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No Pharma For This Doc: Opioids Were The Source Of My Suffering

Sarah Hayes

After battling six years of opioid dependence, retired doc gets clean with cannabis. But, it wasn’t easy.

Feature Image via patch.com

Twenty percent of Americans live with chronic pain. Pain can make life miserable or even completely impossible. For one in twenty-five Americans, asking a doctor for help results in long-term opioid therapy.

It’s no secret that excessive prescribing has resulted in an “opioid crisis” in the U.S.. Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of death for those under 50.  But, for too many, this is more than just headline.  Dr Noble Thompson is one of these chronic pain patients that experienced a personal crisis of opioid abuse before he said “no pharma” and turned to cannabis instead. Dr. Thompson is now a retired neuroradiologist and successful author.

Overcoming Pain with Cannabis 

As reported by The Inquirer, on 4 July 1969, a young physician named Noble Thompson was in a car accident that fractured his back and changed the course of his life. Fortunately, he survived the accident and escaped back surgery. But, his doctor warned him that future complications would mean inevitable surgery.

He didn’t let this slow him down. Instead, Thompson went on to spend the next 40 years practicing radiology. It wasn’t until after his retirement that the effects of his spinal fracture finally caught up with him and in 2010, severe pain in his leg led to a diagnosis of sciatica. His first back surgery followed.

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Via The Inquirer; Dr Noble Thompson. Credit to: Ed Hille.

Unfortunately, Thompson’s first surgery failed. Instead of alleviating his pain, it created more. Doctors prescribed Oxycodone. Over the next 3 years, Thompson consented to two more surgeries, but nothing seemed to work. In this time he added Fentanyl to the Oxycodone he was already taking to control pain.

Inevitably, the drugs began to cause devastating mental and physical side effects.

Enough is Enough. ‘No Pharma’

This reached a head one day when, while away at an out-of-state wedding, Thompson accidentally brought an empty box of Fentanyl patches with him instead of his fresh prescription. The horrible withdrawal symptoms made him vow to say no to pharma for good.

Although his doctor advised him to transition from opioids to cannabis slowly over the course of a year, Thompson was determined to get opioids out of his life. He used cannabis to get off opioids in one month after the wedding incident.

The Transition Was Not Easy

Unfortunately his doctor was right about one thing: Thompson’s pain over next year, while managing it with only cannabis, was often so severe he couldn’t get out of bed. Yet now, a year and a half after saying no pharma, Thompson has only slightly limited mobility when standing or walking for long periods.

Now Thompson no longer needs daily cannabis to manage his pain. He occasionally uses ibuprofen, but as he told the Inquirer, “Drug-free, I now am content.”  

Thompson credits cannabis with helping him discover that prescription opioids were the biggest source of his suffering. 

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Saying No to Pharma Could Help Others Struggling to Manage Pain with Opioids

Noble Thompson’s story is inspirational, perhaps all the more so because it isn’t so unique. Millions of Americans have experienced pain and sought treatment. And millions of these have had firsthand experience with the challenges of opioid-based pain management. For some, like the 80% of heroin users who started on prescription opioids, the story doesn’t end as well as Thompson’s did. 

Medical cannabis has been shown to reduce prescription opioid dependence in states where it has been legalized. Studies have found it effective in reducing withdrawal symptoms, reducing overall opioid consumption, and lowering the likelihood of a relapse.

Before that, we heard plenty of anecdotal evidence from patients who took cannabis to recover from opioid dependence. Despite what cannabis critics would have you believe, we don’t need further evidence for federal cannabis legalization. The evidence is there – we just have to listen to it. What patients need is safe and legal access to cannabis. The sooner the better for those who are suffering.

Prohibition Continues Opioid Dependence

Noble Thompson was able to tell his inspirational story because he lived in a state that believed in his right to choose cannabis as a patient. Because of that choice, he is able to live a fulfilling and drug-free life today.

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For chronic pain patients in states without medical cannabis programs, however, the choice is not so easy. Too often this leaves patients stuck in a cycle of opioid dependence, prescription or otherwise. Hopefully Noble Thompson’s story, with his credibility of a medical license attached, inspire others suffering from opioid dependence to say no to pharma. And hopefully, his and others will inspire more people to fight for legalization and justice.

 

Sarah Hayes

Sarah is an American expat living in Spain with her husband and little doggie. She comes from a performing arts and teaching background with a degree from the University of London. For the past 3 years Sarah has worked in and written about the legal cannabis industry both in Spain and the US. She cares about sharing her passion for cannabis, yoga, healthy lifestyles, counterculture and travel trough writing and social media.

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