Ann Marie Owen walks with her husband, Bruce, near their home in Port Ewen, New York. She says the opioids prescribed by doctors made her feel sick and failed to ease her transverse myelitis symptoms.
Courtesy of Allyse Pulliam / KHN
By the time Ann Marie Owen turned to marijuana to treat her pain, she was struggling to walk and talk. She also hallucinated.
For four years, her doctor prescribed the 61-year-old a wide range of opioids for her transverse myelitis, a debilitating disease that caused pain, muscle weakness and paralysis.
The drugs not only failed to ease her symptoms, they hooked her.
When her home state of New York legalized marijuana for the treatment of select medical ailments, Owen decided it was time to swap pills for pot. But her doctors refused to help.
“Even though medical marijuana is legal, none of my doctors were willing to talk to me about it,” she says. “They just kept telling me to take opioids.”
Although 29 states have legalized marijuana to treat pain and other ailments, the growing number of Americans