Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. It is also the reason 75% of us visit the doctor, according to the American Psychological Association.
This helps fuel the billions in profit each year made by the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.
You may be wondering… is the current approach to treating stress working? From the eyes (and pockets) of the pharmaceutical companies, the answer is “yes”, but for the average person who is being prescribed drugs to deal with their stress-related issues the answer may be not so positive.
In 2008 I suffered a stress-related burnout. Full disclaimer, I have no medical training and the following information is from my own personal experience. Without going into too much detail or delving into my personal medical records, I can tell you the resulting cocktail of drugs that my doctor prescribed me left me in a zombie-like state.
These were dangerous drugs – the FDA says 100,000 people die from the side effects of prescription drugs each year. That’s just the side effects; this figure does not include accidental overdoses due to human error. I remember wondering to myself on multiple occasions if I would wake the following morning after downing my ever increasing dose of sleeping pills before dropping off into a death-like slumber.
The pills I was taking merely masked the response my body was having to the stress and did nothing to fix the core issue. My doctor said that it was like using a crutch; you use a crutch as a broken leg heals, when you can walk unaided you no longer need the crutch. The problem was that the drugs I was taking seemed to cause even more symptoms which needed more drugs to counteract them. It was a slippery slope that can be very tricky to unravel yourself from, especially when you’re in no mental state to make the kind of life-changing decisions necessary to get to the root cause.
Let’s face it, life in 2016 in the western world is stressful for the majority of people. Patches or crutches that can aid us to get by are a tempting proposition. For me, cannabis was the solution that helped me wean off of a dependency on sleeping pills, pain killers, anti-anxiety tablets and antidepressants.
The therapeutic wonder herb
Over time, it dawned on me how much of my life I was missing out on. I was numb to the world around me and my emotional repertoire was as flat as the Dutch landscape. I looked for natural solutions to the issues I was having, and time and time again I came across evidence pointing towards cannabis. I had smoked recreationally in my younger days but had somehow drifted away from it.
After some research (mainly using the wonderful Leafly service), I identified a selection of strains that would help me and set off to Amsterdam to track them down in cannabis coffeeshops. It worked miraculously. I’d been brainwashed into thinking that cannabis was a drug. As the late, great, Bill Hicks put it “Don’t put pot in the drug category. It’s a herb man, like tea.” I tend to refer to cannabis as a “therapeutic herb”.
Cannabis consumers have no rights
The limit one can buy in a coffeeshop is five grams. So getting enough “medicine” to see me through without constantly travelling back and forth to the Netherlands (I live in neighbouring Belgium) was a pain. Another issue is that as a cannabis user, you have absolutely no consumer rights. I had no idea how the cannabis I was buying was grown or treated. I was following the only reasonable option to me after what was proposed by my doctor was clearly not having the desired results.
An unfortunate consequence was I had slipped from patient to borderline criminal and social outcast. This paradox of being put in a stressful situation to treat my stress-related illness was not lost on me and it took a lot of inner contemplation to refuse to be ashamed of the path I had chosen.
Growing up in the 1980s and the war on drugs, it had been drilled into me that cannabis was absolutely a taboo topic. This made me feel very isolated. Many cannabis consumers are just as isolated, those in favour of prohibition like it that way. The more I talked with people about cannabis, the more I understood that they really did not care or judge you for using it, especially for medicinal reasons. To come out and openly discuss cannabis was a liberating experience.
Freedom to farm
Over time it was clear that producing my own cannabis was the best way to go. At least until one can buy verified organic cannabis products legally from a shop like you can other mind-altering drugs, such as wine or beer (which you know are way more dangerous).
To many, the act of growing is as beneficial to a “patient” as the actual consumption of the “medicine” itself. To consume one’s home grown medicine is a wonderful experience too few of us get to enjoy.
I’m lucky enough to reside in a country where the growing of one cannabis plant (which incidentally is infuriatingly low) is tolerated. This at least takes the stress off of worrying about breaking the law. I also have my doctor on record saying she believes cannabis is the right choice for me.
Over time and with experience, I’m getting steadily more efficient at producing my annual supply. Which — to be honest — is not really an annual supply, but it lasts me a few months. A move indoors would remedy this, but I prefer going au natural with the big sun lamp in the sky. It does wonders for your green credentials.
Is cannabis for you?
My personal experience has been that cannabis, along with the beneficial cannabinoids that it contains, has enabled me to vastly decrease my reliance on pharmaceutical drugs that were never going to cure me, because where’s the profit in that? It aids me to sleep well at night and it allows me to unwind in a healthier way than other intoxicants. These two things alone massively alleviate issues caused by stress.
Cannabis also allows me to think differently. I find that I’m much more patient with people and situations. As my mind opens I’m gravitating towards a more healthy lifestyle that includes meditating and healthy eating. This added mindfulness enables me to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others, which usually has positive results.
Over time it seems that cannabis is fundamentally changing me as a person. It’s a change that I have taken on whole-heartedly. One of the positives of hitting rock bottom is that the only place to go is up. And we all know cannabis is very good at taking people higher.
I was in need of a complete reset and cannabis granted it to me. Want to know if cannabis can help you? Then why not do a quick browse on Leafly and see if there are strains that can treat your symptoms? Then try and track them down. If you cannot get access to strains in a dispensary, coffeeshop or cannabis club, then why not grow your own? It’s a fun and rewarding hobby that is not as difficult as you would think.