Adrienne Lynch | 09.01.2021

Richard speaks to Adrienne Lynch. Despite long-term mental health issues and related physical conditions, she was able to come off debilitating prescription medications and go on to live a full, purposeful life, thanks in no small part to cannabis. Twitter: @adriennevlynch

How was your experience of cannabis in Amsterdam when you were in your 20s and had you tried it before that? I went to Amsterdam for the first time by myself when I was 22 and I had experienced cannabis prior to that. I think that was one of my reasons for going to Amsterdam. I just wanted a safe place to go and experience cannabis and Amsterdam seemed like the obvious choice so that’s where I went. I’d only really tried it bits and pieces here as a teenager, y’know.. with your friends or whatever. But (I had) no real understanding of it. And also mixing it with alcohol when you’re a teenager. You just don’t really understand it, you know? So when I went and I sat down and smoked a joint and I ate some space cake and experienced it, I was like: “This might be for me.” I never really felt that with alcohol, but I was like: “This might be for me.” Richard laughs

In your guest piece for The Green Lens, you mentioned how you developed an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia near the end of your teens. How would you explain those conditions to someone who isn’t informed about them? So, an autoimmune disease is your body attacking yourself. It can’t identify healthy cells and it attacks them. I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is inflammation in your joints. So my joints tend to swell up and things like that and there’s a lot of pain. And then with the fibromyalgia you have muscle spasms and you have a lot of pain. I had extreme chronic fatigue as well, but I couldn’t sleep either because I was in so much pain. Those symptoms were all very much of pain and then when I went to the Doctors, they just started to give me other medication to say: “Well this is the pain and this is what’s causing it.”

Which then just led to an onslaught of other issues coming up, you know? Because they didn’t diagnose me until I was 21 with the autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia. So I had about five years of crazy medicine. Prescribed guesswork. Prescribed guesswork basically, yeah. And a lot of them did a lot of damage. I was on steroids for a very long time. They had a slight touch of sleeping tablets at that stage but they didn’t give me sleeping tablets really until I was.. I think I was about 24 or 25. So you went a long time without being able to sleep, really. Yeah, yeah. And at that stage, I didn’t have a clue how to get my hands on cannabis in Ireland. I was living out in Donabate and nobody I knew was selling any or knew anybody to ask. And even asking them would’ve been so taboo and the fear of judgement, you know… So it was just.. You just plod along for so long, you know?

Did you ever find out why you were prescribed twice the recommended dose of sleeping tablets for several years at around that time? No. And I’m still completely fascinated and baffled that Doctors would inform me of this as they’re giving me another prescription for it. Yeah. At this stage, I wasn’t really sleeping because you don’t really sleep with sleeping tablets. So it was years of that. And the Doctor, as he’s writing me my double dosage, he was saying: “This can lead to Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, you know that?” Oh my God. I was like, “Oh, yeah.” And he hands me the prescription and I was like: “That’s it, that’s all you tell me? I’ve been on these for a number of years now. You’re a medical professional.” No matter who you are, you will build a dependency on them, you know? Yeah. So, that was it. It wasn’t even addressed ever again. 

It was just mentioned once, as he prescribed it to you. I actually had to change Doctor. And the next Doctor, she hated prescribing them for me, so she was just always at me. And then I was like, “Why am I taking these and how am I gonna get off them?” Three years back, after a year of gradually weaning yourself off of them, you managed to stop using the prescription medications you’d been prescribed for sleeping, anxiety and depression and replaced them with cannabis. How did cannabis help you to stop using them and how does using it compare to the prescription meds? So, one thing is, prescription meds.. You’re never just on one generally. One leads to another, to another, to another. So when you’re on this mix of things that are supposed to be treating one thing and they’re just stopping your body from doing something that it’s naturally trying to do, that’s what pharma medication generally does.

