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This week, get to know Laura Ntoumanis, a remarkable woman who has turned her personal journey with chronic pain into a beacon of hope for others. Get ready to learn, empathize, and be moved as she shares a story of resilience, discovery, and positive change.
- Release Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2023
- Episode Number: Season 1, Episode 57
- Special Guest: Laura Ntoumanis, Cohost of the Biblio Banter podcast
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Why You Will Love This Episode
This week’s inspiring guest is Laura Ntoumanis, who has been dealing with chronic illness for nearly five decades. Navigating the challenges of chronic pain, Laura’s journey leg her to medical cannabis after opioids had detrimental effects on her mental health.
After years of suffering, Laura discovered medical cannabis as an alternative treatment in Germany. Her life took a dramatic turn for the better, and she no longer needed opioids for pain management. She also discovered that CBD isn’t right for her, and caused headaches instead of relief.
She continues to explore new ways to consume cannabis, seeking the perfect balance to manager her pain without tipping her over the edge. It’s a tricky line to tread, and Laura offers some invaluable insights from her experiences.
One of the most intriguing parts of Laura’s story is her ability to get insurance reimbursement for her medical cannabis in Germany. This episode sheds light on this process, providing a beacon of hope for those seeking similar paths. Laura’s story is informative, empowering, and encouraging for those living with chronic pain.
Laura: My life has really become enriched and I attribute cannabis to a big part of that because it just changed my whole point of view. It changed where I was, how I felt in life.
Announcer: Welcome to the Well With Cannabis Podcast, a show dedicated to telling the life-changing stories of those who live well with cannabis all while teaching you how to do the same. Meet your host, Emily Kyle, a registered dietitian nutritionist turned certified holistic cannabis practitioner. Emily changed her life for the better with the help of the cannabis plant, and now she’s committed to helping others do the same.
Tune in each week to hear heartwarming stories and gain the knowledge you need to feel connected, inspired, and supported on your own cannabis journey. Whether you’re a new cannabis consumer or a lifetime lover, you’ll benefit from these uplifting tales of real-life journeys that will show you how you, too, can live your best life well with cannabis.
Disclaimer: Hi there. Before we jump into today’s episode, I wanted to share a note on potentially sensitive content. The episodes on the Well With Cannabis Podcast are created for adult audiences only. We will, at times, cover sensitive topics, including but not limited to suicide, abuse, mental illness, sex, drugs, alcohol, psychedelics, and the obvious use of plant medicine. Explicit language may be used occasionally. Please refrain from watching or listening to the show if you’re likely to be offended or adversely impacted by any of these topics.
The information on this show is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. If any of the content on this podcast has brought up anything for you, please reach out or speak to a professional or someone you trust.
Emily: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Well With Cannabis podcast. I am very excited to introduce you to miss Laura coming all the way from Germany. Laura, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today
Laura: Thank you for having me.
Emily: Now, you have battled with a chronic illness for a very long time and have been recently introduced to cannabis. I’d love to hear your story about how that has evolved for you.
Laura: Actually, I had an introduction to cannabis back about 30-ish years ago in college on a party level. I noticed then that it was really good for pain, much better than a lot of the opioid painkillers they were giving me. But of course it wasn’t legal at the time. And then when I moved to Germany, after two hip surgeries and lots of pain and lots of opioids, they legalized marijuana for medical use here. I was fortunate enough to have doctors who were very supportive in having me try it out in lieu of the opioids, and so I started taking cannabis for pain, and it’s really changed my life over the past five years. That’s the short version of the story.
Emily: That’s the short version. irst of all, were you in the U. S. before and came to Germany? Or have you always been where you were originally located?
Laura: I was originally in the US and then I moved to Greece for a few years. My husband’s Greek, so I lived there for a few years and then he took a job here in Germany and we came to Germany.
Emily: Awesome. How do you like it there?
Laura: It’s enjoyable. I love it here. It’s great.
Emily: Oh, that’s so fun. I’d love to talk a little bit about what legalization looks like. You said they legalized medicinal cannabis. Is it similar to here in the States? And what does it look like for recreation as well?
