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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Good News & Bad News; Part 1

Have you ever had it where circumstance conspires against you?  A situation where you can view things from outside yourself?  A culmination of events that inevitably make you look a gibbon- complete with fate hammering away at you like monkey with a pneumatic drill- only with more accuracy?

I blog of my latest experience in my doctor’s surgery.

I’ve been awaiting test results on my liver; for the last month I’ve been looking fate in the eye and addressing mortality.  I’ve envisaged my funeral and the carnage I could plan for that, I’ve got my head around intrusive treatments and the possibility of being put on the organ transplant list, but in this day and age, livers are a much needed organ.  Alcohol culture has meant that this miracle organ is now the season’s must have accessory.

My personal pound of flesh to prohibition is due to pharmaceuticals.  Since the age of 10 I’ve been on one of the harshest painkillers you can legally obtain.  They are a class B drug, but I have a little green government slip saying I’m allowed them.  Like any drug though, used sparingly and wisely they will cause little harm, but, when locked in a long term battle with disease and illness, a very real and unintended trap will present itself for anyone, and I truly do mean anyone.  There is not a human alive that can escape the physical clutches of opioid pain relief.  Tolerance building, highly addictive, and with tremendous harms attached these tablets, I have always had a near panic attack inducing phobia over this drug.  20 years is a long time for anyone, and when they are the only medication that has not turned me blind or numb, I’ve been stuck with them against my wishes.

As my cannabis supply has stabilised due to my autonomy, I took the bull by the horns and decided to dwindle my painkillers down to a minimum with a view to stopping them.  It was time to address my phobia; what damage have they done to me?

Whilst suffering the symptoms of liver problems and the pain that comes with it, I booked myself into the doctors to tackle things head on.  That’s my version anyhow, the truth is that I was hoodwinked into an appointment by my family, they said I could go to the Zoo but they took me to the medical centre instead… ok, that’s not true, I was simply railroaded into going with sticks and liberal beatings.

I had a new doctor, one in which I had not seen before, and a great young doctor he is too.  I would go as far to say he’s the best one I’ve had in my lengthy medical career of being a patient.  Only trouble being, he does not know me from Alan.

So, with my phobic tendencies for the medical world due to my vast past history, I sit in the waiting room to collect my results, ten years of pent up fear starts to come out fully, the last month of pain and wondering culminates in this waiting room purgatory with a child’s play area.  A collection of charity books ranging all the way from Barbara Cartland to Mills AND Boon line the walls.  Alan Alda’s biography is looking at me, his mashed face beaming down, “You giving me a sign Alan?”  I puzzle at his cover as I hear the bleep, I've been called up.  The time is up, I’m off to see the wizard!

“Jason to see Dr. H Lector, room M, leave your personal possessions behind.  Bring a nice chianti while you're at it…”  That’s how it felt anyhow.

My results, I am more than pleased to say, are ok, I have a full clean blood work and will live to fight another day at least.  Woo!  Although I still don’t fully feel I’m out of the woods yet, I can allow myself a spell of celebration.  I won’t bother trying to relay the feeling of being told you still have a liver, I won’t even try and stab in the dark at the feeling that you’re not going to die just yet, but it is however a feeling the Home Office and the Department of Health needs to be aware of in the UK.  My hell was real, and it is a hell that I will not be alone in experiencing.  My family, as always, suffer with me, and thousands upon thousands of ill and suffering people will have similar experiences to mine, their families will bear the brunt of turmoil too.  Cannabis prohibition effects more people than is attested to.

In my latest correspondence with the Home Office, it is a delicious piece of irony that I received a reply in the midst of my test results hell.  Gleefully opening the letter, I hope to read the words;

“Jason, we’ve had a discussion here at the ol’ Hom Off, and we’ve decided you’re right, cannabis is now freely available, have some White Rhino, yours sincerely and hugs, Dougie.  P.S Give our best to Aunt Babs.”

You can imagine my surprise when I received yet another dusty reply fresh from the “generic response” pile, complete with all the peddled rubbish we’ve come to know and love.  You can complete the full picture of irony when I read the words “The government’s message is that cannabis is a harmful drug that should not be used.”

Interesting choice of words; “the government’s message”.  Kind of a get out of jail free card using this terminology.  It absolves all fact and science from the debate and focuses on “the message”.  In fact, if you apply this political gesticulation to other areas of society, the message remains anchored in the same degree of pseudo-science and oblique reasoning.

“The government’s message is clear, tea cosies are gaudy”
“The government’s message is clear, never anger a goat.
“The government’s message is clear, sorry about Ann Widecomebe.”

And when we still have such laws in existence as; you can shoot a Welshmen with a bow and arrow if caught in the cathedral at Hereford… it’s a fair assumption that governance doesn't always get it right.

Whilst speaking of an official government body such as the Home Office, perhaps I should type with more respect; indeed, I easily give respect… when respect is earned and not expected, or even demanded.  I objectively hypothesise- as I fear for life and liver- have I been addressed with appropriate respect by receiving this bog standard letter?  As emotionally invested as I am in this, I feel this “message” from the Home Office & government belittling and patronising to any citizen.

