Today we got to talk with Nikki (@SavvyStonedGirl) about how she’s used Cannabis to completely turn her medical issues around. Through Cannabis, and some help from the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, Nikki has learned how to manage her physical and mental health issues and get off 15 different kinds of prescription medication. We’ll be covering the what- and what-not to-do’s of Cannabis, how to find your perfect match and dosage, and get some tricks Nikki has picked up over her journey. Make sure to keep reading if you want to learn more about using Cannabis for better health!
In this episode we’ll chat about:
- Nikki’s journey with physical and mental health, being on 15 prescriptions, landing in the psych ward, turning to cannabis and never looking back
- Getting started with edibles
- Difference between eating edibles and smoking
- Endocannabinoid System
- Avoiding going too far with dosages
- Concerns with addiction
- CBD to offset THC reactions
- Using cannabis to get off meds
Watch the Video
Listen to the Audio
Read the Full Conversation
Tell me about yourself – How did you get started on your journey and replace 15 pharmaceuticals with Cannabis?
So I’ve been sick with digestive issues since I was 17, and I’m turning 30 this year – so this started over 10 years ago. Back then, there wasn’t much knowledge on digestive issues whatsoever. Even in the medical system, you had to go to a super specialist – and even they didn’t really know what was going on. So by the time I was 19, I was in and out of the hospital every two weeks, and I wasn’t digesting my food anymore. The unfortunate part is when you get inflammation in your digestive tract, it doesn’t really go away, unless you are actively working at it every day. So by 19, my food literally wasn’t digesting; you and I could go out for a meal and eat the same thing, and you’d be all energized while I would just want to go to bed after because there’s nothing working. By the time I was 20, I was on over 15 different pharmaceuticals – when they would print they print out the list from the pharmacy, it was like two pages!
How can you even keep track of all of it?
It was hard, and the scariest part was the interactions with the medications. And then being sick at such a young age, obviously, instigated mental health issues. I was turning 19 – you’re supposed to go party! And they told me that with the stomach drugs I was on I wasn’t allowed to consume alcohol, or eat basically anything. So it kind of put a damper on my teenage years.
And then they put me on actual antidepressants because I was showing signs of depression, understandably so, and showing signs of anxiety; we all have anxiety, but especially young girls with harsh medical issues. So, my one doctor had me on straight antidepressants, and then my stomach doctor had me on antidepressants in a low dose that was used for pain, sleep, and anxiety (and whatever else they told me it was for). Then one day I woke up and I felt like I was on top of the world. Turns out, my two doctors weren’t talking to each other, so I was taking more antidepressants than a grown man should take, at 100 pounds and 20 years old.
So it didn’t work very nicely in my body and I ended up having a whole manic episode. I landed in the psych ward of the Jubilee for over a week. They stabilized me and everything, but after that I was just over it. I was over the pharmaceuticals. It was the worst experience I think I’ve had in my life with the medical system. So I quit everything cold turkey as soon as I was out of their care.
So how did your Cannabis journey start?
My mother has been a member of the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club since early 2012. I smoked a little bit of weed in high school – I was actually a late bloomer, I was like grade 11. I was super into sports and I thought it was the devil’s lettuce and all that shit. I didn’t smoke much, but she brought me into the club. We had similar health issues, so she went there to see if it would help. When she went asking about side effects, they said the only side effects were that you can maybe get a little tired, you get a little hungry, and are probably less irritable. So we’re like let’s try it!
And it was all-natural, which was a huge thing for me. I had already started switching all my food over to natural, organic, non-GMO, no hormones, things like that. But the cannabis really settled everything for me to be able to actually eat the food I had.
So yeah, I became a member end of 2012. And I’ve never looked back. I haven’t touched a pharmaceutical since then.
It’s crazy that two different doctors who don’t talk to each other can be prescribing you 15 different drugs. How is that even possible, especially with someone so young and small, to handle these medications?
