medicine

Medical Cannabis & Cancer: Mike's Story

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Mike, age 29, is a Minnesota-native who currently resides in Roseville with his wife, who is from Russia, and 4-year-old daughter. He enjoys traveling, In The Groove (a dance game similar to Dance Dance Revolution), Russian culture--he has been teaching himself the language over the past several years—and Rubik’s cubes.

Starting in 2015, Mike had difficulties falling asleep, even after periods of 40 to 60 hours of being awake. While being heavily sleep-deprived, he would experience an elevated heart rate and occasional mild, seizure-like muscle spasms when trying to fall asleep. There was one occasion where he experienced temporary blindness in the left half of his left eye.

With a recommendation from the Minnesota Epilepsy Group in August 2015, Mike decided to undergo an MRI; the imaging of his brain scan came back abnormal. He was told he had a benign brain tumor in his right frontal lobe. In February 2016, Mike underwent a craniotomy to resect the majority of the tumor, and after he did standard treatment of radiation and chemotherapy.

Having used recreational cannabis before his diagnosis, he was recommended to enroll in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. He began to pick up medication from LeafLine Labs. Being responsible for his family, he found comfort and security in pursuing medical cannabis legally. It also helped him to cope with the side effects during recovery.

His tumor responded to the treatment and Mike’s condition was stable for some time. Unfortunately in late 2018, the tumor re-occurred as a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), a rare and aggressive type of brain cancer.

He went through radiation and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Additionally, he was prescribed a long list of medications, many that came with various side-effects. For Mike, the biggest benefit of medical cannabis has been in dealing with nausea, and improving his overall mood. Although not a cure, medical cannabis helps to greatly improve his quality of life and affords Mike the opportunity to spend quality time with his loved ones and enjoy the things he is passionate about.

Medical Cannabis & Autism: Kali's Story

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Kali of St. Cloud, Minnesota is a junior at Apollo High School. She loves camping, swimming, traveling (Duluth is one of her favorite destinations), art and pursuing her new-found passion for photography. Kali has an older brother, loves to visit her grandpa Marvin in Sleepy Eye, and enjoys spending quality time with her family; their go-to activities include camping trips, bowling and trips to Denny’s.

When Kali was a baby, she didn’t start crawling until she was nearly eight months old; she didn’t start walking until she was two. She would never look at people--even at daycare. She didn’t interact with her peers and would sit by the corner of the fence and watch. As she grew up certain things improved but there were always new issues popping up.

In 2007, Kali was diagnosed with autism and severe anxiety; in 2019, she was officially diagnosed with sensory processing disorder.

The day-to-day for Kali and her family was difficult at best. She would have meltdowns that lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and typically had several per day. At a certain point in time, they could not go anywhere or do anything with Kali--the simplest things would set her off, from the weather to attending school.

Kali was aggressive toward herself and others; she would often pull her own hair and hit herself. Once on a trip to Target on a busy afternoon, Kali had a meltdown and was kicking and screaming--she bit through her dad’s winter coat and drew blood. The anxiety and aggression sparked a lot of difficulties at school for Kali with peers and teachers.

In order to help her deal with symptoms of her diagnoses, they tried everything. Occupational therapy, speech therapy and in-home therapy. Over the years she took 23 different medications; Kali hated taking them, she didn’t like the way they made her feel. Every option they pursued, including her prescriptions, provided less-than-ideal results. Eventually, they discovered through testing that all of the medications were not absorbing correctly through the main pathway in her liver.

Exhausted and wanting to find relief for their daughter, Susann and Adam began to research alternative forms of treatment. A friend of Adam’s recommended a physician who certifies patients for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. They were hesitant at first and took their time weighing the benefits before they made a decision, but Kali was still having trouble getting restful sleep at night, even with Trazadone and six other medications, and her aggression and anxiety still persisted. Something needed to change.

On a Thursday in October 2018, Kali’s condition was certified by her new doctor. Prior to their initial consultation, her parents stopped by the LeafLine Labs patient care center in St. Cloud for a run down of the process; they were pleased with how welcoming, friendly and informative the staff and overall visit went. “It was professional, like a doctor’s visit,” Adam and Susann shared. The next week, Kali and her parents met with a pharmacist and purchased medication for the first time.

Since beginning medical cannabis, Kali’s issues with aggression and harm toward herself and others has become non-existent; the family had an outing in Bentleyville not long after on a busy, crowded Saturday night and Kali did great--she had a blast and was in a fantastic mood throughout. Over the Holidays, Kali and her family were able to take shopping trips to the Mall of America, something they never were able to do before. There were many instances in the past where she would constantly cry about everything--there haven’t been any instances like that since October.

