A high-powered lawyer in the Los Angeles music industry, Evan Kopelson had what appeared to be the perfect life. Eating sushi dinners four times a week, expensive lunches every day, drinks every night, and attending raves every weekend. The truth was a different story. Overworked, underpaid, and deep in debt, Evan suffered from severe anxiety.
It was the early 90s, prior to California’s medical cannabis bill, and his treatment options were limited. Even if cannabis had been available, the relationship between cannabis and anxiety is fraught with conflicting opinions, open scorn, and desperate individuals.
For outsiders, using therapeutic cannabis to treat anxiety is laughable. In fact, it can be the chief argument against the use of cannabis as medicine, but a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that “cannabis and its derivatives have profound effects on a wide variety of behavioral and neural functions.” THC and CBD act on the endocannabinoid system—the system in our brain responsible for naturally regulating anxiety and stress levels.
For individuals who experience anxiety and high levels of stress, cannabis is a miracle cure, but for Evan, it would be a long journey to relief.
Anxiety pursued Evan on and off the job, then one day he rushed out of the office in a full-blown panic attack; it was unacceptable. “After my first real panic attack,” Evan says “I went to see my doctor.” He was desperate for help, thus began Evan’s journey into the dark world of prescription drugs.
It started with Valium. Prescribed 5mg two to three times daily, he upped his dose when they did not work. Suddenly he was taking 10mg, and his quality of life was declining. “I was lethargic all the time and could barely get my work done,” he remembers. Depression set in and more prescriptions were needed.
Next came Ativan, followed quickly by Xanax, Flexeril, and Naproxen. Then Adderall and Ritalin became a necessity, and finally Ambien and Halcion were added to the mix.
Evan had his very own drug farm, and each pill treated something different. Xanax took the edge off. Evan’s stress-related back, neck, and shoulder pain required Flexeril and Naproxen. Adderall and Ritalin helped him focus, and Ambien and Halcion let him sleep.
The complications of Evan’s anxiety and medications piled up. “Years later,” Evan said, “I never thought about the pills—they were part of my life. I could not imagine being without them.” His addiction and reliance grew to the point that if anything in Evan’s life caused him to feel less than 100%, he asked the doctor for another pill.
Life was untenable; prescription drugs ruled his days, and hard drugs ruled his nights and weekends. Evan was divorced, depressed, and addicted to countless substances. “Nothing was right,” he said. “I was sick inside and out.” Something had to give.
Finally, after years of abusing his body with no true relief, Evan turned to alternative medicine. In just a few months, Evan’s life was dramatically different. His desire to take prescription drugs melted away alongside his symptoms. It was all thanks to yoga and the introduction of medical cannabis to California in 1996, and the evidence supports Evan’s story that cannabis is often a good alternative.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) determined that a dose of high-CBD cannabis significantly reduces anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort. CBD holds many advantages over prescription treatments—it’s delivered quickly and efficiently and lacks the severe withdrawal symptoms and side effects. So why is it that individuals who use cannabis for anxiety are openly ridiculed?
Evan said it this way: “People mention ‘anxiety’ as if it is the biggest crock of shit excuse to get a doctor’s recommendation letter for medical cannabis. However, none of those people have likely ever experienced a panic attack.”
The truth is, no one has the right to tell someone else why they should or should not use cannabis. Every medical condition is valid. In spite of the naysayers, cannabis and anxiety relief go hand-in-hand. And as the industry has grown, countless strains have evolved to treat a variety of ailments.
For Evan, cannabis changed his life. “It has been over 15 years, maybe 20, since I’ve needed those [prescription] pills,” he explains. “I still keep them as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how badly I was lost.”
When we asked Evan to share one thing that he wants everyone to know about cannabis. He says, “I am so grateful to have had these experiences and to be able to share them with others. Together, we can end the shame once and for all around cannabis use.”
If you have a story about how cannabis has changed your life, let us know! Facebook or Tweet @Dope_Magazine using the hashtag #End420Shame, or email your story to email@example.com.
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