MS patient: ‘Marijuana takes the pain away’

In Feature Stories, Multiple Sclerosis by Chris Riddell

In our ongoing series of patient stories, The Medical Marijuana Review interviews Ontario resident Laurie Modderman about how she curbs the pain from multiple sclerosis with a nightly dose of medical marijuana. Confined to a wheelchair, 57-year-old Modderman has been using medical cannabis for 10 years and couldn’t picture living without it.

In 1979, Laurie Modderman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As the disease progressed through her body, it gave her tremors and nerve pain that made it difficult for her to sleep. Various pills were available to treat the symptoms but never anything to stop the progression of MS, so she mostly avoided taking pharmaceuticals.

The pain and shaking kept her awake at night. “I was a very grumpy mother,” says Modderman, now 57, in a phone interview from her Kitchener, Ontario home. Today she spends most of her time in a wheelchair as a result of her condition.

Ten years ago, a friend who used marijuana recreationally introduced Modderman to the idea of taking the plant for her symptoms. She tried it, and afterward had a solid night’s sleep for the first time in years. Marijuana killed the pain and calmed the muscle spasms that kept her awake.

“There are a lot of drugs that will help you with the side effects of MS, but this particular type of pain… there is nothing there to treat it. It’s kind of a nerve pain,” says Modderman. “I did try a couple of things and the marijuana works so quickly. This type of pain, it would come and go.

“Marijuana works within minutes and it would take the pain away.”

Modderman didn’t like the idea of taking medication several times a day for pain that wasn’t always there. She also didn’t want to take anything addictive. For her, marijuana is the perfect product to give her immediate and effective relief without any side effects or addiction.

“I remember there was a drug that I did try. It just left me with dry mouth. I almost wasn’t able to talk in the morning, and my legs just turned to jelly and wouldn’t support me at all,” she says.

The medical marijuana regulations set in place by Health Canada made it easy to access cannabis, and Modderman didn’t have any trouble getting her license. Her family doctor was cooperative and signed her papers without argument. He understood there was nothing else out there for her. Modderman is thankful to have such a close relationship with her physician.

For 10 years now she has been smoking half a gram maximum before bed – just enough to help her get to sleep. She is always careful not to smoke it during the day because she doesn’t want to appear stoned if by chance someone might visit. Most of the people she has told about her medical marijuana use have been supportive.

Her doctor was concerned with the effects of inhaling smoke, and how she would suffer from possible memory side effects that are known to come with marijuana. But for Modderman, those are acceptable risks. Ever since she started using medicinal marijuana she wakes up in the morning ready to go; her mood and overall well-being have improved significantly.

“It enabled me not to go down that drug route of trying different things with different side effects,” she says. “I haven’t had to try that because it works so well.”

Photo courtesy Laurie Modderman

RiddellABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Riddell is a freelance writer born in Toronto, and living in Montreal. He has a journalism background and writes about business, technology, and urban life for print and the web. He encourages you to visit his website Riddell Creative to find out more about what he does, and to hire him for any writing jobs you might have.