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How I Get High: Combating Chronic Pain With Cannabis

One woman’s fight against the medical system.

Credit: Rick Proctor

Throwing his two cents into the cannabis debate, photographer Rick Proctor has created a series of portraits of legal cannabis users.

A self-proclaimed ‘lover of cannabis,’ Rick has photographed some subjects who arguably use cannabis as a substitute for emotional health. But not all. One of his most interesting subjects is Carly Goebel.

Rick published Carly’s “How I Get High” story on Medium, revealing how medical marijuana can be a life-changer for those suffering chronic pain.

Carly’s life was first changed in 2008 when she suffered a snowboarding accident.

“When I would get off my overnight shifts at 8am I would drive up to snowboard for hours by myself, riding with whomever I happened to meet on the mountain.”

On the last run of the season, she fell, spraining three ligaments, bruising two bones and fracturing a heel.

Image: How I Get High
Credit: Rick Proctor

She was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, which was mostly contained by a spine implant, which enabled her to function until a second accident took her: A car crash.

“My pain and sensitivities to pressure got so bad in the months after the accident that I had to start using a walker and a wheelchair.”

She was prescribed opioid painkillers, ibuprofen, and muscle relaxers. Her doctors even gave her liquid morphine. Despite all this, she was still in chronic pain, causing her to lose her job and give up dancing. More than that, she was prevented from leaving her home.

Trying to control her nerve pain, Carly made use of “strong psychiatric drugs that could totally change a person’s personality. My loved ones never knew who I was going to be and when during this time.”

After the side effects became too much, Carly decided to stop taking the medication.

Credit: Rick Proctor

Carly then explains how marujana helped her in a way the psychiatric drugs couldn’t:

“It helps me use fewer medications, and it makes all the medications I take work more effectively… If I needed 3 pills, I could take one pill and medical marijuana and have the same effect. I use CBD products to help with inflammation, muscle spasms, anxiety, and nausea. The THC helps more with my pain and my appetite. CBN is good for my sleep.”

Carly’s family and friends support her use of medical marijuana, although she has often faced conflict with her doctors about it. It is not covered by her medical insurance, and often runs out when she can no longer afford it.

“I use (cannabis) shows and a friend who runs a delivery service. She gives me everything at cost. If it weren’t for people like her, I could never actually afford the medicine I need.”

Carly says that cannabis helped her finish her education, including a BA in Psychology from California State University at Northridge, and an MA in Psychology from The Chicago Professional School of Psychology.

Hand holding stick of cannabis
Credit: Rick Proctor

Despite the benefits, Carly is constantly hitting walls with the medical service. A doctor threatened to prescribe no more painkillers until she came off medical marijuana. When Carly refused to show up for the drug test, however, she received no more resistance.

“My fiancé is from Kentucky, so if we want to go to visit his family I am forced to go without my medical marijuana.”

Although casual use of cannabis may have its issues, Californian medical patients will now benefit from receiving treatment more freely. Especially if the alternative is a legal drug with mind-altering side effects.

Carly’s use of cannabis to treat a medical condition is not a new pseudo-science. The independent recently published an article on how an ingredient in cannabis can be used to treat psychosis. 

Carly makes her stance clear:

“This is not a matter of opinion or morals. It is a matter of ethics, and it is unethical to allow people to suffer when there is something that can so easily help in many ways.

I am so incredibly proud of myself,” Carly explains, “but I have no idea whether I will ever be able to go into other countries to help set up social services programs that are needed and decrease stigma about people with disabilities, which is what I dream of doing.”

Want to learn more about the cannabis craze? Read about how cannabis-infused cotton candy is being sold in America.

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