was the kind of guy who was willing to share his gigantic bong filled with undoubtedly laced marijuana. He was generous that way. He also liked a good laugh. Watching his sister and I cough up a lung after one hit was akin to an HBO comedy special for him. Looking back on it, I can kind of see his point. This shit was funny. It was fun. I hadn’t had that much fun…ever! I hopped on my bike with my other best friend (quick note – I grew up with twins as best friends) and proceeded to drop all of her coveted records down the street. One Scritti Politti album followed by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark followed by Spandau Ballet fell on to the pavement from a janky, plastic bag hung from a bicycle handle. I had no idea that a trail of dorky, dreamy 80s bands littered the street as I rode home with wild abandon. I was so stoned and everything was hilarious! As soon as we got home, I realized food had somehow become much more attractive and delicious. That orange popsicle was the best thing I had ever tasted! Could this get any better? Yes, it could. After picking up all of the albums strewn throughout several streets, we got them on the record player…and damn, I had no idea of the utter awesomeness created by A Flock of Seagulls. Cannabis had opened my eyes to a life where things were tasty, melodic, funny and a hell of allot more comfortable than sitting in a stew of anxiety, depression and PTSD caused by an extremely unsupportive environment.
If you have any doubts about trauma that can be caused in younger years, check out the first season of Netflix’s 13 Reason’s Why. Hanna Baker’s character in the show decided to cope by committing suicide. I chose to cope by using marijuana. I will always be thankful to this majestic plant for saving my life. This was the first time weed would be there for me.
Throughout high school and into college, I became an open advocate for modern day psychonauts, although, at the time, I believe the terminology was something more like “loser”. High school, as a whole, provided zero mental stimulation and I was bored allot. My mother and I had a deal. I could dye my hair any color I wanted, but I needed to keep a “B” average. A “B” average was achieved with little to no effort, so this left plenty of time to get high since school was underwhelming to say the least. Remembering back, I’d like to think I was stoned daily, but this was not really the case, as I was a teenager without much money. During my senior year, I was introduced (by…no joke…my mother) to Grateful Dead concerts where much more than weed was available. I now began to understand the wonders of phycobilin and LSD. Looking back, it was party time, but I really wish I had been able to experience these substances as a profound, guided, mystical awakening rather than a party with Deadheads. Either way, psychedelics were a good time and I never had a bad trip.
At college, friendships came much easier. I wasn’t vilified and persecuted the same way as in high school. Although there was an occasional LSD or mushroom trip to be had, cannabis became less of a needed coping mechanism. I now had found art and was consumed with getting my hands dirty with ceramics, glass, paint, charcoal and so on. I finally had the mental stimulation and supportive environment needed to thrive. With the study of fine arts came a new-found sense of peace and fulfillment.
Along the way, I had a very major and barbaric surgery. For anyone who remembers what anterior cruciate ligament surgery consisted of in the late 80s/early 90s, it wasn’t pretty. The one time I had decided to play along and participate in high school, it backfired in a major way. One of the more humiliating experiences of high school consisted of a vocal “try-out” for the play Damn Yankees. I painfully sang Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, solo, without accompaniment and without much vocal training. Ah, it’s hard to write about this, even now, due to the permanent mortification of it all. Somehow, I was cast in the choir. During rehearsals, a friend and I decided to go across the street to get something to drink. It was after hours and the gates were locked, so we opted to “hop” the fence. Hopping fences was unfamiliar, so instead I thought I’d just jump off the top of the fence to avoid some prickly bushes below…parkour style. This went really wrong and my poor friend had probably never heard a sound like that come out of human before. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital.
This next part is going to be a recurring theme in this story: if you’re fat, please try to never need medical assistance for any reason. Rather than being given an x-ray or cat scan or anything really, I was told that I was too fat and that’s why my knee hurt. I guess it’s also why it was the size of a beach ball, but whatever. A brace was slapped on my leg, some crutches were shoved under my armpits and I was sent on my painfully merry way. Over the next year, the cartilage, meniscus and ligament in my left knee continued to tear during any and all physical activities. It was a limited year which culminated in surgery performed by a man named Dr._________ (not going to say name publicly). I prefer to call him Dr. Dick…as in Dickhead (not Richard). He was the surgeon for the San Francisco 49ers and was apparently very accustomed to working on knees belonging to professional football players, not a 5’4” female.
