“At the age of 16, I was known as “Mr. Narcotics”. I was helplessly addicted to painkillers – especially morphine,” says Alon (28, whose full name will remain confidential) who has been treated with medical cannabis for over a decade. “I would get morphine by infusion, pills and patches. I had a syringe attached to my body that automatically infused me with a dose of morphine every ten minutes,” he says of the drug treatment. “I took very large doses of morphine – 100 ml every two days.”
Alon is a lawyer, a bachelor living in Tel Aviv (originally from Jerusalem), loves to travel abroad, loves swimming and sports, and enjoys food and restaurants – and although this way of life sounds routine for many Israelis, for him it is really not something to be taken for granted.
“I was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of 15. According to the doctors, I had complications at the highest level,” he says. “To this day I suffer from bone damage that causes severe pain and restricted movement. The pain is always there – especially when I am active, but also when I rest. It’s a kind of bone degeneration. The chemotherapy damaged my nervous system at a moderate to severe level (sensory neuropathy) and I underwent a lot of invasive surgical procedures: “chemotherapy by injection directly into my spine, three times a week. To this day I suffer from back pain and have difficulty sitting for long periods.”
“At the age of 16, I was known as “Mr. Narcotics” ”
How did you discover cannabis? You began when the field was not particularly developed in Israel.
“I was treated with cannabis when there were only about a thousand licenses in the country – we were the only ones,” says Alon and laughs. “At the time I asked the doctor for cannabis he didn’t even know how to make the application.”
According to Alon, at the end of the chemotherapy treatment, he first became acquainted with cannabis thanks to his cousin, who was deeply concerned about his health. He began researching the field himself, and discovered on YouTube videos that the subject was particularly developed in the United States and in some European countries. After being convinced, he went to the pain clinic where he was being treated and asked the doctor to change his drug treatment to medical cannabis treatment.
“I had some doubts about the cannabis when I requested the change from the pain clinic,” Alon admits. “But everything I read about it was very convincing. I was in a very low place from the use of painkillers, and I told myself that nothing could be worse”.
“I explained to the doctor that I was not willing to continue with the painkillers I was taking because of the side effects: I was suffering from hallucinations, disconnection from reality, endless fatigue and more. Cannabis treatment was not common then, and it was a long time before I got the license.”
“I realized I had found a solution”
The change in Alon’s quality of life, due to the use of medical cannabis was dramatic, exceeding all his expectations. “When fighting cancer, it’s important not only to survive but also to recover,” he says. ‘I was my oncologist’s first medical cannabis patient – and he was stunned. From a boy living on pills and painkillers I became an active and fully functional lawyer. Today he laughs with me about the fact that at the time he did not even know how to submit an application for cannabis”.
From his first use, Alon realized that he had found the solution he was looking for. According to him, all the negative effects of morphine were reversed: laughter took the place of melancholy, lack of appetite turned into hunger and renewed enjoyment of food. “Nerve pain worsens in heat and cold,” he explains. “When I smoke cannabis, it does not go away but it is drastically reduced. Ten minutes after I smoke, I am no longer a victim of the pain. I get up and put on my sneakers. “
He attributes the fact that he has recovered and returned to lead a fully functional normal life, to the influence of medical cannabis. Alon testifies that he became a positive and optimistic person, completely different from the angry and withdrawn person he was before the cannabis treatment. “At first I was distressed that it had taken me so long to come up with this solution.” There should be a much higher awareness of cannabis. ‘ He says.
” Chemotherapy by injection directly into my spine, three times a week. To this day I suffer from back pain and have difficulty sitting for long periods. “
How is the field of medical cannabis different in Israel today compared to a decade ago?
Once there was not the range of alternatives that exists today – I would just accept the flowers that were handed out and that were available. There was a distribution center at Abarbanel Hosptal. I had to go there once a month to get my cannabis. Today, however, medical cannabis can be purchased in pharmacies in a much more regulated manner than in the past”.
My first time
“Some people say they do not feel the effect of cannabis for the first time. I felt it immediately. It took me a moment to understand what was different in the way I felt. I began to laugh more deeply. But it is a learning process, first of all how to smoke and to inhale. The first time smoked I nearly choked.
“I was euphoric. I was 17 years old at the time. I was surprised that my mood improved because the morphine had affected me in just the opposite way. It made me depressive and nervous. I became obnoxious and would speak badly to the people around me. It bothered me a lot. I would take a pain-killer, go to sleep, wake up in pain, take another pill, go back to sleep and so on, over and over again. The pills would suppress my appetite and I had to regain my body weight because the doctors said I would not survive another round of treatments if I should need it.
