Britain

Cannabis has given me the most incredible year of my life

Lucy Stafford has been in extreme pain and has had numerous surgeries to combat the debilitating effects of a rare medical condition.

Since paying privately for the drug, at a cost of £800 a month, her pain has reduced so much that she has stopped other treatments and started university. Here, she writes about how medical cannabis changed her life for the better.

I have a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which basically means by body cannot produce collagen correctly.

The connective tissues in my joints and my stomach and my bladder – and all of my internal organs – are much more hyper-mobile and flexible than they should be, making them not very good at functioning and extremely painful.

As part of my condition, I dislocate my joints very easily without trauma. So I can dislocate my shoulder by brushing my hair, or dislocate my hip by rolling over in bed – causing a huge amount of pain.

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Since I was around 10 years old I've had a range of different surgeries, injections and treatments to try and manage the different aspects of my condition, because it affects so much of my body.

From the age of 13 I was prescribed opiates, and I basically took opiates every single day because my pain was so debilitating.

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But the opiates caused horrendous side effects and made my body become dependent on them.

When I was first prescribed opiates I didn't even know they were addictive or that your body developed this dependence on them.

Image: Ms Stafford has had many surgeries since she was 10 years old

But when I stopped taking them after many years I became very, very ill, and they did very little to manage the pain I was in initially while causing the horrendous side effects.

This lead to me dropping out of school when I was 15; I really struggled with my education.

I ended up being tube-fed for three years from the age of 16 because I was so unwell.

I was left with no hope for the future, getting any type of education or living a life.

I could barely get out and see my friends because I was in such unimaginable pain – even while taking all of these ridiculous painkillers that weren't effective.

Last year, I dislocated my jaw. I dislocate my joints very regularly as part of my condition, but my jaw, for whatever reason, dislocated and went into spasm.

I had surgeries, all sorts of drugs and basically anything my doctors could do for me to try and get my jaw back into the correct position, but it was just stuck.

Image: The 19-year-old controls her debilitating pain with cannabis oil

I cannot even explain what a low point I was at in my life. There was no way out.

Then my doctor tried to prescribe me a cannabis-based medicinal product. He didn't know much about it as a medicine, but couldn't increase my doses of fentanyl any more.

So he didn't really have much of a choice. And so he tried it but it got denied funding immediately – as all NHS cannabis prescriptions generally do.

I was at such a point of desperation I medicated with illegal cannabis and it made such a massive difference to my quality of life.

I pretty much straight away realised that all the medication I had been taking for years and years had been doing basically nothing – and I came off all of them as soon as I could.

Once I came off those medications I felt like I had my brain back again.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 07: A cannabis plant grows in the Amsterdam Cannabis College, a non profit charitable organisation that gives information on cannabis and hemp use on February 7, 2007 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city council in Amsterdam has recently voted in favour of introducing a citywide ban on smoking marijuana in public areas. A successful trial ban in the De Baarsjes district of Amsterdam has been declared a success after a reduction in anti social behaviour. (Photo by
Image: Only a handful of patients have been prescribed cannabis on the NHS after it was legalised last year

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