Sunday, December 11, 2011

Speaking out against a stigma

Terry Bremner smokes his marijuana pipe in Halifax parking lots and quiet woods, even though he is legally allowed cannabis to dull the pain of fibromyalgia.

Until now, his two adult sons didn't know. Nor did his neighbours, or the parents of the preteen football players he coaches.

But he thinks it's time to speak up against the stigma that lumps medical users with recreational ones.
As president of the Chronic Pain Association of Canada, headquartered in Edmonton, Bremner, 50, visits chronic pain sufferers across the country talking about marijuana as a medical option, especially for those who experience side-effects from strong opioids.

"I was begging for pain meds," said Bremner, who was 34 and working in St. Albert when he was in a head-on collision in 1995. Doctors didn't diagnose him with a mild traumatic brain injury and fibromyalgia until two years later.

Bremner tried Tylenol 3s, morphine, Demerol and Prozac. A psychiatrist suggested shock treatment.
Instead, Bremner started sneaking off for a joint, which helped interrupt his fixated thoughts of pain, his worries about making ends meet and his fight for benefits.

When Bremner moved back to Nova Scotia in late 1997 with his wife and two children, he couldn't find a doctor willing to take on his complex needs. Initially he turned to the streets to get his small supply.
His supplier got busted.

Then, his wife found out. "She wasn't impressed," he said.

At least not until he discovered the compassion club in Halifaxthat sold marijuana illegally to people with documented health problems - and then only in clandestine handovers.

Bremner could only afford 10 grams a month, and would quickly run out. He enrolled in a two-year study to try the government's marijuana. "It was total garbage," he says, but it was free.

Eventually, Bremner got his federal licence to use the drug. He has been waiting two months for a renewal. Then he will once again order his supply from Victoriabased MedMe, a company that supplies multiple strains of marijuana.

Bremner looks for the right combination of Sativa strains, to boost energy, and Indica strains, to bring sleep and relaxation. Some types help with chronic pain; others work better for patients with cancer, HIV or other severe diseases. Health Canada's one-size-fitsall approach simply isn't adequate, Bremner said.
His wife now understands the medical need. Bremner plans to explain it soon to his two sons.

"I have been asked to be a voice" for chronic pain sufferers, Bremner said. "Maybe it will attract more attention to help more individuals, people like myself who need this medication."

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