There's a new weapon in the opioid epidemic fight. At least one local medical practice is using medical marijuana to help get patients off addicting and potent painkillers.
Teisha Winters was taking fentanyl, hydrocodone and other medications for issues with her back, diabetes and neuropathy in her feet.
"Workmen's compensation decided they didn't want me on anything," Winters said. "Their doctors wanted me off all of my medication."
Winters was also concerned with the addictive nature of the drugs she was taking to cope with pain.
"I had to have some sort of alternative," Winters said. "I have never smoked marijuana, but I said, 'If it works, that's great.'"
Nurse Practitioner Brenda Carney of CNY Family Nurse Practitioner worked with Winters, and works with other patients to get them off excessive, potent opioids.
"We went into a practice that had a very high opiate-prescription level," Carney said. "And when New York State went ahead and said it was okay to have medical marijuana for different conditions, we thought this might be a really good option for a lot of individuals.
Carney tells us the idea that we should feel no pain started in the 1990s with that zero-to-ten scale you see in most doctors' offices and emergency rooms as well.
"It's a ridiculous concept that anyone over 30 years old in a natural course of life is going to feel zero pain," Carney said.
Carney says she now gets referrals from several types of doctors.
"Diabetics with neuropathy, it's helping people with irritable bowel syndrome, the chronic pain, obviously seizures, movement disorders, Parkinsons-type disorders."
The medical marijuana is prescribed and then picked up at a dispansary in Syracuse or Albany in the form of a pill, a vape or a tincture.
One patient at a time, and one drug at a time, these patients - like Winters - are getting closer to comfort without excessive pills.
"I'm down to taking only the muscle relaxer when I need it, and the hydrocodone," Winters told us happily. "I am off of the fentanyl."
One issue standing in the way for local patients is the location of dispensaries. The closest dispensaries right now are in Syracuse and Albany.
The other hurdle is that insurance does not cover medical marijuana in these cases in New York.
Carney tells us one of her patient's compensation board has approved medical marijuana treatment.
Winters tells us she spends more than $100 a month in order to use the alternative of medical marijuana to cope with her pain and symptoms. The cost can amount to between $70 and $200 a month.
Carney says she has seen patients get off pain medications, anxiety medications and neuropathic pain medications ultimately reducing the total number of medications they take.
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