October 15, 2018

From Crisis to Cannabis

Cannabis impacts people’s lives in profound ways. For many, their personal stories of success and survival lead to passionate careers in the cannabis industry.

In this episode of Cultivate, Genifer Murray spoke with husband and wife, Gary and Kristina Etter, and Tatum Robson from PureKind Botanicals about the role of cannabis played in their lives, not only as a stepping stone to a new career but a resolution to a health crisis. Murray discusses their inspirational journeys to cannabis success.

The Vicious Cycle of the Prescription Drug Dogma

The over-prescribing of drugs for chronic pain and mental health issues threatens patients’ physical wellness and quality of life. Opioid-based pharmaceuticals, in particular, create a vicious cycle of ‘pain management’ creating dependency and perception there is no solution, only long-term management.

The real-life consequences are tragic and massive. A report undertaken by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows opioid overdoses (from prescribed and illicit sources) increased by 30% in 14 months between 2016 and 2017, with 64,000 deaths by opioid-related overdoses in 2016 and more than 72,000 in 2017.

To the Etter’s, these statistics hit close to home. Kristina and Gary share their story to bring the individual to the forefront and to help others grasp the destructive forces of the vicious cycle of prescription drug dogma, and how to beat it.

When Pharmaceuticals Fail

Living near Minneapolis, Gary was a legal opioid addict for almost ten years, off and on, following a failed cervical neck fusion and other ailments contributing to severe chronic pain, such as spinal stenosis. To manage his pain, doctors prescribed a cocktail of pain meds including Vicodin, Percocet, and even Fentanyl patches. Additionally, Gary took Gabapentin for nerve pain, Metformin for Type 2 Diabetes, and Xanax for 15 years to control social anxiety. Gary even underwent repeated radio-frequency ablation procedures to burn the nerve endings in his neck.

Gary’s medication of choice these days? Cannabis, only cannabis.

Tatum, suffering from endometriosis, would spend two weeks a month in bed, taking Vicodin for the pain. In her own words, she was trying to knock herself out until the worse stage passed. At the age of 13, her physician suggested birth control would manage the painful periods she had experienced since the age of 11. When this didn’t work due to its impacts on mental health (a Swedish study suggests hormonal contraceptive may be linked to mental health issues), doctors conditioned Tatum to consider her pain as “normal.”

Normalization of pain is dangerous. She recalls one particular moment when she broke down on the floor in pain. Shaking and sweating, she insisted she, “didn’t need to go to the hospital- it was just how her body worked, it was normal - Her normal.” In hindsight, she now believes cysts likely ruptured, leading to internal bleeding.

Her story is similar to Kristina and Gary’s, whereby it wasn’t the advice of a medical professional which led them on a path to greater quality of life: it was through self-learning.

The Role of Individual Experimentation

Doctors in the US are not yet familiar or confident in prescribing cannabis. Even in the 31 states which have legalized medical marijuana, there is no institutionally recognized understanding of how to prescribe medical marijuana for various ailments. Individual patients have, for the most part, been left responsible for discovering the benefits of cannabis.

Kristina had to leave Minneapolis- and Gary- in search of their solution. After being offered a job in a dispensary on arrival, Kristina started to listen and to understand the potentially powerful role cannabis could have in people’s lives. In their lives. Spending 12-14 hours some days researching and studying, she learned cannabis could help Gary. Six weeks after leaving him, she asked Gary to take the chance and come to Denver. Gary arrived soon after, and on March 18th, 2016 he took his last opioid.

Tatum’s learning journey about cannabis started at 14. After picking up Jack Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes she became aware of the potential of cannabis, becoming an activist for reforming cannabis laws. She recalls, through self-learning, she experienced a breakthrough when she learned CBD offers pain relief without the high.

How Cannabis Changed Their Trajectory

In the beginning, Gary took very high CBD doses, between 300-500 mg, in all forms: capsules, tincture drops, patches, gel pens. Additionally, he used THC edibles for the pain. Kristi recalled in Minnesota Gary experienced withdrawal symptoms within hours of a missed dose. Yet, in Denver with the CBD treatment, he suffered absolutely no withdrawal symptoms and no side effects. In fact, he describes going on a hike ten days after this new regime: he simply “walked away” from his opiate addiction.

Kristina also benefited from cannabis. She stated, “Between the two of us, we’ve lost 13 prescriptions, nearly 200 pounds, and gained 15 years back on our lives.” Through her extensive research and know-how about cannabis, Kristina also forged a career as a freelance cannabis writer.

For Tatum, her learning journey took her to a hemp conference at a particularly low point in her life. After meeting the founder of Pure Kind Botanicals, he offered her a position to help develop a product specifically designed for menstruation. A year later, she’s developing two products- Menstrual Relief and Menstrual Relief Plus. Tatum reports the products, which are herbal blends (for example, turmeric and fennel) with minimal THC content, eradicated almost every one of her symptoms. Today, she has her social life, work life, and intimate life back. Feedback from users has been promising, some describing immediate results.

Education Leads to Understanding

In the case of these interviewees, empowered by the drive for a better, pain-free lifestyle, self-directed research into the potential of cannabis provided the answers they so desperately needed. Today, they all share a common goal to help others and end the stigmas associated with cannabis consumption. As Kristina stated, “If we can learn to use cannabis this way, then anyone can learn to use cannabis this way.”