After an overnight stay in the hospital, I was sent home while still under the influence of very heavy drugs and endured the embarrassment of watching two EMTs struggle to get my ass up three flights of stairs at my mother’s condo in San Francisco. Eventually the anesthesia wore off and I experienced a type of pain which is hard to describe if you’re unfamiliar with the aftermath of a seven-hour long surgery. My nineteen-year-old ass had never even had a broken bone, so not only did I not know this kind of pain, but I also didn’t know what prescription pain killers would do to my system. Dr. Dick had decided not to give me Codeine because it’s addictive, despite also being the gentlest prescription pain medication available at the time. Instead, he prescribed one pill after the next, each one increasing in the amount of hallucinations and nausea. I was left to fend off the pain with the late 80s version of over-the-counter Tylenol…not very strong or helpful. There was nothing left to do other than turn to cannabis once again. My sweet green buds quelled the pain, allowed for some much-needed sleep and kept the appetite healthy. Again, thank you cannabis. I really don’t know what I would have done without you.
To fully understand the extent of the pain, Dr. Dick’s mistake/poor judgement should not be forgotten. The pin inserted into my knee to keep it together was cut too long…say, about the size appropriate for a line-backer. It was so long, in fact, that you could see it poking out under the skin on either side. It also made an adorable squeaky noise upon flexing and extending. I was sent to physical therapy where I was prescribed daily homework. Even though I admittingly resist authority and conformity, I still, generally speaking, following the rules…especially when it comes to longevity. Day after day, I tried to improve on range of motion by repeating the PT directives. Follow up after follow up showed no significant improvement, so Dr. Dick decided to a) blame me for not doing the physical therapy (and for being fat) and b) send me home with a contraption designed to bend the knee through mechanics. For months, I cried through the pain of this machine mechanically flexing and extending my knee so dramatically that you could see about an inch of pin popping out under the skin (eventually, the pin was removed during a second surgery). Who was there for me during this excruciating exercise in torture? I think you know who at this point.
I recovered from a botched knee surgery, graduated with a B.F.A., continued to strive for achievements in the arts and was accepted to graduate school in Chicago. Daily bicycle transportation during grad school got my knee, and the rest of me, into phenomenal shape. I had no reason to visit with cannabis, so I didn’t. Many things happened during the twenty years between ACL surgery and a newfound romance with cannabis, but those are different stories for another time.
In September of 2010, turning forty led to one of the best birthday celebrations I person could ever hope for. It was so good, in fact, that I really don’t even care about doing much on my birthday any longer. It was the end-all, be-all of celebrations which came with an extraordinary amount of generosity from friends and family. One friend, who was well aware of my past affections for pot, gave me a gigantic jar of various strains. I had never had that much weed at one time in one place and was giddy with excitement. It’s not that I ever forgot about my former companion, it’s just that I didn’t have the time and energy to obtain a medical marijuana card or search out independent sellers. In fact, I didn’t have any time or energy at all anymore because everything I had was being put into a sole-proprietorship started four years prior as an independent, personal trainer. That’s right y’all, the fat lady became a personal trainer. Again, how I got there is a long story for a different time…but, to give a quick glimpse, this time period included competitive boxing, extreme dieting, exercising in plastic suits, unhealthy behaviors and doing anything needed to not be fat.
Over time, I realized that not only was my lifestyle of regimented diets and rigorous exercise not sustainable, but that it was, simply said, dumb as hell. In fact, everything was so routine-oriented that there was no room for anything else…including relaxation. Additionally, in mid-2000, I had become aware of fat activists. These bold warriors demonstrated an alternative way to see myself, to see the medical community and to navigate all the negative crap which still inundates fat people to this day. Their way was something I had never considered. It was bonkers to think I could live my life in a healthy manor with a positive outlook on my body while being fat. Why had I never thought of this myself? I still ask this question because, frankly, I’m disappointed in myself over it. I will be forever thankful for the progressiveness of fat activists and for opening my eyes to another way of seeing a situation. This newfound reassessment of values, coupled with a very generous and green birthday gift, allowed for some welcome time with my old friend Mary Jane.