Laura: I think the different states in Germany have different rules as far as how much you’ll get busted for. I think a certain level is tolerated, but it’s not legalized for personal use.
Laura: For medical use, it’s a little bit different than in the US in that you get it through pharmacies, regular pharmacies here, and you can get it by prescription. You have to get it by prescription to get it that way. And it can be through the insurance company, so it’s paid for if you fight and say that there’s a good reason why this patient needs it. And it took me, I think about a year and a half and a bit of a fight to get it covered under my insurance.
Emily: Wow. That’s not heard of in the States. That’s very progressive. That’s amazing. So how are your doctors with all of this? You said they were quite supportive.
Laura: Yeah, my orthopedist, who’s the one that’s really been working with my case the closest, because I had, over 20 years, two broken hips. I couldn’t get them operated on in the US because it was considered an elective surgery and so insurance wouldn’t pay for it.
Laura: And then in Greece, they said, “You’re young, let’s wait.” When I came here, the orthopedists were really shocked by the state of my hips. My left hip has been broken four times, so I was walking around on really bad hips. Even after the surgery when I could walk, move, and do a lot of things that I couldn’t do before, I was still in a lot of pain. I was on opioids and I wasn’t functioning. I call myself a ghost when I’m on them. From the time I was in Greece to here, I was on a lot of opioids, I was in a lot of pain, and I wasn’t really a productive person. It was pretty terrible and I was miserable. I think it was changing my personality.
Laura: When medicinal cannabis came out, I asked my orthopedist what he thought about it. He said he would certainly support it. Not so many doctors were actually giving prescriptions for it because here, there’s a weird system. I don’t know exactly how it works, but they have a specific limit to how many prescriptions they can give and how much they’re for. So I had to go to a doctor who was willing to do cannabis prescriptions. He really backed me and fought for me, along with my psychiatrist, to get the insurance to pay for it.
Emily: That’s amazing. I’m so happy to hear that. The medical system over there seems a little bit more progressive than most.
Laura: Yeah, I think it’s a good system because all the, there’s many types of different cannabis you can get through the medical system and I think it’s regulated. You know exactly what you’re getting and what it is and the government knows. I think that makes it a little better because, you have all these types, you know what it is. It’s better.
Emily: What is the culture like? Are people ready for medical marijuana? Are they ready for recreational marijuana? Is it similar to the States where the people are ready for it? Or are people not quite there yet?
Laura: I think people are ready. I’m not sure what the last poll was, but I know the current government is really looking at legalization fully. And because of our proximity to the Netherlands, there’s a lot of cross traffic from that. I think in general, Germany is certainly open. I think a lot of European countries are pretty open about it.
Emily: Oh my gosh, that’s amazing to hear. I just feel like it’s really, truly a global movement at this point. I talked to someone in South Africa, and someone in Australia and it just seems like everybody is coming. We’re here and I’m so happy to hear that’s coming for you, as well. You are the first person I’ve ever heard of insurance covering cannabis for and that is so exciting for the future. If we could get that, oh my gosh.
Emily: I’d love to transition a little bit if you’re willing to talk about the difference that you have seen in your life with opiates versus cannabis. So many people listening deal with chronic pain and they may or may not have already tried cannabis. They might be still on the prescription medications and looking to make a change.
Emily: What can you describe as the change that you’ve experienced for making the transition?
Laura: I think one of the problems I had with opioids is they really changed my personality quite a lot. And for a long time, I really tried to not take them day to day, and so my pain wasn’t being managed. When you’re in severe pain, you really need to take something regularly and that was a problem for me. I didn’t realize that opioids can be a known factor in depression and your mood. It can really affect people this way and all of the chemicals and things that are in it.
Laura: I don’t know. I just don’t find it to be a very good thing. And also the way it can make people addicted, I think is a very bad factor of it. I tried CBD and after a few weeks of that I noticed that I had headaches all the time and was really stressed. That was weird. So I did what I always do in my life with new medications. I take things out and see if this is making a difference. And it turns out. that I was being affected by CBD in a negative way, which really surprised me. The doctor said he had heard that that could happen. So CBD isn’t always perfect for everyone.
