Cannabis and Multiple Sclerosis: We Talked Methods of Consumption, Strains and Cannabinoids Ratios With Clark French
In the first of our series examining medicinal cannabis case studies we caught up with Clark French, a cannabis activist and founder of United Patients Alliance. He’s been treating the symptoms of multiple sclerosis with cannabis since he was diagnosed in 2010. We had a chat with him this week to find out how he goes about it, what advice he would give to others in the same boat and how it allows him lead a more comfortable life.
Hi Clark, when did you start using cannabis to treat the symptoms of your MS?
Well, I did use cannabis before I was diagnosed with MS anyway. At the weekend, when I was consuming cannabis with my friends I wasn’t feeling as ill. I noticed that it was really helping me and I decided that I wanted to consume more of it.
How does it help to reduce your symptoms?
In every way – the pain is the worst thing with me; I have a symptom called MS Hug which is a shooting pain all across the right side of my chest. That’s been there 24/7 for about six years now. It’s horrible. Cannabis doesn’t take it away but it reduces it. Say if I have a pain rating of six or seven, it will go down to a three or something like that. It makes it much more manageable and allows me to be able to do something with my day.
What sort of responce did you get from your doctor when you mentioned the therapeutic effect of cannabis?
Most heath care professionals are onside; they understand. My GP understands and would give me Sativex [the first legal cannabis-based medicine in the UK]; my MS nurse is also quite understanding and wants me to have Sativex; my neurologist is the same. I’ve also been to California and had recommendations from two doctors who argued that I would benefit from consuming cannabis.
Do you take Sativex?
No, I would have it if I could be prescribed it because then it would be on my record that I would have been prescribed Sativex – I’d feel a bit more comfortable about using cannabis. But I would still rather consume cannabis in its different forms than Sativex because it’s not very nice.
In what way is it not nice, Clark?
It burns; it can leave sores and ulcers in your mouth. It’s one of the least pleasant ways of consuming cannabis. Sativex takes a great thing [cannabis] and makes it into a horrible thing that you wouldn’t really want to do. People dread it; they don’t want a burning sensation in their mouths.
What do you think about GW Pharmaceuticals?
I think that it’s good that there is someone doing the research that they are doing, that’s really positive. But GW are obviously more than happy to go down the route of saying ‘it’s not cannabis it’s THC and CBD – but it is cannabis, it is cannabis extract that anyone could make. So, I think the research into how different cannabinoids can help different illnesses is a positive step, but I don’t agree with them [GW] having the only legal product i.e. a monopoly.
What’s your preferred method of consuming cannabis?
Vaporising, purely for the fact that when you vaporise it you get instant relief. Eating it takes an hour to kick in but when you vape it, it kicks in as you exhale.
What do you think of these CBD products that have come onto the market recently?
I’ve tried the CBD tinctures and they’re just basically a result of cannabis being illegal in this country. They wouldn’t be around – or the price they are – if cannabis was legal. Also, I do think that a lot of the time you would need a balance of the different cannabinoids. Just CBD isn’t usually enough. There are people out there who say it helps them a lot, which is great, but it’s not for everyone and it isn’t for me.
What’s the ideal ratio of THC to CBD for you?
It all depends what you’re looking to get out of it. Each ratio will treat a different condition but for me personally I need quite a high level of THC. The THC helps a lot more with pain than the CBD does. It also helps with my bladder problems a lot; if I have THC on a regular basis I do not have any problems with my bladder. But if I do not have access to THC, and just take CBD, I can start to wet myself again.
What strains have the best therapeutic effect for you?
It varies from patient to patient and from condition to condition – as well as what you’re doing in the day – but the strain Casey Jones (which is a sativa dominant strain) I like because it’s really good for pain. For the evening I also really like Purple Afghani which is strong so it’s really good for pain and it’s also good for helping you sleep.
Has your medicine ever landed you in hot water with the law?
No, it hasn’t. I’ve had issues with living situations and I’ve definitely been stigmatised for it but fortunately I’ve never been prosecuted.
How do you take you medicine on holiday with you if that would involve going through an airport?
I can only go on holiday to places where I know I can get medicine. But, luckily there are many places I can go where that is the case.
What advice would you give to an MS sufferer who is considering using cannabis to alleviate their symptoms?
Listen to your own body and don’t let anyone else tell you it doesn’t work when it does. But it might not work for everyone because everyone’s different.
What’s your message to the politicians who are denying people medicine that’s proven to be useful?
Listen to the science; listen to the patients who are suffering. That’s all you need to do.
Thanks for speaking to us Clark.
Photo Credit: Clark French via Facebook
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