Destination CLEAR

I have suffered with Arthritis and Bipolar Disorder since I was a teenager of about 13. I have also recently discovered that I have a personality disorder too. I did not know any of this as a teenager, I just thought that the searing back pain was caused by my insistence on lying on my stomach to read books, and assuming my mood swings were just normal teenage angst and hormones.

 

At 16 I threw my back out so badly that it frightened the life out of me, but rather than investigate, the doctor just gave me Dihydrocodeine and sent me away. At 18 I was injecting amphetamines, and by the age of 20 I had a serious heroin habit. Thankfully I am one of the lucky few who survived, and quit using at the age of 24.

 

At 30, I had been clean from heroin for about 6 years. This is when the pain became unbearable, and over the counter Co-Codamol was not working. That is when I found out that my spine, and in fact the rest of my joints (hips & knees especially) are literally crumbling away, and getting worse all the time. My back was in agony all the time, and nothing could ease it. So, much like when I was 16, I was given painkillers (after an X-Ray to confirm crumbling Hips, Knees and Spine). But no other help. Just opiates. All that time off heroin, and they put me right back on opiates the first chance they got.

 

Then at 32 it was discovered that I also suffer from Bipolar Disorder. This meant more medications, this time a raft of mood stabilizers, sleep meds, anti anxiety meds and anti depressants. It took from then until now (6 years in total!) to perfect my medication regime! At one point I ended up being sectioned in the Lakes Mental Health ward at my local Hospital. All due to LEGALLY prescribed medication!

 

My current medications and their related side effects are as follows;

  • Lamotrigine – no side effects noticed
  • Quetiapine – drowsiness, speeds up heart beat, slows down metabolism and increases hunger, which causes weight gain & makes my joint pain worse due to the extra weight
  • Clonazepam – dry mouth and drowsiness (This is my sleep medication, hence drowsiness)
  • Slow release Dihydrocodeine – headaches, nausea, drowsiness
  • Codeine – headaches, nausea, drowsiness

 

I have experimented with cannabis in Holland, but I currently have no choice but to stick with my prescribed medications here in the UK thanks to the law preventing me from self medicating with it. However, I have found that my sleep meds, anti-anxiety meds (both barbiturates) and even my mood stabilizers could effectively be replaced with 2 distinct strains of cannabis.

 

There is also a chance I could cut down on my pain relief with a third strain – at the moment I am on two different opiates for pain. Of course; I couldn’t get my hands on any of those strains even if I wanted, thanks to the “let’s grow the strongest stuff” mentality of the illegal growers in the UK. So that along with the UK government’s “ignorance is bliss” approach, leaves me stuck with a range of side effects from headaches, heavy sweating, constipation, and drowsiness, to outright addiction and even withdrawal symptoms if I sleep too late and don’t take my morning medication soon enough! These side effects could be eradicated by a simple plant with no more serious side effects than the munchies or a desire to listen to relaxing music and chill out.

 

So with this story in mind you can see why, in Feb 2016, I began to work with CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform in the UK. I am now Director of Membership and thoroughly enjoying my rewarding work, helping our members, sending out merchandise, and collating and sending out welcome packs.

 

~ Andrea Clarke, Director of Membership at CLEAR