“I wish we could have done this a long time ago,” Susann said, “It would have made her life and ours a lot easier...It’s nice to to do simple things like go out to dinner and not have to worry.”

Now, Kali has a part-time job. She can tolerate being around people. She goes to, and stays, asleep without the help of Trazadone or other sleep aids. Most incredibly, she has been able to wean off of every single medication from before medical cannabis, including her Xanax extended release and Gabapentin. Kali feels like herself again, more so than ever.

Adam and Susann used to regularly receive emails and calls from school with concerns about relations with other students and poor performance in classes. Now, Kali is earning all As and Bs and she enjoys going to school. She is able to refrain from getting involved in the typical high school drama she used to not be able to stay away from.

She enjoys seeing her case manager who is helping to teach her new life skills; teachers at school have remarked about how focused she is and how they can tell she is able to think before she acts. A few months back, the principal pulled her aside and told Kali how proud she was of her.

Kali’s parents describe her as happy, loving and giddy these days. They are elated to see their daughter thriving and truly coming into her own. Before medical cannabis, Kali and her family’s quality of life was anywhere from a 1 to 3. Now, they say most days are an 8 or 9.

Adam and Susann are grateful for the profound impact medical cannabis has made on Kali and their family’s lives; they are more aware of, and are able to enjoy and appreciate the seemingly simple things in life yet again. They are hopeful and excited for Kali as she finishes high school and continues to reach important milestones in her life. They couldn’t be more proud of how far Kali has come.

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How May Cannabis Help Patients With PTSD?

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) became a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota on August 1, 2017.

PTSD is a mental health disorder that manifests after a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD are varied but often include: disturbed sleep, anxiety (specifically when in a situation similar or reminiscent of the traumatic event(s), flashbacks, and more.

In severe cases of PTSD, these symptoms can greatly impact daily life. There is no cure for PTSD, but its symptoms can be managed with medication and therapy.

Medical cannabis can help patients with PTSD by decreasing anxiety, improving sleep, decreasing nightmares, and helping to reduce avoidant behaviors.

LeafLine Labs pharmacists are experienced in treating patients with PTSD, and many of our patients who are currently being treated for the disorder have achieved great symptom relief. Our goal with medical cannabis therapy is to help manage the symptoms of PTSD and help improve patients’ quality of life as much as possible.

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Josh's Story

When Josh of Woodbury, Minnesota was 19, doctors found a blot clot; he was hospitalized for several weeks and put on blood thinners. Following his stay in the hospital, he developed venous ulcers on his feet from damages to his veins. Josh underwent multiple surgeries—including skin grafts—that were unsuccessful in removing his ulcers or bringing him the relief he deserved.

For nearly a decade, Josh lived in constant pain. His daily routine revolved around the meticulous care of his wounds and ulcers and managing his pain levels. A restful night’s sleep was rare; he only managed to sleep for 2 to 4 hours at a time. Half-way through the day his pain would start to increase and by the end of the day his feet were so swollen he would have trouble taking off his boots. Josh likens the pain to having barbed wire wrapped around his feet that was heated with a blow torch; the pain he felt on the side of his leg was like having glass jammed into it.

Josh was prescribed a lengthy list of pills, including opioids, which brought only minute levels of pain relief and riddled him with a number of side effects, including digestion issues. Other treatments Josh tried consisted of: medical ablation (which was done approximately 10 times), compression socks, air socks, elevating his legs above his head and blood thinners. None of these treatments were successful.

He was told by one physician that he could not be helped, so he looked for care elsewhere.

When one of Josh’s physicians recommended medical cannabis as a treatment option, he was apprehensive. Exhausted and in need of relief, Josh was considering amputating his leg before trying medical cannabis. With the encouragement of his physician and friends in other states who had either experienced or witnessed healing from the medicine, he decided to try it for 2 months. He made an appointment at LeafLine Labs in Saint Paul; it was his last resort.

Within the first week, he began to experience the relief he had been in search of for nearly a decade. He had a surge in energy, he was able to lower the number pain pills he was consuming right away, and was able to sleep for a full 8 hours for the first time in months.

“Luckily, I have seen real healing ever since starting medical cannabis. I never saw that before,” Josh says.

Now, he can focus better. He has been able to get back to the gym and in the last 6 months has lost 60 pounds. He eats regularly.  Josh still takes muscle relaxers and medications for his veins, but has been able to completely ween of all opioids. He feels better in his own body, more alive. His quality of life has drastically increased since he began using medical cannabis, and for the first time in years he has a renewed sense of hope for the future. Both Josh and his wife are eager to continue seeing him make progress and heal.

