When An Illegal Party Drug Became My Saving Grace

When An Illegal Party Drug Became My Saving Grace

You see a drug, I see a treatment
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It was in October of 2014 that I dislocated my shoulder after falling down the stairs while working. I was a nanny to a sweet little girl who was just learning to walk, and in an attempt to prevent her from falling down the stairs I (fortunately) took the blow for her. After a trip to the emergency room, we concluded that my shoulder would not permanently relocate without surgery, so we scheduled a stabilization surgery for early 2015. Thankfully my surgery went seamlessly and aside from some complications with the nerve block and uncontrolled pain, my shoulder was back in its socket and I was ready to begin my 6-week healing process.

Two weeks after my surgery and discharge I noticed a red patch beginning around my incisions that came with a great deal of pain. That red patch kept growing and the pain intensified to the point of me being unable to touch the area without wanting to scream. After another trip to the emergency room, I was put on a 6-week course of antibiotics for a suspected infection. When said infection didn't respond to the antibiotics and there was no reduction in pain and sensitivity we knew we weren't dealing with an infection but the question remained as to what it was.

This uncertainty warranted a visit to a neurologist to investigate my nerves, I thought the worst I could face was irreversible nerve damage; I was wrong. I walked out of the office that day with a diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). CRPS is a progressive nerve condition that occurs after an injury, it tends to be localized to the site of injury but can spread throughout the body; it is considered to be the most painful disease known to science. CRPS occurs when the nerves at the site of the injury or trauma continue to fire signals that are processed as pain despite the healing or resolution of the issue. In my case, I am affected from my right elbow throughout my right shoulder, the right side of my face, and across the top of my back. This disease has a mind of its own. I have little to no control over the pain and it is a pain that I've only felt in nightmares. My arm turns shades of red and purple specifically around the areas where I'm sensitive, it can sweat while the rest of my body is shivering or get goosebumps when the rest of my body is sweating. A common symptom with CRPS/RSD is known as allodynia; which is when a painful response is interpreted as a result of non-painful stimulus. Because of the allodynia, simple things like wearing clothing, taking a shower, getting goosebumps, even wind blowing against my arm have become nothing short of torturous.

The pain CRPS caused me couldn't be dulled by even the strongest narcotic, even medications specifically designated for nerve pain couldn't touch the levels of pain I felt constantly. I was put on doses of narcotic medication that would have sedated someone three times my size but still left me crying in pain. The pain would become so severe that the muscles in my arm and hand would contract and tremor, and at times my entire right side would contract. To be honest with you, there are many nights that I lay in bed and cry until I fall asleep because I have no other option to soothe the pain. I worked with a pain clinic in one of the most coveted hospitals in Toronto to gain relief. But relief was a struggle that I wasn't sure we were able to attain until my doctor suggested I enter a study being held: a ketamine infusion.

Ketamine is a strong dissociative drug that was a popular party drug in the 1970s through the 1990s because of its mind-altering effects that can result in vivid dreams, hallucinations, and out of body experiences. Aside from its use in the club scene, it's main use is in sedation of animals and humans and fast acting pain relief. But the uses and potential it has in biomedicine is still being discovered. Research has revealed that ketamine's analgesic effects are specifically beneficial to patients with neuropathic pain, patients like myself with CRPS. It is given intravenously as that is the most effective route, but there are different practices and protocols depending on the doctor that is administering it. In Toronto, I received 5 days of high dose ketamine followed by 6 weeks of oral ketamine. I truthfully went into the experience terrified, I do not like the feeling of being "loopy" and I was terrified of hallucinating. Thankfully I expressed these concerns to my doctor who made sure I would be comfortable throughout the process. I arrived at the hospital at 7 am and would be done with my infusion for the day by 3 pm. My ketamine infusions were done outpatient so I had my infusions in the Post Anesthetic Care Unit with a one-to-one nurse; I would go home for the night and return the next morning from Monday to Friday. Each morning we would begin with medications to combat the side effects and the infusion was started. I had some vivid dreams and hallucinations the first day but was easily corrected with additional medication, and from there it was smooth sailing. I began on Monday, by Wednesday I noticed a drastic change in my pain and by the end of the week I was able to physically touch my arm—something I hadn’t been able to do for almost an entire year. As time passed I gained more and more relief, I was able to wear heavier clothing and take showers again which seems small to most people but were huge victories for me to gain back.

Four months after my first ketamine infusion, my CRPS relapsed and spread further into the right side of my body. Since my first infusion in January of 2016, I have had two additional treatments. These ketamine infusions are the only thing relieving my pain short and long term, and allowing my life to continue as an independent young adult. I never expected that my relief would be held within the realm of a medication that people use as contraband outside of a medical setting. Regardless of the opinions of the rest of the world, these infusions are bringing me relief from the incessant pain I face every day and that’s a wonderful reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may not understand my pain, my disease, or my medicine, but at the end of the day I am the one living in this body and if I can start and end my days in less pain… well, that’s more than enough for me

Cover Image Credit: Sabrina C

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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Denver's Decision To Decriminalize Magic Mushrooms Offers New Hope For Those Struggling With Mental Illness

If we want to really make progress in mental health treatment, we might have to start considering solutions that are a little bit unorthodox.

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Admittedly, magic mushrooms are not the first drug that comes to mind when you think of Denver, Colorado. However, this week the residents of Denver will vote on whether to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms as part of a movement nicknamed "Decriminalize Denver." The movement is the nation's first public referendum on hallucinogenic mushrooms. Initiative 301 aims to ratify the directive that enforcing laws for personal use or possession of psilocybin mushrooms "shall be the lowest law enforcement priority in the City and County of Denver."

While the motives behind decriminalization are undeniably varied, one major reason to support the legalization of magic mushrooms is the fact that they offer a lot of potential in long-term treatment of mental illness and addiction. According to a study led by Jeremy Daniel and Margaret Haberman at the South Dakota State University College of Pharmacy in 2017, psilocybin mushrooms have high affinity for several serotonin receptors located in numerous areas of the brain, including the cerebral cortex and thalamus.

Findings like these point to the fact that psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, may be an effective treatment for addiction, depression, chronic pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The benefits are so convincing that the FDA has granted "breakthrough therapy" status to study psilocybin for treating depression due to the fact that preliminary evidence shows "the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy," meaning magic mushrooms might be closer to their namesake after all, bringing new hope for those who have exhausted other options and found them more harmful than helpful.

Kevin Matthews, the campaign director of "Decriminalize Denver," credits psilocybin mushrooms with "really saving [his] life" following his medical discharge from the United States Military Academy due to his major depression. Matthews says his "life had crumbled beneath [his] feet" and suffered without a solution for years until his friends introduced him to magic mushrooms. Since discovering their potential for treating his depression, he's dedicated his life to bringing others with severe mental illnesses the same opportunity.

A 2015 paper from the University of Alabama went so far as to find that "classic psychedelic use is associated with reduced psychological distress and suicidality in the United States adult population." Findings like these are imperative, especially in a time when suicide rates have risen 30% in the last decade.

If we want to really make progress in mental health treatment, we might have to start considering solutions that are a little bit unorthodox.

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