In 2011, unwanted changes in appearance started to become evident, but I chalked it up to turning forty. How many times have we heard stories about unwanted bodily changes at age forty? I’ll answer that – like a gazillion! I told myself, “It must be hormonal or perimenopausal or just what happens.” My bodily changes were slow, but progressive. With every change, I sought out the advice of a medical professional. Spoiler alert: fat was the assumed culprit, yet again. The powers of fat, at least according to MDs, are out of this world. We should really start to think about getting to the moon on fat or maybe building housing with fat because, apparently, it can do anything at any time. Be warned though, fat works more like the devil incarnate according to medical professionals, so maybe we should start considering the dangers of fat in connection to war, famine, climate change, etc. I absolutely will not be surprised if someone finds a way to blame fat for the Trump presidency (one of the biggest catastrophes in our lifetime in my estimation).
Cannabis use was on and off for about five years. It was used as a tool for relaxation and sleep (neither of which were ever my best events). Again, the physical changes were slow, so every time something new popped up, it was attributed to a new theory. First came some pretty gnarly blackheads which made my nose and chin feel like they had embedded caterpillars in them. Well, maybe this was due to hormones, I thought. Then, my eyes started to look really tired. Well, I was now over forty, so what did I expect? Plus, I had recently moved to a first floor flat with a picture window at sidewalk level. Constant paranoia due to nosey strangers looking into my home and cantankerous neighbors on all sides caused tremendous amounts of stress and anxiety. Additionally, I was blessed with an early and dramatic perimenopause. I started to lose sleep. To counter the anxious sleep patterns, I used more pot. Made sense.
In 2015, as if the knee thing wasn’t enough pain for one lifetime, I now earned a severely herniated disc between L5 and S1. Years of holding mitts during personal training/boxing sessions finally took its toll. For those unfamiliar with boxing training, coaches hold mitts for their students while repeating patterns of jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts. It tends to be very fun and always looks wildly impressive to those not in the know. I had been impressing the hell out of everyone since 1999 when I first started holding mitts for others. My one amazing/stupid human trick had said “no more” and was now putting an end to the frivolity by tormenting my back with stabbing pain and the inability to move. As always, the folks at Kaiser were absolutely NOT amazing! My mother drove me to the emergency room where they pumped me full of Ibuprofen, Valium and Dilaudid. As you might already be able to guess, Dilaudid did not go over well and nausea ensued. But, like Elizabeth Warren, I had a plan for that…by now you know what I’m referring to. An MRI was scheduled and conducted two days after the visit to the emergency room. When the MRI results came in, there were crickets. Nobody at Kaiser bothered to inform me that the herniation was so bad that it would require surgery. So, I went about my business, rehabbing my back on my own. Having had a tremendous amount of experience with physical therapy and personal training, I knew exactly what to do…and that’s what I did. Day after day, I went into the studio before work and pushed my way through a laundry list of pelvic tilts, short squats, bridges, back strengtheners and stretches. My old friend was right there with me, dulling the pain enough to both sleep and work while letting me know everything was going to be okay.
Between 2015 and 2019 big changes occurred. My partner and I moved to an adorable house in a calmer neighborhood where I could breathe a sigh of relief. However, at the same time, the sole-proprietorship started to fail. Rental prices in San Francisco had become too much for one woman with a vision of a happier and healthier world and I was forced to move the personal training studio into our garage at home. Yet, with all these major changes in location, the most profound and pronounced changes were within the topic of health. Like business, my health was also now failing…hard and fast. To be really thorough, below is a list of symptoms presented within a five-year span. Pull up a seat because it’s a long one:
-Chronic Back Pain
-Cracking and Popping Joints (more than normal)
-Itching (everywhere, but most often soles of feet, palms of hands, wrist, scalp and groin)
-Chronic, Severe Colds (10+ in 2017)
-Weight Gain – 50lbs (quickly…between 2015-2016)
-Weight Loss – 15lbs (quickly…between May-July 2019)
-Inability to Regulate Body Temperature
-Nausea & Vomiting (often worse in morning)
-Weight Gain Centralized in Abdomen
-IBS (cramping diarrhea between 2010-2018; severe constipation 2018-2019…unable to produce a bowl movement for full month of June 2019)
-Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth
-Hair Loss (over half of scalp hair has fallen out)
-Brittle, Dry Hair
-Scalp Sensitivity, Itching and Small Sores/Scabs