“…It’s life changing. When you are in a lot of pain, you look at everything with doom and gloom,” Josh shares, “When you are not in pain, there is a lot more joy and happiness. Life is easier.”

Pharmacists' Role in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program

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Unlike most other states, Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program is overseen by the Department of Health and mandates that MN licensed Pharmacists meet with patients to develop a plan of care.  Product selection and dosing are determined by the Pharmacist in consultation with the patient.

Whether you are a prospective patient or you are simply curious about the patient experience at LeafLine Labs, we have consulted with our Pharmacy Team to provide insight on the role of pharmacists in the Minnesota medical cannabis program.

When you first come to a LeafLine Labs Care Center, you will meet with a Patient Care Coordinator to fill out initial paperwork. A Pharmacist then conducts an Initial Consult, which can last 30-45 minutes. As part of the Initial Consult, Pharmacists gather information from you (or a caregiver/guardian). We discuss past medical history, all current medications including other cannabis use, current and past diagnoses, any treatments for your qualifying condition, as well as other conditions or symptoms presently of concern. We screen for elements in past or current history that may warrant special consideration in LeafLine Labs medication therapy initiation, such as drug interactions or other medical conditions. Information you provide to the Minnesota Department of Health on a Self-Evaluation Survey is incorporated into our internal LeafLine Electronic Health Record, and reviewed with you.

After a thorough consultation, you and the pharmacist agree on an initial plan of therapy designed to meet your goals for symptom relief.  We educate you on all aspects of how to use your new medicine, as well as what to expect for effects and side effects. You will purchase your medicine at the end of the consult, right from the dispensary in the Care Center.

Generally, we like to see you for a Return Consultation after about 2 weeks of using Medical Cannabis, so we can “fine tune” the medication plan to best help you.  From there, you and the Pharmacist have an ongoing relationship for follow-up consultations and dosing adjustments as needed.

Medical Cannabis, Fibromyalgia, & PTSD: Kim's Story

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For Kim of Benson, Minnesota, it happened all at once. In the early winter of 2015, her father—who she adored—passed away and along with him, the remainder of her support system. She was devastated. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with shingles which took the chronic, widespread pain she lived in every day from fibromyalgia and multiplied it; the pain was horrific.

Kim, who has 5 dogs, 7 cats and several other four-legged friends (as well as two-legged), has been an animal lover since day one; when she was younger, she did not have dolls—she had pets. Raising and taking care of animals is a passion she shared with her father. She also loves to spend as much time outside as possible when she’s feeling up to it.

Kim was diagnosed with fibromyalgia back in 1996 and in 2015 when the shingles came, a pain she never could have imagined accompanied it. Although the rash from the shingles virus only lasted about 2 weeks, Kim suffered permanent nerve damage that she will live with for the rest of her life. She tried every solution her doctor recommended—from anti-seizure medications, to opioids and topical medications—but nothing worked. “I tried all of the heavy stuff, and it didn’t touch it. It didn’t even touch [the pain].”

In January 2017 when the pain was so excruciating and debilitating that she had to give up the deer she and her father had raised – all 43 of them – she felt as though she had nothing left to live for; there have been many days when the pain led to her question whether she wanted to live any longer.

“It’s very emotionally painful as much as it is physically painful. People just don’t understand [my situation],” Kim says, “…Take something that you’ve lived for and then never do it again. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Once Kim’s doctor recommended she look into medical cannabis, she did not hesitate; medical cannabis was her last resort. Once her condition had been certified and she was added into the state registry, she made an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

It took approximately a month for Kim to find her therapeutic dose but now that she has, she has started to feel better than she can ever remember—that’s how long she has been living in pain.

“It’s a necessity is what it is now,” she explains, “To me, it’s no different than somebody that needs heart medication. If you don’t take this, you’re going to die.”

Before medical cannabis, she describes her quality of life, on a scale from 1 to 10, at 1. Now, with medical cannabis there are days where she feels so good, so normal, that she forgets to take her dose. She has been able to stop taking all of her prescription pain killers and is now free of all the side effects that came with them.

“I don’t even take Aspirin or Ibuprofen [for the pain]. At all,” she shares.

Kim feels as though the medical cannabis helps to relieve all pain from the nerve damage caused by shingles and she has yet to experience any side effects from her medicine. She truly believes that if her parents had been able to use medical cannabis when they were sick that their quality of life would have been drastically better before they passed. Medical cannabis helps Kim to care for her pets, spend time outside, and navigate her days in comfort; the relief she experiences gives her hope for the future.