Unfortunately, there are so many flaws in our medical system. I’m not here to shit all over it, but I definitely know there is a lot of room for improvement, especially in the mental health and digestive world. Mental health and digestion are so intertwined, and they don’t really treat them like they’re intertwined. Your stomach brain is honestly smarter than your brain brain. So if one’s not working, it’s just a revolving cycle. Unless you treat them both as like a unit.
So you decided to go cold turkey after your manic episode. Did you have doctor support for that and kind of help with the transition, or are you just like, “I’m done, I’m out. We’re figuring out something new?”
It was more of an “I’m done and I’m out.” They had me talking to a psychologist and a social worker for a while, and I was supposed to be in their care for a year. The other thing they did was they tricked me into signing the BC Involuntary Mental Health Act. So that’s a whole ‘nother thing where basically, you’re under the government’s care for a year and you have to listen to what they say – which again, there are circumstances that need that. But after about six months, I was pretty over it, and I felt it was detrimental to my health.
So, I was told by almost all doctors that I would be an unsuccessful human, in less words than that, because of my decision to use Cannabis. And my one gastroenterologist, the stomach doctor, literally said, “do you know how people that use that stuff end up?” At that time, I was working two jobs, like 65 hours a week running a restaurant, and I said “I would classify myself as a functional stoner.” but they just didn’t understand it at that time. It was 10 years ago.
You’re dealing with all of these things, and things aren’t working, you want to try something else. It would be so nice to actually have the support from your doctors to help navigate it rather than just saying, nope, don’t do it, it’s not going to go good.
The stigma was huge, it was pretty sad. But I was fortunate that the group at the Cannabis Buyers Club had so much knowledge, even though they aren’t doctors. So any questions that I had, or or anything I was nervous about, they could answer – they literally would talk to you on the phone, you could go in and sit with them for as long as you want. They really help the transition more than anyone.
It’s amazing to have that support. Once you’d found this support and help, how did you find your right regime? I know with medications it can be a lot of trial and error. Is it similar with cannabis? Or how did you go about that?
Yes and no. With all cannabis, you want to start low and go slow. So actually the first thing that I was using was capsules that were less than five milligrams apiece. So I was taking a few in the morning and then a few at night, because sleep was my huge issue, and anxiety and eating in the day. So I literally only took max like 20 milligrams a day when I started. But my body wasn’t used to the cannabinoids yet. That’s the other thing that a lot of people don’t take into consideration. If you’re a new edible eater, your body doesn’t really know where to put all the goods yet. And it kind of overloads you at the start.
Obviously, this is my anecdotal evidence opinion. But by the end of, well, even up until this past year, I was able to take 1000s of milligrams, and still be a functional, working, driving, talking, doing interviews type person, Because it would go to my pain or my anxiety or digestive issues. But when I first started, I ate a whole cookie from the club because I was so excited about it. It was about 75 milligrams, and I was couch-locked for four hours, and like, couldn’t even lift my head. So my body didn’t know what to do with the cannabis at that time. So it went straight to my head. But the more that you consistently use low doses, the better your body figures out what to do with it. So, you’re able to consume more, because most people will; when I was doing it, my body would need more over time. So I was able to up my dose, but it was months until I did. I was very careful after my experience.
You hear a lot of people’s first edible experience is very similar. Just go too overboard, have the full cookie or brownie, and then it’s like, “oh, what have I done, I can’t move.” But if you’re able to work through that experience; there’s so much more on the other side, when you actually find what works for you.
Yes, so much more. It’s literally all trial and error, and knowing what’s going on in your own body. You have to be very conscious about how you’re feeling and once you kind of get used to eating edibles, or at least for me, I could feel it within like 20 minutes. I’m like, “okay, my pain is going down. We’re not at a 10 anymore, we’re maybe at about a six.” So wait another 20 minutes, and I can take a little bit more. That’s a very small time limit for most people. Most people want to wait an hour, but after I got used to it, I could feel it.
