New-Age Treatment Option

Medical marijuana erases anxiety, depression and pain.

Dawn Graham’s personal war with back pain began in 1996 when she was involved in a car accident that left her partially paralyzed for six months with three herniated discs in her lower spine. It is a war in which a second front opened in 2013 after she suffered a mishap with a child’s swing set.

Dawn Graham finally found relief for her back pain through medical marijuana.

After going to work for Dr. Austin (right), Dawn finally found a remedy for her back pain.

“I was teaching my daughter how to swing when a soft spot in the wood caused the swing set to collapse, and the whole thing came crashing down on top of me,” Dawn reports. “A two-by-twelve beam fell across the back of my neck, and two four-by-fours fell on the top of my back and left me with two fractured discs.

“I was just getting back to being able to do things I wanted to do again when that happened, but after that I was down and out for almost three years. I was in an electrical wheelchair for about two years because I literally could not walk from my car to the door, so I couldn’t work, and I could barely take care of my kids.”

Dawn eventually lost her job as an emergency medical technician with an ambulance unit because of her agonizing back problems. She also lost a lot of sleep. Her ceaseless back pain never allowed her to rest comfortably for more than two or three hours a night for months on end.

Equally agonizing was Dawn’s search for a remedy for her back pain. For years, she says, she “lived on opioids” that were prescribed to mask her never-ending back pain, but none of the various combinations of painkillers, muscle relaxers and physical therapies she tried provided her with the relief she needed to function normally.

Riddled with pain while also suffering regularly from bouts of anxiety and depression caused by her discomfort, it wasn’t until after Dawn started working as an office manager and medical assistant at Affinity Wellness & Aesthetic Center that she found a treatment option that provided the relief she long sought.

Affinity Wellness was founded by Michael B. Austin, DO, who is board-certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine and specializes in anti-aging, regenerative and functional/metabolic medicine. His goal with all his patients is to find the root cause of their problems and to correct them in a way that allows the patient to function normally again.

Dr. Austin focuses largely on the diagnosis and treatment of hormonal issues in both men and women as well as thyroid, gastrointestinal and cholesterol issues. He also provides weight loss and treatment for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain issues, and one of the treatment options he offers for the latter is medical cannabis, or medical marijuana.

Outside the Box

Medical marijuana first became legal in the state of Florida in 2014. At that time, however, its use was restricted to patients diagnosed with cancer and epilepsy. Since then, the usage law has been expanded to include more than a dozen conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and PTSD.

To obtain the legal right to use medical marijuana, a patient in the state of Florida must first be diagnosed by a physician as having one of those qualifying conditions. The physician can then write a recommendation for the medical marijuana, which can only be obtained through a state-approved dispensary.

In the state of Florida, medical marijuana cannot be obtained in any form that can be smoked. It is available in capsule form, as a topical preparation, as an extract that can be vaporized, or in a liquid drop that can be administered by the patient sublingually, or under the tongue.

Dawn says that when she first arrived at Affinity Wellness, she was quite skeptical of medical marijuana. She was tired of taking painkillers, however, and when she began to see the positive effect medical marijuana had on some of Dr. Austin’s patients, she decided to see if it would work for her. The trick was in finding a way to qualify for it.

Though chronic nonmalignant pain is one of the conditions for which a patient can qualify for medical marijuana use, Dawn did not automatically qualify because her pain was not caused by one of the listed qualifying conditions. Upon examining her, however, Dr. Austin was able to qualify Dawn for use under a broader guideline.

“People such as Dawn can fit in under a category called medical conditions of the same kind or class as long as we can determine that their pain is both debilitating and similar in nature to the conditions that are named in the law,” Dr. Austin explains. “That’s how chronic pain patients qualify, and that’s how we qualified Dawn.

“The idea was, if she’s sleeping better and has less pain, she will have less anxiety and less depression. And once you eliminate the pain, anxiety and depression, people tend to get off their meds and start to feel better. And because they feel better, they become more active, get more involved in typical daily activities and become more productive.”

Relaxed and Relieved

The three marijuana compounds that have been proven to provide significant medical benefits are cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and terpenes. Dr. Austin starts some patients he treats with medical marijuana with a product that is comprised almost exclusively of CBD, which is known to help with pain relief.

He did that with Dawn, treating her initially with a CBD product that he can distribute through his practice. The effects the CBD had on her anxiety and depression were positive, but the original medication did little for Dawn’s pain.
Dr. Austin then prescribed a CBD treatment containing a greater dosage of THC.

“When you put the two together, you get a synergistic effect,” Dr. Austin educates. “When you take CBD alone or you take THC alone – yes, they do their part.  But when you have even just a little THC mixed in with the CBD, they work so much better together, and that’s what we found with Dawn.”

Dawn opted to take her medical marijuana through a vape pen, but at first, she says, she took a very small dosage because she wasn’t sure what the effects would be. After concluding that she could function normally both at work and at home while taking the medication, she settled on a mixture that worked best for her.

“For the last month or so, I’ve been taking a smaller dose made up of five parts CBD to one part THC during the day, and a larger dose made up of twelve and a half parts CBD to one part THC at night. And it’s really worked. It keeps my anxiety levels down and I’m more relaxed, which keeps my muscles from getting tense and causing more pain.

“Overall, my pain level is down about fifty percent, and I’m sleeping a lot better. I’m getting a good seven or eight hours of sleep now instead of just three or four, so it’s worked really well for me. That’s why I’m so grateful for Dr. Austin and all that he’s done for me and why I’ve really become an advocate for medical marijuana.

“People need to know that this is actual medicine, that there’s a scientific background behind every product and that it really does have a tremendous medical benefit. I’ve seen so many people come through here who have had different types of cancer and other conditions, and they get so much relief from it, which is what this is all about.

“It’s not about getting high or anything like that. It’s about getting the pain relief and the relief from anxiety and depression you need to function daily as a professional.”

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