Medical Cannabis, Intractable Pain, & PTSD: Kristina's Story

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For Kristina of St. Cloud, Minnesota, her diagnoses of PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) brought a wave of relief for her and her loved ones. For decades, she did not know what was wrong with her; numerous doctors told her she was perfectly healthy and test results seemed to tell the same story.

Growing up, Kristina experienced bullying and harassment that eventually caused her to block out any memories of her childhood before age 10. When she was in high school, she started seeing a counselor to help her work through the feelings she was experiencing. Unfortunately, counseling was unsuccessful in bringing relief and as alternative treatment she was introduced to antidepressants.

During the decades before she was diagnosed, she was prescribed more pills than she could count from her psychiatrists and pain specialists, though the pain relief she experienced was not nearly significant enough to outweigh the side effects. In 2004 while taking her three children for a walk, Kristina and her family were struck by a distracted driver. Luckily, there were no fatalities, but Kristina and her youngest son sustained TBIs—both of which were not correctly diagnosed until years later.

Come 2011, Kristina was diagnosed with PTSD and it wasn’t until 2013—nearly 10 years after being struck by a car—that she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (which they believed was in-part due to PTSD) and a TBI. Putting a name to her conditions meant being able to pursue a more targeted treatment regimen, but her health care practitioners continued to prescribe pills—she overdosed several times.

When Kristina inquired about medical cannabis as a treatment option, her neurologist at a major health care system in St. Cloud refused to continue seeing her. This sent her into a dark spiral of depression and she embarked on a year-long journey to find a physician who would certify her for the medical cannabis program. There were times when she believed taking her life was the only way to find relief from her own thoughts and pain.

As she describes it, she lost herself. Kristina was in a constant fog. She was confined within the walls of her home, unable to participate in the world and to be the mother her children needed and she so desperately wanted to be. She could not put on makeup, shower, do the dishes, or even wear shoes because of the pain flares that come with Fibromyalgia. When she was able to muster the strength and will to attend family events, she would be bed-ridden and recuperating for weeks at a time afterwards.

Exhausted and in dire need of something that would improve—and quite frankly save—her quality of life, she was able to find a physician who would certify her for the medical cannabis program in December 2016. Once approved in the registry, she made an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

Although her qualifying condition was intractable pain, Kristina shares that she has seen the biggest improvements with symptoms related to PTSD. She is appreciative of how willing the pharmacists at LeafLine Labs are in treating all of her conditions, not just those that qualified her for the program.

Once she began using medical cannabis, it took about 10 weeks for her to be weaned off her pain medications and 5 months until she was off everything, including the medications she was prescribed to treat PTSD. “It was really hard,” she admits.

She felt like giving up many times due to withdrawals, pain and a racing heart, but she remained persistent and patient. Kristina’s loving husband, Byron—as well as her family and friends—were and continue to be supportive, compassionate, and understanding of her journey toward an improved quality of life. Today, she isn’t entirely healed and still must deal with symptoms from her conditions, but both she and her husband agree that her progress has been life-changing.

Kristina is now off of all pain killers and prescription pills she was prescribed for PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and her TBI. Not only is she willing, but also able, to leave her house again. She can do the dishes, put on her makeup, and wear shoes—at least for much longer periods than before. When she is able to attend family events, she can recuperate much faster and isn’t confined to her bed for weeks at a time. “I feel like myself once again,” Kristina says.

Before medical cannabis, she says she had no quality of life at all. Now, each day her quality of life is, on a scale from 1 to 10, anywhere from a 9 to 10. As for her pain, which used to be a 9 or 10 on any given day, it has been reduced to a more manageable range of 1 to 3.

Most importantly, Kristina can once again be a mother to her children. She can take her youngest son, who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and who has a fear of dogs, on walks outside. “I found myself. I’m back,” she gushes.

Last year for prom dress shopping, Kristina’s daughter was accompanied by her aunt because Kristina’s conditions prevented her from comfortably leaving the house. This spring, Kristina is overwhelmed with joy that she will be able take her daughter shopping to find the perfect prom dress; she attributes this monumental mother-daughter-first to medical cannabis from LeafLine Labs. Kristina, her husband, and her support system of friends and family are hopeful and excited to see what progress will be made as she continues to use this safe, natural medicine.

Medical Cannabis, Muscle Spasms, Intractable Pain, & PTSD: Ed's Story

Meet Edmund (Ed), a Marine veteran, husband, father, grandfather, and patient at LeafLine Labs. Ed is a medically retired VA Field Examiner who enjoys hunting, fishing, gardening, and spending time with his wife and two dogs. Ed has been diagnosed with various forms of intractable pain, muscle spasms, and PTSD.