So yeah, that’s what I like about using cannabis as a medicine; it’s really about being in tune with your body. And although they work great for some people, for a lot of people it can throw them out of their body. And it’s hard to really know how things are working.
And that’s a huge thing, and it’s very normal. As someone that was always in pain or anxious, I wanted to be out of my body. So I was okay with that for a long time. But cannabis does bring you back to yourself, which is a wonderful part of the meds.
What would you say is kind of an average timeframe for yourself and other patients; for going through that trial and error and having their body get used to things, and having something that actually works for them?
So whenever I’m recommending to members that are looking to up their dose or try different things, I usually get them to try that first dose for about three, four days. Because in pain world, and chronic pain world, the first day might be the worst day of your life, you can’t get out of bed, you don’t want to talk to anyone. The second day, you might be at about half-mast. The third day might be the greatest day of your life. And the fourth day, you might be back in bed. So it’s very unpredictable. But for those four different days, you’re going to need four different doses of meds. Because if you’re in more pain or more anxiety, you do need more. And so I always recommend them to do the first dose for a few days. And your body can run through the cannabis in about three, four hours depending on your metabolism. So I usually recommend morning, noon, and night for a few days, and then how that makes you feel depends on how much we up it or put it down.
So, check in every three or four days until you find something that works, over a few weeks or a month.
I used to write it down, which is a huge part of testing your cannabis waters. I would write in the morning “I feel like this, I took this much.” Same with noon and night, because again, when you’re in those chronic pain states, it’s hard to remember what the hell happened four days ago. You have no idea, I couldn’t even tell you what I ate for dinner yesterday sometimes. So yeah, writing it down is a very useful tool for figuring out your regime.
That’s a great thing for overall health issues too. And just like with digestive issues, I’m sure you had a bit of a food journal at different periods of time to see how things interact with you.
I know we kind of covered some of it, but I thought we could walk back and, say there is a new member, how do you figure out what the right regime is for them? Is it primarily edibles that you recommend? Or how do you kind of figure out what’s right for that?
So I’m like the most in-depth person. When people come in, I like to ask you a lot of questions. The first thing is, how much pain Are you in? Do you sleep? And are you anxious, because someone that’s in a lot of pain, they don’t come in complaining about anxiety or sleep first off. But if you’re not sleeping, you’re not healing. And if you’re anxious, you’re inflaming yourself. Because of that stress, you’re just inflaming yourself from top to bottom. So those three questions I start off with right off the bat. And then I ask them what their history of cannabis is. Because if you’ve got someone that’s been smoking for their whole life, but never eaten anything, they usually think they’re a champ when it comes to eating for some reason; and I have to tone them back down to the smaller doses. They’re like, “I want to try a 200-milligram brownie” and you’re like, “ o, I don’t think so.” But I think everyone should try and eat some form of weed. Whether it’s CBD or THC, putting it inside of you and metabolizing it through your body is how you get the most benefit out of it. When you’re smoking, it’s just going from your head down to the issue. Let’s say you’ve got a broken foot – that’s a long way that it’s got to go to get to your foot.
Can we dig a bit deeper into the differences between eating Cannabis and smoking it, and how it interacts with your body?
Yeah, so when it’s metabolizing through your stomach, you’re hitting the bacteria and inflammation that’s in there first, so then it metabolizes through your bloodstream quicker. Well, not quicker, but more efficiently, let’s say, and it does a better job once it’s in.
And then there are suppositories too, those are one of my favorites. That’s actually the most bioavailable way to get it into your body. It’s about, I want to say, five times more bioavailable going through that, and because it bypasses your liver it goes right to the source. And so that’s another thing; if people are super sensitive, suppositories are actually a way better option than eating it, because it doesn’t overwhelm your system. Eating it helped me find much more relief, and for longer, instead of just smoking joint after joint after joint, which some people do and it does give them relief. But at the end of the day, your lungs are not going to love you when you’re 60. I’ve seen it, it doesn’t work out the best. So it’s as many people as I can get eating small doses of cannabis. I really try and push them towards our capsules actually over edibles. Because when you’re taking the capsules, you only have to metabolize the oil and the cannabis versus the edible. Most edibles have sugar, so if you’ve got issues, sugar is probably not the friend that you need right now. The sugar is why I went to the capsules. I couldn’t eat anything, so having more sugar in my body was very detrimental to the healing process.
