I added footnotes to the site. Whenever you see a superscript asterisk with a number next to it *1like this, roll the cursor over it.

After about a year of being “off the wagon”, I realized something; my gout hadn’t flared-up, and I hadn’t needed to take any of the pharmaceutical drugs my family doctor had prescribed.

gout-jointsGout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood. This results in crystals building up in the joint of the big toe, although it can also affect other toes, ankles, and knees. It runs in my family. My grandfather had it. My dad has it. My dad’s brother has it. My son, Oui Pancakes, will have it.

I started to feel it in my left big toe  around the time I turned 40. Just a little discomfort at first. It felt similar to how your big toe feels a couple of minutes after you stub it; it’s no longer sharp pain, but you’re still aware that you recently smashed it against something hard. I was able to ignore it for the most part, and treat it with Tylenol on the days it felt “bad”. “Bad” is in quotes because what I thought at the time was painful, wasn’t really that sore compared to what it would progress to.

In case you don’t know what gout is, let me borrow the description from The Mayo Clinic:

Gout is (a complex form of arthritis) characterised by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness in joints, often the joint at the base of the big toe…an attack of gout can occur suddenly, often waking you up in the middle of the night with the sensation that your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, swollen and so tender that even the weight of the sheet on it may seem intolerable.

Now I’ll add my description:

If you remove your socks and shoes, light your foot on fire, then go kick a wall as hard as you can for 5 or 6 days, you’ll get an idea of what a gout flare-up feels like.

The pain progressed over a few years in my early 40’s. At first, I was still playing hockey and skateboarding and doing all the regular physical activity that had been a normal part of The Life of Aye. Two or three times a year, I’d have an episode that’d cause some discomfort, but I ignored it and basically walked it off.

During a hockey game in about 2006, I chased the puck into a corner and ended up jamming my foot against the boards. I thought I’d broken my foot, and it hurt so much that I almost threw up. The next morning, I went to the doctor and he wrote me a prescription for Colchicine. My doctor is not one to be dishing out scripts for every little complaint, so getting a big bottle of little pills with 2 refills out of him is kind of a big deal.

I finished out the hockey season with the help of my prescription and overdoses of Tylenol, but that was the final season for me. By the next winter, my condition had progressed to the point where my left foot hurt all the time, and significant flare-ups were happening two or three times a year. When one of these happened, I’d sometimes have to call in sick to work because putting on socks and shoes and walking around was not an option. The joint of my big toe would swell to twice its normal size, and at this point, you can refer to my previous statement about kicking the wall. It was agony. The only thing I’ve experienced that hurt more was kidney stones *2A family friend who’s had three kids by natural childbirth told me she’d rather give birth again than experience the pain of kidney stones again because childbirth doesn’t hurt as much., but that only lasted for about 12 hours. I know…I got lucky.

I think you now have a pretty good idea of how my foot felt for almost a decade. Let’s get back to talking about the miracle drug that is marijuana.

As mentioned, I’d been smoking small amounts most evenings just before bed, purely for recreational reasons. The result was that I was sleeping better and laughing more. But I’ll be damned if my foot hadn’t stopped hurting. I know to be careful about confusing correlation with causation, but this seemed like too much of a coincidence. I casually mentioned it to a friend, and he told me there was a place in town that he’d been to that prescribed legal, government-approved marijuana. I was sceptical, but sure enough, Natural Health Services is a legit doctor’s office that specializes in medical marijuana.

I booked my initial consultation, and within a couple of weeks was sitting in front of an actual doctor having an actual conversation about actually getting prescribed actual medical marijuana *3…and because I live in actual Canada, this is actually free.. It was a little surreal. I didn’t bullshit my way through the consult. I told her exactly what I’ve just finished telling you, including the parts about recreational use. She said “OK, I think we can help you out. I’m going to prescribe you two grams a day.” I quickly did the math and realised she had approved me for nearly two ounces per month. Holy shit. There was no way I was going to come close to using that much, but who am I to argue with a medical professional?