That leads to other issues, so straight away that’s one thing. Cannabis is one medicine and it treats your body. Now we’ve got all the different cannabinoids within that medicine, which is the part where we’ve got to start educating people, because that’s the medicine part. That’s the part that gives our body that homeostasis. So instead of stopping it from doing something, cannabis enables my body to function to the best of its ability. Yeah. It doesn’t stop it (from) doing any functions. It doesn’t suppress anything. It helps you to do all those functions it needs to do. Now our body should never be stopped from doing anything. It should be assisting it to do things, so that’s for me again a huge change and it really is the best medicine I’ve ever been on.

You said that after years of struggle, cannabis now allows you to eat comfortably, sleep, exercise and leave the house, leading a productive life. Why do you think many people still buy into the lazy stoner stereotype? I mean it’s everywhere, isn’t it? I mean, even down to the stoner movies I love and enjoy. I recently rewatched Pineapple Express. It’s absolutely hilarious. It just perpetuates this idea of an idiot stoner that’s lazy and can’t achieve anything in life. And we all know that’s so far from the truth. I mean, even the guy that wrote that movie is successful and a millionaire and a stoner, you know? So it’s a paradox in itself. But it’s something we do need to challenge. And I think it’s fine having it from a comedic perspective, but when the rest of us are trying to live our lives and we’re fighting against that stigma or that stereotype that’s just so far from the truth. I wake, bake, do thirty minutes of cardio and then thirty minutes of strength training and then thirty minutes of yoga. How is that lazy? It’s the exact opposite of it. And then I go and do a full day’s work. Somebody come at me and tell me smoking makes you lazy, because I’m telling you it just absolutely doesn’t. It gives me the ability to do everything I wanna do and I’m very ambitious and now I’m finally able to fulfil those ambitions and go for what I want. I’m delighted to hear that.

How are you progressing with your course on The Medicinal Uses of THC and CBD, and what have you found most interesting about it? I always knew cannabis is really good for us in the sense of treating pain and treating inflammation. I did not know that our bodies are 100% built to receive this sort of medicine and that it regulates so many other parts of our bodies. The studies and medical research they’re doing at the moment is showing signs for neuropathic protection, so that could be used for protection from Alzheimer’s in times to come. Who knows? If we’re finally allowed to do all the research. Everybody says THC can affect your memory. If it’s used right, if the research is allowed to be done, it can actually be used to protect your neuropathy. And then if you also look at the fact that it can also regulate your pancreas it can possibly also be used in the future to help with diabetes. 

So there’s just so many benefits to it and it’s like the tip of the iceberg we’re at right now. There is such a level left to go and it’s not even just cannabis, there’s a lot of botanical medicines to be researched. Because there’s a lot of plants that have cannabinoids, not just cannabis. Yeah. And everybody thinks: “Oh, botanical medicine is just hippie dippy stuff. There’s a lot of science to it now, it’s not just about loving plants and things like that. There’s really a lot of science. And I’m not for taking away pharma, but I’m about options for people. People need to be informed and know that they have options. Absolutely. 

There’s no point dismissing an entire area of medicine in favour of another, everyone should have a broad range of options. We must have cannabinoid receptors in our bodies for a reason, you would think! I mean we all come from the Earth, so there might be things in the Earth put there for us, you know? If you don’t mind me asking, where are you studying that and how far along are you with that course? It’s just an online course, but it is recognised by CBD CPD [Continual Professional Development], so it’s 15 points for that. I’m doing it in The Centre of Excellence, which is an English company. And the guy who wrote it, the information he is giving around the laws at the start are from an English perspective. But their laws are very similar to ours. After that, he goes into the whole body and the receptors and he breaks down the different cannabinoids and stuff as well. And then the next part I’ll be going into is how they can be used. Like topical use and tinctures and things like that. But it’s a really interesting course, I’d recommend it.