Also, I love the club because we have the higher dose things with the smaller amounts of food. Versus, let’s say, the legal market where it’s 2.5 milligrams in a gummy and I have to eat a lot of those to even get the medicine. But yeah, capsules are my favorite, and Rick Simpson – Oh, just the strong extracts.
Okay, so what is Rick Simpson for those that don’t know?
Rick Simpson is the man that created the oil. It’s also known as Phoenix tears, or there’s actually a lot of names for it these days. But it’s mostly all the same. So, it’s just an extraction method to get the most full-spectrum medicine out of the plant. It ends up being a tar-like consistency. It’s like a super sappy oil, but it can be used topically, you can eat it and you can smoke it. So it’s like the most versatile extract and the most powerful extract.
Can you touch on smoking? How does that go through your body?
So smoking does get into your bloodstream too, but it’s immediate effect is in the head. And then it’s got to go all the way through your body. So smoking is great for immediate relief; when I would get nauseous, I would need to smoke a bong hit or a joint while my other medicine was kicking in. But it doesn’t last as long. For someone in chronic pain, you could really smoke a joint every 10 minutes, and it would not really affect you. But it is great for immediate relief, just because it’s going quickly through your body.
So when you have a new member coming in, you’re asking them those questions and trying to figure out which kind of edibles is right for them. What do you do going from there?
So you’re gonna feel where they’re comfortable with first too because some people don’t like taking capsules, some people don’t like measuring out the Rick Simpson oil, because it can be a little bit challenging. So finding out their comfort level with what they’re willing to try, of course, is a huge factor. But I really just try and educate them as much as possible. So exactly what we’re doing here, I try and explain it in the simplest of terms, because sometimes you’ve got like, the little old ladies that are 85. And, and they’ve never wanted to try the devil’s lettuce, but now nothing else works, and they just need to eat some food. Bbut everyone is different. So it’s kind of hard to say what I do every time because literally, every single person is different. And what they want out of the medicine is different too; like you could have someone coming in and just asking for CBD, but what they really need is low dose THC with high dose CBD. So I just asked them as many questions as I can to get a full vision of what they’re dealing with. And then I usually write them out a little info on what I want them to start taking, but most people are receptive. So I start them with low dose everything unless they’re very insistent. I really try and recommend the low doses and then move up from there. I usually get them to check back in every week or two and let me know how it’s going.
So you’ve talked a lot about like, say CBD versus THC? Do you look at specific strains when recommending cannabis for different things? Or is it primarily the cannabinoids you’re looking at?
It really depends. As someone who’s had extreme anxiety most of my life, the straight Sativa streams, so the energizing strains, I wasn’t able to take because they would make my mind faster. And I didn’t need help with that. So I would stay away from all of that. I’ve been an Indica girl most of my life. But some people have great success with Sativa calming them down. So like I said, everyone is different, but I always try to ask them those kinds of questions before I’m recommending strains. If you give someone like a hybrid edible and they have an adverse reaction to the Sativa in it, it can be alarming, just like eating the high dose edibles can be alarming when you’re not used to it. So I really try and make sure I know where they’re at before recommending.
But when it comes to CBD versus THC, I think everyone should be taking a little bit of CBD. I try to encourage that always for two reasons. Everyone needs to calm down in this world, especially now. Calm down. But also, if you’re not calm, you’re inflamed. Stress inflames every aspect of your body. So I like to suggest taking CBD like a vitamin: three times a day, morning, noon, and night. And then taking whatever THC you need to get that pain relief or the digestive relief after that.
