Cannabis is increasingly known to treat a variety of ailments, but a new, unexpected use for the plant recently has emerged amid one of the worst man-made disasters in American history.
Thousands of residents were sickened and evacuated when a decrepit methane storage well at SoCalGas’ northern Los Angeles Aliso Canyon facility ruptured, initiating a months-long blowout that unleashed 100,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere from October to February — though it’s possible an even higher volume was released.
Residents of Porter Ranch and other nearby communities experienced nausea, bloody noses, and skin rashes, to name a few symptoms. One resident of nearby Granada Hills, located only two miles from Aliso Canyon, though ineligible for relocation, began to experience staggering cluster headaches. They are often called “suicide headaches” because the chronic pain can be so extreme, doctors have seen patients kill themselves to escape it.
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous for reasons explained in this article, developed the condition just days before SoCalGas publicly acknowledged the leak. With few options and in severe pain, he found relief from cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
“I never experienced a single cluster headache in my life prior to the onset of these, and my symptoms virtually parallel the timeframe of the Aliso Canyon gas leak,” he told Anti-Media in an interview.“They came on with a vengeance when it began and subsided only after it was plugged.”
The man, who will be referred to as “Roger Stein,” described his symptoms:
“They began by actually waking me up in the middle of the night. They feel different from migraines, tending to start in the left top rear of the head and gradually pushing out from behind the right eye, which swells nearly shut and reddens by morning,” he explained. Stein sent a picture of his irritated right eye to his doctor, who determined his symptoms were consistent with cluster headaches.
Though Stein, 62, had experienced severe headaches before, he says these were different. “I was familiar with occasional migraine headaches. I controlled migraines very well with Excedrin and lying down, but I only suffer migraines on the average of twice per year,” he said.
Excedrin failed to stop the pain from the cluster headaches. When his doctor couldn’t pinpoint a cause, Stein tried several plans of action. He began keeping a diet and pain log to gain more insight into what could be causing the problem. He also tried several other treatments.
“I read that the symptoms of cluster headaches are similar to those of oxygen deprivation to the brain,” he said (oxygen deprivation is also a symptom of exposure to high levels of methane). He began using concentrated chlorophyll and an over-the-counter nasal spray containing capsaicin to treat the potential oxygen deprivation, and though they worked temporarily, after several weeks they ceased to be effective.
After an MRI found he had a “normal, healthy brain,” ruling out the possibility of a tumor, Stein was given several options.
His doctor recommended he try breathing with an oxygen tank, but Stein’s insurance did not cover the recommended amount. He was hesitant to begin using costly, potentially harmful drugs such as Imitrex, a migraine drug. That drug was his main option, but one of the side effects from continued use was more headaches — albeit not migraines — as well as pain or tightness in the chest, spinning sensations, tingling under the skin, vomiting, and drooling. His doctor said he would only know if the medication caused more headaches if he began using it.
“At that point, [we] still didn’t concretely know what was causing my cluster headaches,” he said. “I didn’t want to begin some prescription drug regimen that potentially would have been impossible to stop, particularly when we didn’t know if it would address the cause of the symptoms.”
Desperate for relief — and in spite of fears of getting “high” — Stein took a recommendation from a family member that he try CBD oil. “I really needed my constant, daily pain to be gone – it was limiting my life,” he said.
Stein was unable to read the newspaper or even look at screens, and he was consistently waking up in the middle of the night due to the pain. Out of safe options, he obtained a license for medical cannabis in the state of California.
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