This Man Can Walk Again Because of Marijuana

November 4th 2016

We know medical marijuana can be great for treating ailments such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, seizures, and more. You can now add one more ailment to that list.

Czar Esterak, 21, has a rare disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which at its worst can cause the vertebrae to fuse and make it difficult to walk. But Esterak credits marijuana with easing his symptoms, relieving him of pain, and enabling him to walk.

Esterak now lives in Washington state, but began feeling pain in his legs and back at the age of 10, when he was living in Costa Rica.

Doctors said he was just experiencing growing pains.

But the pain continued to age 16, and after his family moved to the United States, they realized it probably wasn't growing pains.

czar esterakProvided by Czar Esterak

Esterak lived with his grandmother, a nurse practitioner, for some time. She noticed a curve in his spine, and a doctor subsequently diagnosed him with scoliosis.

Esterak began taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, which kept the pain away for a few years. But by the time he reached 19, it stopped working. It was then that he was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that is more common in older people and that causes pain and inflammation in the spine and back.

After his diagnosis, Esterak's pain got worse, and he lost his ability to walk.

Anti-inflammatory drugs didn't work, and he didn't find relief until he tried medical marijuana.

Now, Esterak is walking and mostly pain free. He even works as a bud tender in Washington.

ATTN: discussed Esterak's experience with him. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

ATTN: What was it like getting your diagnosis?

Esterak: It all kind of started when I was younger — the pain at least. I knew something was wrong, but the part that was most shocking about it was how it escalated when I actually got diagnosed with it. At that point, almost two weeks after that, I wasn't able to walk anymore, so that was the point of realization that things were bad.

ATTN: Tell me about discovering medical marijuana

Esterak: Almost right off the bat, it was life-changing. I started with an edible, and it would completely relieve everything, honestly. From there on, I started messing with different strains and seeing whether sativa or indica was a better option.

Sativas, honestly, didn't affect me at all. I would still be in pain, but just be high. So I use mostly indica-dominant strains, and it would relieve the pain in my back.

I still have back pain and whatnot, but the problem was my muscles were so inflamed that they were pressing down on the nerves in my legs. That's why I was feeling so much pain and couldn't walk.

ATTN: Had you tried marijuana before?

Esterak: I had been exposed to marijuana before. People smoked in Costa Rica, but I wasn't really attracted to it at all. I had friends all throughout my life who smoked it, but it wasn't something that I would go out and pursue myself.

It changed my entire perspective on it. It's not like I had a negative perspective, but it was just something that was there.

czar esterakProvided by Czar Esterak

ATTN: How did you figure out marijuana might be good for your problems?

Esterak: When I realized that my doctors didn't know what to do, after I received a Humira shot and wasn't really feeling any relief, I came to the conclusion that they were out of ideas just as much as me. I started looking into my disease and what it was actually doing to my body, and the common denominator in my case was the muscles pressing on the nerves.

So I thought about how I was using ibuprofen for a number of years and was completely fine. So what if I just became immune to those anti-inflammatories? I tried exposing myself to ones I had never used before, and it worked.

ATTN: And how does it feel now, since you're regularly using medical marijuana?

Esterak: It's a lot better. I still feel pain in my legs every now and then, but on a scale from one to 10, it's like a two. I use it now for my back, when back pain comes up. I also use it recreationally, at this point. There's no cure, supposedly, for what I have, but it's definitely made it 100 percent manageable.

ATTN: Many people don't feel marijuana is a medicine. What would you say to them?

Esterak: I would say to them that they've never had the perspective change. They've never been put in the shoes of someone who had to use it that way. I would say they haven't truly done their research on it, because marijuana isn't just a psychoactive drug.

There are 100 different compounds in cannabis. If they have a problem with THC, well, there's CBD. That doesn't get you high at all, and that still helps people with pain and seizures. If it can bring a person down from 100 seizures a day to two, then there's definitely something there worth looking into.

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