And also, when people are experimenting with THC, if you have CBD at home, you can actually use CBD to regulate. I explain it as CBD balances any of the negative effects you don’t want from THC. Whether that’s the paranoia, or the intrusive thoughts, or the mind racing, or whatever else we’ve got going on in our little brains. But it’s a wonderful thing. I actually proved my theory the other week, because as my digestive issues and anxiety is getting better, my cannabis consumption is dropping drastically. So as someone that had to eat 1000s of milligrams to just live a normal life, even six months ago, I ate, I think it was like 100 milligrams, and I was so baked, I couldn’t even function. I was like downing my CBD bottle. But in about half an hour, I was back to like, “okay, I’m here. I’m back.” So it’s a really cool thing. Some people claim that it doesn’t work like that. But I myself have felt the effects balance it out. So yeah,
It’s really interesting. And just goes to show how we have our favorite cannabinoid system and how these things interact with our bodies. And it’s kind of a constant evolution based out where our bodies are and exactly what we’re putting in to interact with that system.
We have so many cannabinoid receptors in our body, and we really only talk about THC and CBD. There are tons more. That’s why I like the full spectrum medicines the most, because when you’re extracting to just one or the other, you’re missing so much in the middle that your body really wants; they didn’t put a whole receptor system in our body for us to just enact two cannabinoids all the time. Or one; some people just want the THC and they don’t want the CBD or vice versa. And the entourage effect is very real. When you’re using more of a plant, you have to use less THC, I’ve found, or more different types of the plant. So for example, we have extractions made from bud and hash and rosin. So three different types of the plant. But I found the most affect when I was using a little bit of everything.
It’s kind of similar to how you can take vitamins for specific things, which can be helpful, but you really get more when you’re eating the full healthy food and getting all the different things from it.
Let’s talk about how your dosage has kind of changed over time as it’s worked with your body. How do you know to adjust the dosage? Is the main sign just getting super baked, or are there other things to kind of look for? What do you tell members who are adjusting their dosage, going too far, how to scale back, or what to look out for?
Yeah, so obviously, getting baked is a huge sign. I try and steer people to the lower doses so that we don’t get them super baked, because some people get very uncomfortable when that happens. And I completely understand why; it’s a weird feeling when you’re a little bit out of control because of the cannabis. So obviously, that’s the first sign, but also if your pain is going down faster than normal. For example, when I was taking super-high doses, my pain would still be at about three or four, no matter what I did. So when I noticed my pain going down, and I wasn’t in pain, that was a huge sign, I needed to take less. Because some days, I would preemptively be like, oh, it might be a bad day today, I’m going to take a little bit more and, and then I’d be super baked in two hours. So it’s better to start lower and be conscious of how you’re feeling in that moment before dosing. And whether you fully need that large dose or not. But yeah, I find that micro-dosing smaller doses is always more beneficial. So
Do you have patients coming in with concerns? I know something that comes up a lot in my communities is a really bad reaction, and that scares people away from going for it. Trouble with addiction and stuff like that is another one. Do you see those issues coming in?
Very much. We work in the red zone, so the addiction side of things we see constantly. But the cool thing about cannabis and addictions is that it mostly helps. For example, I had a few friends with some partying problems, and they would take a bong rip and eat an edible and want to stay in and play video games instead of going out and doing all the hard drugs. So there are definitely benefits for addictions. But there are people in that state that do get the harsher reaction, because their body hasn’t been used to it. So again with the start low and go slow – and a key message: with cannabis, always start low and go slow, and have some CBD near you! So I usually try and explain what I just explained to you with this CBD regulation. Because that usually gives them a little bit of like security that they’re not just going to be wacked off this THC.
Kind of safety blanket; you have the CBD tool in your back pocket to pull out when you need it.
Exactly. And I always recommend having at least a little bit of something CBD around you when you’re experimenting. So I think that usually squashes a bit of their anxiety to start with.