The message is not one in which the government or the Home Office can pertain to either.  There is not a scrap of evidence that can clarify their remarks, and indeed, an omission of truth can be found at Drug Equality Alliance; the previous regime admitted the only reason for cannabis prohibition and the lack of control over alcohol is for “cultural reasons”.  It goes on further to explain the lack of scientific evidence for cannabis' place in the Misuse of Drugs Act.  You have to love the Freedom of Information Act don't you?  Emphatic emphasis on the words Freedom and Information.

Moreover, after the reclassification of cannabis from class C to B last year, the government of the day fought the case purely on “err on the side of caution”, and “to send a message to kids”.  The last government famously disposing of scientific advice and study drew up their own agenda for vote posturing with an upcoming general election.  The evidence does not exsist to any degree to term cannabis as comparatively harmful.  This, mixed with the latest edit to the Home Office's site, (documented here on Peter Reynold's blog), it is fair to say they have been caught on the back-foot of misleading the public.  The one hook that still does the rounds with cannabis is the psychosis issue, and when stripped back to raw stats and figures and not viewed from behind yellow journalism, the risks of cannabis serve to put things in startling perspective.  To prevent 800 cases of casual link cannabis psychosis, you need to stop 6.2 million users of this largely benign substance.  Any other substance and this would be deemed runaway a success, yet, it serves to damn cannabis.  Things once more do not add up.

While we address comparative harms, all be it briefly, I would ask the Home Office to address the individual human cost of prohibition and not buffered statistical jargon that ushers away real emotional investment, and quite frankly, perhaps they should also think a little before typing an official rhetoric… sorry, I mean, an official letter to someone in a health battle:

Personal comparative harms:  Painkillers vs. cannabis.

Painkillers: (co-codamol 30/500 soluble) are a class B drug, famed for tolerance building and physical addiction, they can cause mental health problems, they are liver toxic and are damaging to heart, stomach and kidneys.  Sodium levels mean I have to watch my salt intake like a vigilant briny madman.  They play havoc with digestion and can cause Pancreatitus.  Not to mention, you cannot function day to day on high does co-codamol, zombification is to be expected.  Pharmaceutical deaths are not uncommon and they are something that my family have had to deal with before, I do not want my name to add to that tally.

Cannabis: cannot kill me and it is non toxic. I vaporise to eliminate the smoke.  The only issue to address with this non physically addictive substance (as explained by Professor Pertwee) is the casual link mental health issue, and as discussed, it is a comparatively low risk; on a statistical par with being killed in a terrorist attack.  I like my odds.  Almost seems to good to be true?  Sometimes, miracles are possible when in the confines of a grounded reality.  Cannabis is also good for titration, it is fast acting and you do not have to do it to get high, pain relief can be kept with a clear head when using cannabis, many a layman does not realise this.

The Home Office then went on to recommend Sativex to me.  This is a whole other issue for another time, suffice to say, this subject will be covered.

The light at the end of the tunnel with regards to the Home Office is the fact they have expressed that a licence can be obtained from the Home Secretary with regards to cannabis cultivation.  There is a lengthy paragraph explaining that it is for research and industrial purposes only, but I glossed over that part.  I’ll be in contact then Theresa May, I feel I have earned a license by placing my liver on the sacrificial alter of prohibition.  I expect to be granted one without hassle?  My licence will be in the name of research purposes for saving my own life, it’ll be an ongoing study.  Or does the suffering of an estimated 50 000 medicinal users of cannabis not matter?

Deal with human costs face to face, and I believe even the coldest of hearts will feel a prang of guilt over the UK’s policy.  A civil servant or a government body is only a cancer treatment, a relatives’ pain, or long term illness away from understanding the issue of cannabis in true terms and not from a removed overview.  To convey mortal fear over personal health is hard for anyone to explain, but when it is avoidable if policy makers were to grasp the realism of suffering, it is even more difficult to obtain a handle on the lack of compassion that the UK still openly displays.  A very real and ambivalent dislike for one's own country is the result of such ethics, and when the UK is one of the last bastions on cannabis prohibition, (we’re now behind Israel on the humanity front) it becomes an even more furious point of contention when lives are invested in this subject.

To conclude part one of this desultory ramble, my health is stable, so that’s good news.  However, my doctor’s appointment was not all plain sailing.  Nothing serious I'll interject, but enough to stew on things and enough for me to be locked up in a Kubrick film- and throw away the key:

To be continued…


  1. I greatly admire the irony and humour which shines out of your writing, despite your health problems and the stress you are under.

    I think a trip to Holland and a medicinal cannabis prescription from a Dutch doctor is called for. I don't know if you're familiar with Jim "Pinky" Starr's story? It'll be on my site later on today. Of course, this is private, paid-for medicine but I don't think it will be too long before someone gets the NHS to pay for it. Who knows? It could be you!

    I admire your courage. Chin up! You are an example to us all.

  2. Thank you Peter, it's of some comfort and sanity saving to be able to confer and speak to people like yourself. Without the network of bloggers, forums etc, goodness knows where my sanity would be now.

    I've just seen the Jim Pinky Starr story, I'll await your blog.