-Migraine Headaches (long lasting…typically over a month at a time)
-Lightheadedness Upon Standing
-Dryness, Itching and Light Pain Behind Eyes
-Sunken, Swollen, Red, Change in Texture of Lids
-Swollen Tongue (2x normal size)
-Scalloped Edges (where teeth press into swollen tongue)
-Hairy Tongue (variety of colors: black, brown, yellow, green, orange and bright pink)
-Oral Planters Lichen
-Burning Mouth Syndrome
-Whooshing Sound in Ears When Standing Up/Pulsatile Tinnitus
-Inability to Think, Concentrate, Remember or Articulate
-Depression, Anxiety and Social Isolation
-Change in Personality
-Anger and Aggression
-Dermatitis, Psoriasis & Dermatographia
-Staph Infection (forehead and scalp)
-Telangiectasia/Spider Veins on Face
-Giant Hives in 2016 (lasted over a month and did not go away after Cortisone shot)
-Ruddy, Red Skin (face)
-Strange Smell/Body Odor
-Crawling Sensation in Lower Legs
-Thin Skin (rips and bruises easily)
-Long Healing Time for Small Cuts and Scratches
-Vaginal Yeast & Urinary Tract Infections
-Buzzing Sensation (mostly behind soft palate, moving into nasal cavity and head)
-Swollen Feet, Ankles, Neck, Glands in Neck (fluid retention/edema)
-Pulling/Tugging/Drooping on Lower Right Side of Face (Palsy-like)
-Sense of Smell Comes and Goes
-No Libido/No Sex Drive
-Food Poisoning (four times over period of several years)
-Lack of Appetite/Food Tastes Strange (does not taste good)
-Brittle and Yellowing Fingernails and Toenails
-Vertically Ridged Fingernails (often with white spots under nail)
-Discomfort/Pain When Sleeping on Left Side (due to swollen spleen)
Business failure and health failure went hand in hand. Internally grimacing through the pain of using my own body for instruction on proper form and technique was becoming unbearable. My attitude toward life was becoming unbearable. I’m a decent actor, but I knew the discomfort, distain and downright impatience of everything was starting to show. I felt and looked awful and started to confide in a few people that I thought I was dying. Because I’m not one to idly sit by and croak, I continued to visit doctors, specialists, psychics…anybody who might have an answer. I literally paid eight hundred dollars for a medium to do an exorcism via the internet. I do realize that by admitting this, it does not help my case in regards to the next few sentences. Doctors started to treat me like I had a mental issue rather than a physical one. The misdiagnoses really never end with them. If I had a mental issue, I’d be at a therapist’s office. I’m not a complete dumbass! Since when did medical doctors and nurses become the ones to dole out psychological advice? It’s out of your scope of practice assholes!
Eventually, I started to beg my partner and my mother to consider moving out of the Bay Area. It was too expensive and filled with tech asshats who only cared about being a millionaire before the age of twenty-five. I’m a third generation San Franciscan who still ruminates about the atrocities happening to my funky, accepting, loving city…and, it’s straight-up heart-breaking. Thankfully, my mom and partner could see that I was failing. None of us were happy and a change needed to be made. We collectively moved to my partner’s hometown on Long Island. However, shortly before moving, I got every health insurance, doctor appointment and health related piece of paperwork completed and ready for my arrival in New York. If this gigantic move wasn’t going to allow the time needed to crack the mystery of what ailed me, nothing would.
About one year ago, we arrived to our new house via an extremely scary and uncomfortable ride across the country in a rickety, old RV with four dogs and a bunch of crap…including thousands of dollars’ worth of cannabis products bought at Oakland and San Francisco dispensaries right before take-off. I knew this trip would be rough and it was a priority to make sure I got sleep, continued to eat properly and kept a somewhat chilled out mentality during ten days of awfulness. As always, edibles, cartridges and flowers held up their end of the bargain and got me across the country without a full melt-down. How many times can a person thank a plant?
In November of 2018, I had my first Long Island doctor’s appointment of many. It’s hard for my ego to admit this, but I had qualified for Medicaid. Medicaid was granted because my job earnings were exceptionally low during 2018. I had become extremely ill and the only thing I cared about was staying alive. Unfortunately, work suffered. Thankfully, Medicaid allowed me to continue searching for an answer without the constant worry of affordable health care and how it relates to barely squeaking by financially. The health care I’ve received since arriving on Long Island has been outstanding compared to Kaiser. A good example would be the Long Island neurologist who not only informed me of the gravity of the herniated disc shown in the MRI done at Kaiser (let’s just say his graphic description of spinal surgery was intense), but also praised me for some miraculous rehabbing when comparing a new MRI to the old one. This new doctor was impressed enough to get me in touch with the head of their physical therapy department and I was offered a job in their office!