But I really just try and bring it back to personal experience too, because everything that we read online is so anecdotal to the person who’s writing it and their experience, and there’s so much misinformation online. I feel like most people after they have that bad experience, they’re googling and they’re searching and they don’t find the info that they’re looking for so they panic more. So I try and give them a little bit of my experience and where I started versus where I am now. And then highly suggest that CBD while we’re trying anything!
For CBD is that a tincture that’s more so your go-to, or a little CBD vape pen? What is your go-to?
I personally like CBD in tinctures, in oils usually. Because the cool thing with CBD is in smaller doses, it’s more for calming anti-inflammatory, things like that for anxiety. But once you get into the higher doses, it can help you sleep too. So since sleep is one of the most common issues that people are working towards, if you eat too much THC – and I’m sure you’ve had this happen just like everybody else – you eat too much THC at night you wake up baked, and can’t open your eyes. It’s like you have crusty eyes and you just can’t open your eyes, but CBD doesn’t make you feel like that if you take too much. I like to have it easier to dose for the days that you need a little bit more or a little bit less. I like to have the CBD in bottles and then I take my capsules of THC.
So with that kind of bringing in cannabis to help with depression anxiety, is the question of a serotonin overload something that comes up with people who are on pharmaceuticals? Because you’re getting some from your medication and then it cannabis helps boost that as well? So how do you kind of mitigate that?
So in my experience with those kinds of meds and cannabis, I found that the cannabis was way stronger. I felt way more effects of the cannabis; like the first joint I smoked after I was out of the psych ward was the most intense joint I think I’ve ever smoked. And I was so baked, like the past uncomfortable high, and it was a tiny little pinner. So it’s very interesting how your body reacts when you are on all those other types of drugs.
So back to it again start low and go slow – you maybe have a little pipe toke instead of a joint, or vaporizer toke instead of a bong rip. You really just have got to be careful with how much you’re consuming, because again, if you over consumed by accident that might spur your anxiety again, and you’re stuck in another cycle. So always minimal amounts until you figure out your comfort level. But I have had success with people starting low, going slow, and actually reducing the amount of the pharmaceuticals they’re having to take for their anxiety. So it’s a trial and error for every single person.
And that’s why it can help so much to have great people to talk to like you. I’ve heard a lot of people that have had bad experiences and then don’t want to touch it again. So I think a good sign when you are in a dispensary or health club is someone who’s asking you lots of questions. That’s how you know they kind of know what they’re talking about and can help you find the right thing.
Totally. And that’s kind of why I get a little bit nervous about people walking into legal dispensaries and just buying all the things, because they actually can’t tell you what to do, or how it’s going to make you feel. Really they aren’t allowed to give you any knowledge, which I understand it’s a recreational part. But it is medicine, no matter which way you look at it, the government just doesn’t really agree.
A lot of people are going to the legal recreational ones for their medical needs.
Exactly. And when you’re not able to be steered in the right direction, it can be so confusing and anxiety-inducing itself. So yeah, I think it’s very beneficial to also have people like me, but also to be conscious of what you’re doing. And don’t just wing it and take a whole edible or something like that; you’ve got to be very careful about where you’re starting and what you’re going through in regards to why you want the cannabis in your life.
It is a substance, and like we’ve touched on, you need to be really in tune and see how it affects you, and kind of learn what feels right. I think we’ve covered it from the questions that have popped up through the community. Is there anything else you wanted to touch on?
I think we’ve covered most of it. But if anyone ever wants advice, the club is always open. You can call us, you can email us. Every single person is knowledgeable at our club; most of us started as patients and now we’re on the other side. So we take it very seriously, and help people find out their regime. Even if you don’t want to purchase things at the club or you can’t for whatever reason we will still talk to you – never feel alone. Never feel alone and write your things down. If you’re trying cannabis, write everything down.
And that was us talking to Nikki! If you’re looking for any more information, make sure to check her out at Savvystonedgirl on Instagram, and also to check out the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club! We have many more awesome episodes coming soon, covering many more topics, so make sure to keep an eye out for those.