For decades, Ed lived with excruciating pain from a service-related injury (USMC 1979 to 1993), in his neck (cervical spine) and his lower back (lumbosacral strain). In the past, he was only able to sleep four to six hours a night because of constant neck pain or numbness in his arms—which started as radiculopathy and progressed into serious pain over time. In addition to his pain, he began to develop knots half the size of a fist on either side of his low-back which was extremely uncomfortable and painful.

Ed decided to undergo neck surgery in 2008, which was not a success, and had subsequent cervical fusion in 2015, which was also unsuccessful. Ed also had surgery on his lower back in 2012, to no avail. Treatment that followed was conservative, including pain meds when needed, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy - but these all simply masked the pain, rather than address the underlying reason for it.

With his traditional methods of treatment not providing relief or the results he desired, he decided to research and then enroll in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. Since his first appointment at LeafLine Labs, Ed has been able to drastically improve his quality of life with the help of medical cannabis. Edmund says that he has found 70-80 percent relief from muscle spasms in his back and that, “As for my back resolution, with regards to pain, that’s all gone! I’m able to get up and get around and do things I couldn’t do before. There is benefit [to this medicine]. I’ve seen it. I feel it. What more can I tell you?”

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Randy's Story

In 1989 while serving in the United States Navy, Randy sustained an injury along his cervical spine from C1 to T4. On September 21, 2016, Randy re-injured his cervical spine while undergoing a patient transport that lacked the proper ventilation equipment. His injuries eventually led to marrow edema from C1 to C3. He also developed degenerative disc disease and degenerative arthritis throughout the entirety of his cervical spine, which are both now progressing down into his thoracic spine into T4.

Before medical cannabis, Randy describes his quality of life as non-existent. The multitude of narcotic drugs used to treat his chronic pain robbed him of the ability to breathe on his own, forcing him to use a ventilator while sleeping due to central sleep apnea caused by the Oxycodone. On a scale from 1 to 10, his pain ranged from 7 to 10 and he was sick to his stomach constantly. He would spend his days sitting in a neutral position, moving as little as possible, to subdue his nausea. More often than not, he would go several days at a time without eating, and driving a car was out of the question. At one point, he was taking over 500 pills per month.

Wanting to find a more natural, sustainable path to relief and diminish his long list of prescription medications, Randy decided to enroll in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. Once he found a physician to certify his condition, he found the process to be much easier than he had initially imagined.

Now, his pain is finally under control and he rates it from 3 to 5 rather than 7 to 10. Randy has been able to eliminate Oxycodone, Etodolac, Nortriptyline, Venlafaxine, Tizanidine, Methocarbamol, Cyclobenzaprine and Lisinopril. Aside from an inhaler and allergy medications, he is free of pain killers and prescription medications. His blood pressure is down to a healthy level and he has been able to lose a healthy amount of excess weight. He no longer has central sleep apnea or peripheral pitting edema in his extremities and his obstructive sleep apnea seems to be going away. Finally, Randy feels as though his body is working the way that it was meant to and beginning to heal itself.

“Marijuana has saved the life I was given,” Randy says, “The horror stories are wrong… it’s definitely worth trying.”

Medical Cannabis Delivery Methods: Tinctures

At LeafLine Labs we offer medical cannabis in a variety of forms, intended to help patients obtain the relief they seek in the most efficient way possible. One of these options is a tincture.  In the simplest definition, our tincture is a mixture of cannabis oil and alcohol. Tinctures are one of the easiest cannabis products to use without any combustion, smoke, or even vapor.

Our tinctures are available as drops or sprays that are placed under the tongue.  This type of absorption is referred to as “sublingual”. Sublingual absorption results in a much quicker onset of effects than ingestion because the cannabis bypasses the GI-tract and the liver, entering the bloodstream directly through the lining of the mouth. Oral ingestion will take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours for effects to be felt, whereas sublingual absorption may be as quick as 5 to 10 minutes.

We can provide tinctures in two different formulations, Tangerine and Heather.  Tangerine is our high-THC product with a small amount of CBD. This has proven beneficial at reducing or eliminating pain, nausea, and stress while also helping to stimulate appetite and sleep. Heather is a 1:1 product of THC to CBD. In addition to those benefits mentioned previously for THC, CBD has also been shown to relieve both inflammation and pain.

Tinctures are one of several delivery methods LeafLine Labs has to offer to help patients find the best medicinal cannabis for them. What delivery method(s) have you found work best for you? Comment in the section below with your answer.