Remember that cool girl in college? The one who accepted a joint, took a big pull and casually exhaled before passing it on?
That was not me.
I was the one sitting in the corner, processing a giant wave of paranoia, while simultaneously having a coughing fit. This is why — despite having rheumatoid arthritis and living in a state where medical cannabis is legal — I had no interest in getting my medical card. I have always been completely comfortable with cannabis use in theory, but I just didn’t think it agreed with me.
Then, about a year after my diagnosis, I found myself in a lot of pain at a music festival. I was just coming off an RA flare and I knew that day was going to be hard on me, but it was long planned and there was no way I was giving it up. My knees, ankles and feet felt otherwise. When a friend offered me his vape, I hesitated for a moment, but ultimately thought, “Screw it. Everything hurts too much not to give this a shot.” Amazingly, my pain quickly faded and my journey into medical cannabis began. And I didn’t even cough.
Once I received my medical card, the dispensary opened up a whole new world of cannabis for me. I could choose what form I took it in as well as the strain and concentrations that worked best for me. I quickly learned I don’t handle sativa strains well. They make me jittery and paranoid. I discovered that high-CBD strains were a better fit for relaxing in the evening, but they need to have a decent amount of THC to actually manage my pain on a bad day. I also found that I don’t have to cough to get good results, and there are more discreet consumption methods than burning a joint.
Since I’m quite literally a soccer mom to three young kids, I usually save my doses for the evening and opt for something more discrete. For the most part, oil cartridges have been my consumption method of choice. The ability to control my dose has been helpful in minimizing unwanted side effects and knowing exactly what to expect. The bonus is the barely-there scent and the fact that one cartridge lasts me quite a while.
If I’m just a little sore, I’ll take a hit of a 4:1 CBD strain just before bed. My goal is to relax, take a little edge off the pain, but not feel high. On an evening after a rough day, I might take a couple pulls of a 1:1 indica blend to chill me out a bit more. Sometimes, I’ll partake in a high-CBD blend on a stiff and sore morning once everyone is dropped off at school. It’s not quite as effective, but it saves my stomach from another round of ibuprofen.
I’ve experimented with gummies as well, but the long-lasting effects make it a little trickier to manage. I can absolutely imagine the benefit of taking a low dose for long-term pain management and plan to test that out as well. So far topical solutions have been a bust for me. The internet is full of success stories so I haven’t given up, but nothing I’ve rubbed on a sore joint has seemed to make a difference… yet.
My journey with cannabis is far from over. Its effectiveness in relieving my pain, providing relaxation at the end of a long day and gently lulling me to sleep makes it a great addition to my bag of tricks for living with this disease. Research tells me just like traditional pharmaceuticals for RA, pain management via cannabis is an individualized process. What is best for some won’t be ideal for others. There’s experimentation, research and personal preferences to take into account. If you’re in pain from RA, or some other long-term condition, you may want to consider adding cannabis to your bag of tricks as well. You may find that it agrees with you more than it used to.