Laura: So I tried some THC strains that didn’t have very much CBD in them and that seemed to work better. It takes some time to find the right strain that will work for you. You can’t just assume that because you had a bad experience with one strain, you should be done with cannabis. It’s like any medication. There are lots of different strains and you just have to stick with it and try.
Emily: Oh, my gosh, that’s great advice for so many of us. It’s trial and error. We’re used to the prescription medications where they give you a pill and that’s it. Whereas cannabis, there’s literally thousands of strains, different kinds of ways to try it. There are so many options and it can feel overwhelming at first. Do you remember the first time you tried cannabis again later on in life? Was it a good experience for you?
Laura: Yeah, definitely. It remained a good experience. I have had situations where I’ve had too much, especially with edibles and my experience with that is I just get so annoyed because I know it’s too much and I have to just wonder when it will stop and I can get back to normal. But really, it’s been a good experience for me.
Emily: Oh, I’m so glad. If you could give advice to someone listening who is currently taking opiates or any type of prescription medication for pain and they’re thinking about cannabis but they’re not sure about making that leap, what advice do you have for them?
Laura: I would say give it a try, because to me, opioids are a prison, and I feel like with cannabis, you can moderate amounts. With a pill, it is what it is. So if your pain isn’t as bad, you can’t take less. You can’t; it’s one thing. With cannabis, you can have smaller doses, bigger doses, you can adjust it as your day goes along, and I think that makes a really big difference in pain management.
Emily: Absolutely. I always ask my guests all the same four questions. Are you ready to start them?
Emily: The first one is, what are you most proud of in your life to date, cannabis related or not?
Laura: I’m most proud of the fact that cannabis has allowed me to go back to school for a Master’s.
Emily: Congratulations! That’s amazing!
Laura: That’s been great. I’ve co founded a literary journal at our university. I’ve done lots of research and been presenting on my work at different conferences around the world. My life has really become enriched and I attribute cannabis to a big part of that because it just changed my whole point of view. It changed where I was, how I felt in life. So that was a big difference for me.
Emily: That’s amazing. Congratulations on all of these things. It’s so exciting for the future. That leads us to our next question, which is always everyone’s least favorite question. What do you think your life would look like without cannabis?
Laura: I hate to think of that because, I think before it was legalized here, I was always trying to take as few opioids as possible and still manage my pain. I was doing a lot of exercises, rehabilitation classes and physical therapy and taking walks. This in itself is not enough for pain management. I think I really wouldn’t have found myself at an older age and found joy in my life without it.
Emily: I’m glad that you have it. If you could go back 10, 20, 30 years ago, give yourself a piece of advice, cannabis related or not, what would it be?
Laura: Dive in, always try things. Don’t not try things because of fear. I think that not trying causes more regret than trying and failing, because failing teaches you something.
Emily: Absolutely. Last question, if you could be remembered for just one thing, whether it’s the cannabis space or not, what would it be?
Laura: I think really giving students a space here to share their work, both creatively and academically. This journal that we started is really what I’d like to be remembered for. I think in Germany, it’s not so common to have literary journals in universities. And I really I’m happy to give students a way to express themselves and show who they are somewhere other than social media.
Emily: Oh, my gosh, that’s beautiful. That’s so exciting. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with cannabis with us today. Do you have any last words of wisdom for our listeners?
Laura: Give it a try. Don’t be scared. Get advice where you can get advice. The Emily Kyle website is a really great place to start. Keep trying and hopefully you’ll find something you like that works.
Emily: That is perfect. Thank you so much for coming literally from across the world to share with us your experiences with cannabis, what cannabis looks like in Germany, and just giving us a bigger worldview. We really appreciate it.
Laura: Thank you.
Announcer: Congratulations, you’ve finished another episode of the Well With Cannabis Podcast and are one step closer to discovering how you, too, can live well with cannabis.
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