I am 6 feet 3 inches tall. I began the chemotherapy weighing 220 lbs. At the end of my treatment I weighed 99 lbs. I did not eat. Cannabis also helped me with my appetite.
Before the cannabis I had never smoked: no hookah, no cigarettes. I had to learn how to smoke. At first, I coughed non-stop, and I had a very hard time but the relief was immediate. At first the cannabis would put me to sleep, but over time I learned what the right amounts were for me. My sense of enjoying food increased. I was surprised to realized that I was functioning and I had energy, that I am not stuck in bed due to the effect of painkillers, but can do anything.”
Did you try any other pre-cannabis treatments (besides drugs)?
“I tried all kinds of treatments. I was treated with reflexology and acupuncture. I do not disparage them. Reflexology helped me with the pain and guided imagery helped me with the nausea, but thanks to cannabis I went through a significant change. Suddenly I had no pain, so I began to do sports. I began to swim and to practice strength building exercises at the gym, which I could do without harming my bones and my nervous system. I reached a normal weight and completed all the matriculation exams. (Due to the disease I had missed all high school education and did not have a matriculation certificate). I did a psychometric test, and began studying towards a degree. For me, all this would not have happened without the positive effect of the cannabis on my ability to function.
“After returning to a normal life and high level functioning, I started voluntary work with children in the cancer ward,” says Alon. “To this day, doctors call me to tell me about a boy who reminds them of me, and they ask me to encourage him.”
At the same time, Alon also began to spread the word about the positive effects of cannabis to families of patients. “I said, ‘Excuse me, I’m not a doctor, but no one knows better than someone with who has been through this.’ Today I know that my recommendation has changed the lives of others as well.”
Alon studied for a law degree at the College of Management, and at the same time found a job as a bartender. Without cannabis, he testifies, he would not have been able to successfully complete his degree and be accepted to specialize in the State Attorney’s Office.
“I have learned to live and deal with the pain, with the help of medical cannabis. I feel I’ve been rehabilitated”
How did your family and friends react to cannabis?
‘My mother got cancer herself during my treatments. She vehemently opposed cannabis and did not want to hear about it. As time went on the fears changed into amazement at the positive effects this plant has on me and how it makes it easier to deal with all the medical problems. My mom also began treatment with cannabis. To this day she suffers from loss of weight due to the chemotherapy treatments, and cannabis helps her a lot too.
“Some people were skeptical about the use of medical cannabis, especially from my extended family. But they too became convinced and realized how positive the effect of the cannabis plant was for me and how it helped me deal with all the difficulties of the disease. Today it is much more common. People are talking about it more and the possibility of getting medical cannabis for those who need it, is more accessible than in the past, ” he says.
How many cannabis strains have you tried so far?
“More than fifty varieties for sure, probably closer to a hundred“.
How do you choose a new variety?
“Today – after the reform – names and branding are important. There are groups of patients who consult with each other or warn each other about strains. I experiment and if I discover something that does me good, I stick with it.
‘I tried oil. I tried cookies. I tried to smoke, and I tried to vape. I tried all the ways, even making cookies myself. When I tried the oil the feeling in my body was unnatural, and I also suffered from side effects so I prefer smoking. I use a vaporizer a bit, but it’s a lot more wasteful and then I might get stuck without cannabis. Smoking also makes it easier to regulate consumption because the feedback is almost immediate”.
What do you like to do when you smoke?
“Mainly exercise or walking. Cannabis improves my performance in the gym, “says Alon.” I have no problem smoking in the morning when I get up, I stay fully functional. But most of my consumption is in the afternoon, towards evening and before bed. When I smoke right before bed time, I don’t wake up in pain and can sleep well. It has a great effect on how I wake up in the morning. When I don’t smoke before bed, I wake up with pain in my body, and it accompanies me all morning. “
“I have learned to live and deal with the pain, with the help of medical cannabis. I’m at a point where I feel I’ve been rehabilitated but my goal has not changed: to improve myself professionally, health-wise and personally. And I’m glad I have the cannabis to help me do that. Today I am happy to get up in the mornings. When I was “Mr. Narcotics” I was not”.
* This should not be construed as advertising and / or an encouragement to use medical cannabis, which is permitted to holders of a suitable prescription / license.
* The contents appearing in this article are intended to expand the readers’ personal knowledge and are presented “as is” and this is not be considered as a medical recommendation or advice and / or professional medical opinion.