MS sufferer angry at legal high ban

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 08:32 13/05/2014
Shennae O’Boyle
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ
UPSET: Paula Davis is looking atways to cope with multiple sclerosis now that synthetic highs are illegal.

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A Blenheim woman who smoked synthetic cannabis to help her cope with multiple sclerosis is looking for an alternative treatment now that legal highs have been banned.

Paula Davis, 37, of Mayfield, said she was angry the government had banned all psychoactive substances, formerly known as legal highs, on Thursday last week.

She started using synthetic cannabis as a legal alternative to cannabis to help her sleep and eat after being diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2006. The autoimmune disease causes overwhelming fatigue, numbness, and affects balance.

Davis said before she started smoking synthetic cannabis in October last year, she injected herself with medication to reduce the progression of the disease. She stopped sleeping and her weight dropped to 40 kilograms after the trigger in her brain to tell her she was hungry stopped working.

By smoking synthetic cannabis, she could eat and sleep, she said.

About 10 days ago she stopped smoking two types of synthetic cannabis she used regularly.

A few days later, she had a "flare-up" - a setback less than a relapse but which still caused a huge disruption to her daily life.

"My tongue's been numb since Tuesday as well as the left side of my face and under my eyes," she said.

She felt a tingling and numbness in other parts of her body as well, including her mouth, hand, wrist and foot.

She also lost the ability to talk.

"I couldn't speak," she said. "I know what I want to say in my head, but when it tries to get to my mouth, I stutter. It's devastating."

The episode went on for 20 minutes before she had a puff of synthetic cannabis from her pipe.

It took about five minutes before she could speak again.

Without synthetic cannabis, she would probably turn to cannabis to help her cope with her disease, she said.

But in the meantime, she was looking at other ways to beat the symptoms of the disease.

An alternative to injecting herself with medication was a new pill, but at a cost of $6000 a month, it was out of her reach.

Her next step was to send her medical records to doctors in Russia who specialised in a new treatment for multiple sclerosis using stem cell therapy.

She was positive she would somehow manage to live with her disease without letting it take over her life. "If I have to go back to cannabis, I will, but in the meantime I'm looking at other options."

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- The Marlborough Express

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