Medical Cannabis Helps ALS Patient Outlive her Own Doctors

Pot Helps Relieve ALS Symptoms

In 1986, Cathy Jordan was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) disease, she was told by the neurologist she had 3 to 5 years of life left.

Three decades later, Jordan is persevering. She has outlived five self-help associations and four neurologists. Jordan’s remarkable circumstance has had an unintended consequence. The state took her social security privileges as she lived past her “expiration” date.  When she appealed Florida’s decision to terminate her benefits, she showed up at their office. Despite her being in front of her and having a valid, state-issued, identification card, authorities said that wasn’t “sufficient to confirm she still lived.” She had to ask her neurologist to document she was yet living to restart the benefits.

Jordan started using medical marijuana from a Florida producer to manage her ALS in the late 1980s. “Donny Clark produced my medication in the Myakka River Valley. He was arrested and sent to prison for life,” Jordan said.

Physicians were slow about accepting marijuana as responsible for Jordan’s extended life. Some doctors felt that smoking would harm her lungs. Other health care workers wanted to have the paralyzed woman green-sheeted into mental health services, just on the fact that Jordan thought pot was treating her.

“I went to a neurologist at Duke. I told him I was smoking pot and he didn’t know what to do. He was worried. He didn’t even measure my blood pressure as I was using an unlawful drug,” said Jordan.

Three decades later, science has caught up with Jordan. Scientists created a mouse with ALS and research has shown that THC can benefit mice with ALS. The growing evidence of medical marijuana stopping the progression of ALS has begun to change the attitudes of physicians and researchers have called for more clinical trials.

“They all agree that I should smoke pot,” says Jordan. “There are ALS patient associations fighting for the right of patients to die with dignity. What about my right to life?” asks Jordan. “Keeping my medication illegal removes my right to life.”

ALS is a neurological condition affecting over 30,000 Americans and is most common in patients in the 30-60 year range. Roughly 5,000 Americans are newly diagnosed with ALS each year.

Mark Bushey, a broadcaster in Maine, was diagnosed with ALS in 2013. He started using medical marijuana to fight the symptoms and reported that using pot lessened his pain, gave him a better appetite and improved his breathing and sleep.

“The pot doesn’t have side effects, and it doesn’t interact with anything. It makes me feel good,” said Bushey.