HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Reefer Gladness
Pubdate: Sun, 18 Oct 1998
Source: Edmonton Sun (Canada)
Copyright: 1998, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Contact:  Doug Beazley
Note: An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the Calgary Sun
under the headline: Doc Finds Pot Helps Patient's Pain


An Edmonton Study Suggests Marijuana Can Help Patients With Chronic Pain

One of the city's top pain doctors says she has evidence marijuana use may
boost physical strength in people with a rare muscle disease.

"That's what was so intriguing ... we've never heard of anyone getting a
result like that," said Dr. Helen Hays.

Hays, a palliative care specialist, runs a referral practice in the city
for people who suffer chronic pain. She sees several people who use pot to
control their discomfort.

"I know many of them are using (marijuana) and don't want to mention it,"
she said. "I don't always ask."

About a year ago, Hays had a visit from a 31-year-old Edmonton-area man
suffering from a rare neurological disease that causes severe stiffness and
cramping in the muscles.

"It's very painful and it makes my limbs weak ... I have to be fighting
against my own muscles all the time," said Hays's patient, who wants to be
referred to only as Kevin in print.

"The pain started when I was 25. I've tried probably 15 different drugs.
The only one that worked at all gave me extreme muscle tremors. That's why
I started using marijuana."

Kevin said smoking grass helps control his pain and made him feel
physically stronger. Hays and rehab medicine specialist Dr. Rubin Feldman
started running tests on Kevin last January, trying to work out what the
pot was doing to him.

"Dr. Feldman used a test over (three months) that determines how much
weight a certain set of muscles can lift," said Hays.

Testing started during a stretch when Kevin wasn't smoking pot, and
continued after he started using again.

"The results were remarkable," said Hays. "We recorded a dramatic
improvement in his physical strength when he was using (marijuana)."

"We have no idea why this should happen, or whether it might apply to
another disease. It's an open door ... a whole new line of questioning."

Hays said she and Feldman are preparing a paper for publication. Dr.
Feldman could not be reached for comment.

Hays said she hopes the study won't be a magnet for flak in the controversy
over whether to legalize marijuana.

"I've never tried the stuff myself ... I don't want anyone to get the idea
I've got a supply or something," she said, chuckling. "I think the time has
come to have a national debate about what we're going to do with the
marijuana law. We have to be cautious ... but the time has come to talk
about it."

Kevin said he'd be grateful for the right to use marijuana for his
condition without worrying about getting busted.

"I live with fear every day," he said. "I don't know when the SWAT team's
going to bash in my door and handcuff me in front of my wife and children.

"There's no logical reason for this to be illegal. But every medical user I
ever heard of who went public got busted for his trouble."

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