You have told me that you’re also studying to be a Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, and that you hope to incorporate your knowledge of CBD into your coaching. How do you plan to do this? CBD could hugely be incorporated into our nutritional daily benefits. If people were even using CBD oils for cooking with. If they were drinking CBD teas, which are wonderful. Really, really good. There’s lots of different ways you can incorporate it into your nutritional daily intake. So I will be up for that, but I also really want to educate people on how they can use it to manage anxiety and stress, while incorporating it with exercise. Because I really look at everything from a holistic perspective. It’s never just one issue, you have to do everything as a whole. Yeah. So, I really think CBD can be brought into everything. Cannabis can be used, and a lot of people are like: “I don’t wanna smoke”. So then you can use oils or.. nowadays, they have the CBD drinks. I love the Parachute drink. ‘Cause I’m not a drinker but if you wanna sit and be social with somebody there having a can, have a can of Parachute instead, you know? That works for me. Things like that, it’s just small changes but they can make a big difference in a person’s life.

How would you advise our government and the Garda Síochána on the national approach to cannabis, moving forward? It’s obviously a complex issue. They need to have compassion, first and foremost. There’s no compassion right now for people that are suffering from illnesses. People don’t choose to be ill. For me, I’m being forced to break the law, all the time at the moment. And I have a child to think of, and that weighs heavily on me. And I studied law as well, you know? I don’t want to be a criminal, but I’m not willing to take pharmaceutical medication that makes my life unmanageable just because of a law that I don’t believe in. They really have to listen to us. They have to start listening to us and they have to have an open conversation. And I think it’s very dangerous, the misuse of information that they spread. Because it’s so scaremongering and it’s really detrimental to the people who could really benefit from cannabis. 

Do you think that we should gradually progress through legalisation, starting with the medicinal and then aiming for recreational (use)? Or do you think we should try to go straight for full legalisation? What kind of views do you have on that? Part of me thinks, “Just ease our way in” and another part of me is like, “I don’t know if Ireland is like that.” When it came to the gay marriage stuff, it was like: “We’re either going full constitutional or we’re just not doing it.” I feel we need a similar approach with this. It needs to be an all-in approach. We need to go: “We want full change and we want it recognised in our Constitution so that we’re protected, that this is a medicine.” Something along those lines I feel is needed on this. Because I think they’re gonna sit on their hands and they’re gonna keep tryna fob us off with little gestures here and there. Like the thing that they did recently with the Gardaí, saying: “They can use their own personal discretion.” But sure they’ve been doing that for years! And all that does is harm people who are from areas that already get discriminated against. 

Do you think our government is working in any meaningful way at the moment in terms of discussing legalisation and making it a reality for people? I don’t think it’s enough in their view frame at the moment. I think there’s so many other things and people pushing for things that it’s not in their view frame. That’s why we need this to be bigger. We need people coming out. And it’s almost like coming out as: “Hey, I am a smoker! I like THC and CBD and it helps my life.” You have to do that. And I’ve only really started doing it myself publicly within the last six months. I’ve been doing it very much in the background for a long time. But publicly, because it’s a difficult thing when it’s illegal to do, but I really believe in it. So I think if more of us can protect each other and work together, that’s one thing I feel is missing. That sense of community and having each others’ backs. Because it’s so underground. So we need to find a way to come together, I think a little bit like what they did in Spain with the smokers’ clubs. 

That could be an approach we could take, because at least it would be a place for people to go to gather information, where we could build a community that will stand up and say: “This is not okay, we need changes.” I couldn’t agree more. Is there anything else you’d like to touch on? Anything you’d like to say to people who are interested in learning more about cannabis? I would say… Go in slowly to your CBD and THC. Because there’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot of growth to be had in it. And if you go in too fast, you might scare yourself away. If you can talk to people or find people online who have experienced it, it’s always a good thing to talk to other people. And just try and find a decent dealer until we get legalisation, because you’ve gotta be safe out there. You never know what they’re doing with that stuff they sell on the street. With the sprays and everything, you’ve just gotta be really careful. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thanks for having me, take care.

* Adrienne’s autobiographical guest piece, Cannabis Saved My Life, can be read here:

https://www.greenlensblog.com/2020/11/22/cannabis-saved-my-life-adrienne-lynch/

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