Contentious cannabis cure for chronic pain

Easing the Pain: Kerry-Ann Taylor says medicinal cannabis has stopped her suffering and saved her life. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Easing the Pain: Kerry-Ann Taylor says medicinal cannabis has stopped her suffering and saved her life. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Kerry-Ann Taylor says medicinal cannabis has “given me my life back”.

The 55-year-old Hamilton South resident uses cannabis oil for chronic pain relief.

For years, she used prescription drugs that contained opiates and benzodiazepines.

She describes these drugs as “pharmaceutical crap”.

She suffers from neck and back pain, following a 1995 car accident that led to removal of her tailbone “because it was snapped”. 

She tried cannabis oil because “I’d had enough of the pain”.

“It has literally saved my life,” she said. 

The NSW government will soon begin medicinal cannabis trials at the Calvary Mater Newcastle hospital for patients with advanced cancer.

A trial has begun at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, using medicinal cannabis to treat children with severe epilepsy.

And the federal government has passed laws to enable the cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medical and related scientific purposes.

Furthermore, advocates are pushing for medicinal cannabis to become more widely available – to be used for things like chronic pain.

There is some resistance in the medical establishment.

The Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists told a Senate committee last year that it would not endorse the use of cannabinoids in “chronic non-cancer pain”, until such time as a “clear therapeutic role for them is identified in the scientific literature”.

Dr Chris Hayes, director of the Hunter Integrated Pain Service at John Hunter Hospital, wrote in October that “evidence shows that lifestyle approaches are much more effective than medicines in treating many chronic conditions”.

“With chronic pain there is strong evidence that lifestyle change can wind down a sensitised nervous system and reduce pain,” Dr Hayes wrote. 

Nevertheless, a National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre study reported last year that many people suffering from chronic problems such as back pain, migraine and arthritis use cannabis to relieve their symptoms.

Ms Taylor said the cannabis oil appeared to be helping her to change her lifestyle. Previously, she couldn’t walk to the letterbox. Now she walks her dog.

“It’s changed my life 100 per cent. I have no pain. Without pain, I’m productive,” she said.

“When you’re in pain, the only thing you can think of is that pain because it won’t go away.”

Chronic pain caused serious depression, she said.

“You try being stuck in four walls, day and night. It does your head in.”

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