Balancing Act

Sleep soundly, feel less pain with medical marijuana.

Before she became a stay-at-home mom, Tracey Leibowitz had a bright career creating visual displays for retail stores. It was a profitable job that motivated the Boston, Massachusetts native to relocate to Florida in 1996.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Tracey Leibowitz

Life was going great for Tracey until she suffered a setback in 2003. That was the year she was involved in a serious car accident that resulted in broken ribs and other severe injuries. Two years later, she sustained a concussion. The combination of those injuries left Tracey in chronic pain and unable to sleep, which she treated naturally.

“I never took medication,” she maintains. “I was what many consider a health nut. I used to be macrobiotic, vegetarian and vegan. Now I’m a pescatarian. I was very aware of my health and if I was in pain, I found alternative methods to treat it, such as doing gyrotonics or taking ginger.

“Those methods usually worked fantastically for me, and I never had a problem, but after the car accident and the concussion, I started getting headaches. I never got headaches until the concussion. I developed peripheral neuropathy as well. And I’ve always had trouble sleeping.”

In addition to those issues, Tracey has battled carpal tunnel syndrome since she was a teenager. She treated that by using creams and wearing wrist braces, but as she aged, the inflammation in her wrists increased. To combat the problem, Tracey switched to an anti-inflammatory diet, one that contains specific foods that don’t promote inflammation.

But a few years ago, Tracey reached a point where her natural remedies were no longer providing adequate relief of her symptoms. She then began exploring other options.

“When I looked up treatments for inflammation online, I got results for CBD oil, so I started researching it,” Tracey relates. “Over time, I started ordering CBD products from California. I noticed I was sleeping better when I took them. My doctors dismissed the CBD oil, but I continued to research it and use it.

“Medical marijuana has changed my existence, … It’s been phenomenal for me.” –Tracey

“I began to feel a little pain relief using the CBD products, but I was really having trouble sleeping. I finally realized, I can’t live like this anymore. Then, my gyrotonics instructor told me about Dr. Zotovas. She described the doctor’s background and how Dr. Zotovas helped her. My instructor said, You have to go to this doctor. She will really help you.”

Following her instructor’s recommendation, Tracey made an appointment with Andrea Zotovas, MD, at South Florida Medical Marijuana MD, which has offices in North Palm Beach and Stuart.

Dr. Zotovas uses medical marijuana to treat a wide range of disorders including chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety.

“When Tracey first came to me her primary concerns were pain and trouble sleeping,” Dr. Zotovas notes. “Medical cannabis can relieve both of those issues and more. It all hinges on the endocannabinoid system, which is the body’s system for maintaining balance or homeostasis.

“The endocannabinoid system has receptors that are prepared to accommodate the components of marijuana including CBD and THC. As part of this system, the body actually makes its own THC and CBD, but in some people, these substances are depleted or out of balance. Medical cannabis restores that balance, so patients feel better.”

Sweet Dreams

The benefits of treating pain with medical marijuana are well-documented, but what many people may not know is that medical marijuana is equally effective as a treatment for insomnia, which affects about 30 percent of all people in the United States alone.

“It’s a big problem, and it affects our general health,” Dr. Zotovas says of insomnia. “When we don’t get a good night’s sleep, all our other health problems get worse. Then, additional problems arise from those.

“But standard sleeping medications are not great. They cause dependency and can alter the normal sleep architecture, so people don’t get a restful, restorative night’s sleep. Medical marijuana works far better. It’s not habit-forming and people feel rested and energized for the day ahead after using it.”

Medical marijuana is an excellent sleep aid because it restores the patient’s natural sleep cycle. Dr. Zotovas recommends specific strains of marijuana, called indica, for sleep because they are relaxing and sedating, promote a good night’s sleep and don’t cause daytime drowsiness.

“The indica strains are like a couch,” Dr. Zotovas elaborates. “They make people relaxed and drowsy so they can sleep. Opposite those are the sativa strains, which are used during the day for pain, anxiety, headaches and lack of concentration. Many times, these symptoms are side effects of or are intensified by a lack of sleep, so patients often use both indica and sativa strains.”

Insomnia can be either primary or secondary. Primary insomnia is not caused by an outside trigger. The patient simply can’t sleep. Secondary insomnia may be caused by many factors, including stress or trauma.

“Medical cannabis is very effective for primary insomnia because it is relaxing and restores a normal sleep cycle,” Dr. Zotovas observes. “And if there’s a stressor causing the problem such as anxiety or depression, medical marijuana effectively treats both of those disorders.

“Certain medications can also have a side effect of insomnia including those for cancer, diabetes, asthma, COPD, blood pressure and overactive thyroid disease. We can mitigate those side effects naturally with medical marijuana.

“It all goes back to the endocannabinoid system, which works as a lock and key mechanism. The cannabinoids unlock the endocannabinoid receptors, which promotes particular states in the body. That state may be relaxation and sedation with the indica strains of cannabis or improved focus, and decreased pain and anxiety with the sativa strains.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

With the help of Dr. Zotovas and her medical marijuana, Tracey feels 100 percent better.

“Deeper, Better Sleep”

Tracey carefully followed Dr. Zotovas’ recommendations for using medical marijuana for relief from her pain and insomnia, and before long she began to see significant improvement in both. The benefits continued to accrue as Tracey became more comfortable using cannabis products.

“Medical marijuana has changed my existence,” Tracey raves. “I don’t wake up with pain. I don’t go to bed with pain. I lived with pain for so long I almost didn’t realize how much pain I was in until I felt the relief, When I did, it was so amazing, I almost forgot I had pain.

“And now I’m sleeping at night. I have deeper, better sleep, and there’s no weird feeling the next day, no grogginess. I’ve always had trouble sleeping, even when I was a little girl, but medical marijuana changed all that. It’s been phenomenal for me.”

With the help of Dr. Zotovas and her medical marijuana, Tracey feels 100 percent better. Now, she shares her story openly with others who may be experiencing similar symptoms.

“I recommend medical marijuana one hundred and ten percent,” she enthuses. “I can’t recommend it to enough people. I told my parents about it and anybody else who would listen.

“And I absolutely recommend Dr. Zotovas. With the accident and everything, I’ve been to a lot of doctors over the years, and she listens. She’s understanding and helpful, an amazing doctor. Dr. Zotovas has taken me down a road that’s made me better.”

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    • South Florida Medical Marijuana MD

      At South Florida Medical Marijuana MD they understand that cannabis is an effective treatment for many conditions. Their friendly & professional staff is there to provide the highest quality, compassionate care to each of their valued... Read More

    • Andrea Zotovas, MD

      Andrea Zotovas, MD, is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI and her medical degree from American University of the Caribbean School of M... Read More