Medical Cannabis, Seizures, Autism & Intractable Pain: Lucas's Story

Lucas of Lakeville, Minnesota, is in many ways your typical 18-year-old boy. He loves girls, Will Ferrell movies, and sports--baseball is his favorite. He also loves some good potty humor, Elmo, and spending time with his big sister.

At age 3, Lucas was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and with cerebral palsy. Around the same age, his parents were told that he also suffered from seizures.

In addition to the seizures, Lucas would often inflict harm on himself or others. He was anxious, restless and would often struggle to get restful sleep. Some of Lucas’s behavioral tendencies has made it hard for his family to spend time out in their community. “Autism is our life,” his mother explained. Lucas and his family have spent many days at home watching TV.

To help manage symptoms and the progression of his diagnoses, Lucas was prescribed a number of different medications. Unfortunately, most of those medications came with side effects that required even more medications to manage them, adding to an already lengthy list of prescriptions. Nearly two years ago, Lucas’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels were so high that his doctor prescribed him Fenofibrate, a common drug for his condition but uncommon for someone so young.

After they had exhausted what seemed like every treatment option, Lucas’s physician recommended enrolling in the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. Interested in lowering the number of prescription medications he was taking and finding a more natural treatment option, his parents were immediately interested.

Since Lucas was young, Olivia had researched and kept in mind the possibility of medical cannabis as an alternative for him, but for years it wasn’t legal and she still had her hesitations once the program started in 2015. After Lucas’s physician certified his condition and they enrolled through the Minnesota Department of Health, it took nearly a month for his parents to decide to make an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

Now, Lucas experiences relief from pain and seizures without the long lists of side effects that prescription medications left him with; they have been able to wean him off most of his pharmaceuticals.

Lucas is mostly nonverbal and prefers not to be touched most of the time, but one of the words he uses frequently is cream. When he experiences pain from scoliosis, for which he is undergoing a spinal fusion surgery in mid-July, he will ask for his cream and stand perfectly still while one of his parents rubs the Heather Topical Gel Cream on his back. “It’s pretty incredible,” his mother remarked.

“As soon as the cannabis was given to him, the hitting of himself stopped. The violent outbursts with us stopped. It was like night and day,” Olivia shared. “I was really expecting him to start speaking and, you know, write his own name and all of these other miracles. I know they will happen someday, though. Just the fact that he stopped hurting himself was enough.”

Olivia describes Lucas as being more self-aware. “I feel like he’s in our world more than he used to be,” she said.

Lucas is thriving in his autism program at school and he is expected to graduate when he turns 21. He can sit in class, focus and not get distracted by what’s going on around him. His parents feel as though he’s learning and making cognitive gains more so than ever before and they haven’t noticed any seizures since he began taking medical cannabis.

He is more interested in participating in the world around him. The other day, his face lit up when his sister entered the room, his mother shared, whereas before he may not have even noticed.

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This past February, Lucas attended his second Night to Shine prom night experience, an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation for people with special needs age 14 and older. In contrast to his first time prior to medical cannabis, this last prom was a night-and-day difference. He wore his first tuxedo, he participated in activities and interacted with his peers, and he seemed more focused. “He really seemed to enjoy himself,” Olivia shared.

Lucas’s parents are amazed every day by the improvements in health, mood and behavior they’ve seen in their son, and they are eager to witness even more progress once he begins to heal from his spinal fusion surgery in July.

Looking back to the beginning of Lucas’s journey with medical cannabis, Olivia’s only regret is not making an appointment immediately. “It could have been one more month that he had this medicine,” she said.