However, still, most doctors have continued to try to fix my problem with big pharma drugs, unwanted advice and an overall sense that I just need to accept that there isn’t anything wrong with me. This pretty much equates to them insinuating that I’m crazy, over and over again. You actually start to think that maybe you are crazy. If the bloodwork isn’t showing anything, where do you go from there? At one point, I went into my GP’s office and started to cry while telling her I was dying. As you can see, I enjoy colorful language and cursing closely parallels emotional intensity. I do not apologize for it. My cursing was not directed at her, but rather used in description. This situation was dire and somebody, anybody, needed to understand and soon! My GP responded by asking me not to use profanity. It was clear that the “F” word meant more to her sensibilities than someone who was literally on their way to the grave and begging for help. For the record – two things: 1 – EVERY doctor (in California and New York) was informed of cannabis use up front 2 – I recently chose a new GP.
Although no doctor gave it any credence, my bloodwork has had quite a few problematic findings…as have MRIs, ultrasounds, biopsies and cat scans. The two specialties which have shown the most disturbances are rheumatology and endocrinology. Here’s where things are going to get a bit medical. If anyone reads this and has a question, please feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to answer it, although I’m just a layperson. There is allot of medical background in understanding each of these diagnoses which would take too long to explain within this message.
Clinical diagnoses between 2015-2019:
July 2019 – Hypodense liver suggests fatty change
February 2019 – Multiple parapelvic cysts within the left kidney
February 2019 – Multiple simple cysts on both ovaries
December 2018 – Asymmetric moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the left knee
December 2018 – Mild osteoarthritis of the right knee
December 2018 – Mild osteoarthritis of the bilateral acromioclavicular joints
December 2018 – Mildly active synovitis at the right talonavicular joint
December 2018 – Scattered osteoarthritis about the interphalangeal joints of the toes
December 2018 – Bilateral Achilles tendon insertional enthesopathy/calcification
December 2018 – Mildly thickened plantar fascial calcaneal insertions bilaterally with planta spurs
December 2018 – Mild Chronic Microvascular Ischemic Brain Disease
December 2018 – Brain Parenchymal Volume Loss, Slightly Advanced for Age
August 2018 – HLA-B*27 Positive
August 2018 – Antinuclear Antibodies (ANA), IFA Positive 1:320 Dense Fine Speckled Pattern
August 2018 – CCP Antibodies IgG/IgA Weak Positive
October 2017 – Fibromyalgia
June 2017 – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
October 2016 – Allergic Rhinitis
October 2016 – Lymphocytopenia
May 2016 – Hyperplasia of Sebaceous Gland
May 2016 - Actinic Keratosis
January 2016 – Root Canal
2016 & 2014 – Allergies to Privet, Olive Tree, Balsam of Peru, Thiuram Mix, Ragweed (Giant and Short)
September 2015 – Paranasal Sinus Disease
August 2015 – Lumbar Disc Herniation (Between L5 & S1)
August 2015 – Simple Cyst of Kidney
Out of range bloodwork between 2015-2019:
ACTH – low
Antinuclear Antibodies – positive (1:80 or 1:320/dense fine speckled)
Carbon Dioxide – low
CD3 – low
CD4 – low
CD16+CD56/100 cells – high
CD19/100 cells – high
Chloride – high
Cholesterol – high
Cortisol – low
CCP Antibodies IgG/IgA – high
Dilute Russell Viper Venom Time – positive
Follicle Stimulating Hormone – low
Glucose – high
Growth Hormone – low
Hexagonal Phase Confirm – positive
HDL – low
HLA-B27 – positive
Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 – high
LDL – high
Lupus Anticoagulant – positive
Lymphocytes – low
Oxygen – low
Partial Thromboplastin Time – high
Pyridoxine – high
Thyroid Hormone Uptake – high
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone – low
T3 Uptake – high
Vitamin D – low
While there has been much more bloodwork with iffy results, included here are the ones which were repeatedly off or significantly off. I have no less than four binders filled with hundreds of hours of personal work on figuring out a proper diagnosis. Not everything listed above can be attributed to the same cause (an allergy to cannabis), but much of it can. If you’re wondering how I cracked the case, three significant things had to happen. First, the recent news about vaping was cause for concern. I had been vaping cartridges since 2016…a time period where negative health changes became significantly worse. I felt I needed to stop vaping immediately and did so. Second, I had to get over my strong belief system that my trusty friend for so many years could be causing all these problems. Weed had been there for me through so much. It kept me healthy! So, how could it be destroying my health? Despite my confusion, I decided to quit cold turkey. Third, I had created an organized system of cross-checking symptoms, diagnoses and bloodwork. Already having gone through this process with two possible contenders, Cushing’s Disease/Syndrome and Lupus, I had a fairly organized way of researching and logging the research. By the time I got to allergic reactions to cannabis cross-referenced with personal symptoms and bloodwork, it was easy to draw the connections. One thing of particular note: I had full panels of allergy testing done twice. The closest test to cannabinoids on a current-day allergy panel is the test for ragweed. As you can see in the diagnoses section, I’m allergic!