In Canada, there are currently  36 government licensed producers of medical marijuana. Once I had my prescription, all I had to do was register with one or two of them and get the doctor’s office to send them the proper paperwork. That took a few days, and then the teenager that still lives an active life in my brain got everything he had ever wished for and more.

I no longer had to call a guy who knew a guy, then drive all over the city to hook up with someone who’d give me my little baggy of mystery weed in exchange for cash. Here’s how it works now:

  1. communcatorI go to the website *4or in the case of Aurora, I use the app of one of my two producer/suppliers and browse their current offerings. The product is broken out into Indicas, Sativas, Hybrids, and oils. This is useful because Sativas are what amplify my anxiety, so I can eliminate them right away. Furthermore, THC and CBD content is provided in the description of each strain, along with a brief description of the anticipated effects *5anxiety reduction, pain relief, appetite control, etc..
  2. All strains are available in 5 gram increments. I add my selection(s) to the shopping cart, just like if I was shopping on Amazon. Pay by credit card and select the shipping method. One of my providers offers same day delivery by local courier if I order before noon, otherwise deliveries are made by Purolator Courier and arrive within a couple of business days. In either case, my legal weed is delivered right to my front door and the courier never wants to hang around and smoke a joint.
  3. I write all purchases off on my tax return. There’s still a stigma surrounding cannabis, so submitting my receipts to the company health plan isn’t viable. Instead, I’ll be entering them on lines 330 and 331 of my tax return.

It’s made a huge difference in my quality of life. I haven’t had a gout flare-up in about two years, and my chronic pain is gone. While I know that gout is only treatable, not curable, I feel cured. I’ve only recently taken a Colchicine pill when I felt the gout pain starting to overtake the weed. That’s one pill in two years when I used to take a couple of pills a week or more.

I’m not advocating this as being the cure for everything that ails everybody. A good friend of mine has a family member with mental illness, and weed makes his life worse. It brings out the anxiety and paranoia, and it causes real problems with managing his life. I have another friend with an uncommon medical condition, so I suggested she try medical cannabis. It didn’t work for her either. She said it didn’t help with her condition, it just made her lethargic.

I’ve figured out, with the help of my doctor, how to make it work for me. Obviously, any drug can be abused for “recreational purposes”. Just look at the problem with prescription medication like Oxycontin and Fentanyl *6the drug that killed Prince, or common legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana is different. Even if it’s being abused, it’s never killed anyone.

There’s not a single instance of a THC overdose, and according to the National Cancer Institute it can’t happen “…because cannabinoid receptors, unlike opioid receptors, are not located in the brainstem areas controlling respiration, lethal overdoses from Cannabis and cannabinoids do not occur.” I read somewhere that a lethal THC overdose is theoretically possible if someone smoked 40,000 joints in one day. That’s 28 joints per minute. Good luck with that.

The title of this post is “Aye Pancakes vs. THC”, but only because I like the way that sounds as opposed to “Aye Pancakes and THC”. There is no “versus” in my story. Medical cannabis has improved my life in a tangible way. If you suffer from chronic pain or PTSD or any number of other conditions, there’s a chance it can help you too. Check with your doctor, or make an appointment with Natural Health Services or one of the other medical practices that specialize in this type of treatment.

Do some research into why marijuana was outlawed and demonized in the first place, and you’ll find it had nothing to do with it being a “dangerous substance” and everything to do with money. Follow the money.

Thanks for reading this. I’m going for a run on my pain-free foot.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. like this
2. A family friend who’s had three kids by natural childbirth told me she’d rather give birth again than experience the pain of kidney stones again because childbirth doesn’t hurt as much.
3. …and because I live in actual Canada, this is actually free.
4. or in the case of Aurora, I use the app
5. anxiety reduction, pain relief, appetite control, etc.
6. the drug that killed Prince