While there still isn’t wide-spread knowledge about the potential dangers of cannabis, I’m sure it will come in time. It is now clear that I have both a straight-up allergy, as well as something called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.
I’ve been in a state of anaphylaxis, caused by an allergy, for five years…slowly working my way to that point during the four years prior…ultimately, a nine-year journey. The most recent symptoms were chest pain, shortness of breath and throat closure. In my estimation, the next logical step would have been anaphylactic shock. Being that nobody recognized that this was an allergy, and that I was continuously poisoning myself on a nightly basis with an ever-increasing dosage of milligrams, the cure – an EpiPen – wasn’t even a thought, let alone a prescription. I have a closet full of prescription drugs (doled out like candy), but nowhere in there is the one drug I would have needed to save my life.
As for cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, it’s not pleasant. I’ve been calling it food poisoning for years because I didn’t know any better. Alternatively, some of the “food poisoning” probably was actual food poisoning. Did you know that staph-infection-food-poisoning is a thing? I didn’t, until recently (thank goodness for online research). Infections have been a reoccurring theme throughout, so it makes sense that I was more susceptible to this type of infection. There have been four, very memorable events over the past five years, in addition to many one-off, random “vomitings” spattered throughout. The most memorable event came when my partner and I took a vacation to New York prior to moving. I got sick on the plane. It was that moment right after the plane lands, the lights come on and everyone is standing in the aisle waiting to disembark. I was sitting toward the back of the plane at the window seat. Thankfully, I got that tiny, white bag up to my mouth in time because this was some seriously upsetting shit. Everyone standing in the aisle was nervously looking at me, at each other, at the sky…and it was painful for all of us. Mind you, this was two in the morning because our plane had been delayed five hours before take-off. We had to find a hotel to take us in because a two hour drive out to Long Island at 2:00 a.m. was absolutely not going to happen. We found an “Inn” located in Jamaica, NY. Let me put it this way - it’s a hotel whose interior design aesthetic consists of wallpaper stapled to the wall. It’s also a hotel where we stayed two nights because it’s tough to travel when you’re vomiting your guts out.
Stopping cannabis use cold turkey has not been easy. The literature I’ve found describing cannabis withdrawal never once mentioned potential side effects. In fact, most of it says there are no unwanted effects from stopping use. The literature is wrong. For the first week, I didn’t sleep beyond one hour at a time with at least five hours between each short nod off. My body was unable to tell if it’s hot or cold and toggled between sweating to freezing in a matter of seconds…all day and all night. A piercing migraine showed up on day five and refused to leave camp for forty-eight very painful hours. My inflamed knees ached in a way that said, “Fuck you for sitting on your ass over the last five years.” Emotions were all over the place, ranging from manic energy vibes to angry grump face. Yet, between the lack of sleep and hot/cold flashes also came a sense of clarity. I hadn’t been able to think this well in years! My body looked as if it lost twenty-five pounds almost over-night. My eyes no longer looked like “piss holes in snow” (one of my grandmother’s favorite phrases…if you were wondering where I get my penchant for colorful language). Everything changed in a matter of two weeks. Cannabis allergy and CHS have proven to be the EXACT diagnosis! I haven’t been myself in five years, but as I write this today, I’m looking and acting more like the person I know myself to be. I’m not perfect – never will be – but, at least I’m beginning to be me again.
On a final note: I am STILL and ALWAYS WILL BE an advocate for marijuana. It is medicine! It’s a medicine which needs the proper funding and research to be fully understood. I hope the medical community hears me on this one because, despite many expletives, you guys have been pretty tone deaf so far!
PARTIAL RESEARCH LINKS: