Frank Buress, Wisconsin

You have 72 hours to start anti-virus medicine after the shingles rash appears. Miss that window, and your odds of developing painful post-herpetic neuralgia skyrocket. That’s what happened to Frank Buress, whose case of shingles was so severe, covering every bit of his body but the palms of his hands, soles of his feet, face and his genitals, that his doctor misdiagnosed it as hives. When they figured out the diagnosis, it was too late, and the excruciating nerve condition set in and has plagued him for more than 15 years since.   

His doctor in Wisconsin was sympathetic, prescribing a raft of opiate painkillers to deal with the condition, including Percocet, Fentanyl, oxyContin, and oxycodone, until Frank was up to 540 morphine equivalents a day – enough to kill a horse.

In 2014, Frank went to the pain rehab program at the Mayo Clinic to learn new ways to cope with pain. The meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback and relaxation techniques all helped distract him from the constant pain but did not really reduce it.

Then last June, he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon and the kidney, a growth on his lung, and six basal cell carcinomas on his chest. Doctors recommended removal of his sigmoid colon, to be followed by ablation on his kidney because it could not be treated with chemo or radiation due to stage 4 renal disease.

That’s when Frank moved to Portland, Oregon for 90 days to try medical cannabis. Once he had an Oregon card, he went on the Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) protocol, starting with 5mg of 3% THC three-times a day, doubling every four days and increasing in potency, until he was using 70% THC at 1000mg a day. The effects were dramatic. Three days after starting the RSO, he was pain free.

“The amazing piece was that after day three, the pain was gone,” said Frank. “I’d been over 10 years with pain. It wasn’t distracted by the cannabis. The pain was just plain gone.”

With that, Frank began to study up on opiates, learning the history of how Purdue Pharmaceuticals had pushed oxyContin as a panacea for pain, and the consequences. Out of that, Frank created a powerpoint presentation on alternatives to opioids that covers what he learned at Mayo plus the medical cannabis option. He’s shown it to the local Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and is scheduled to make presentations to the Governor’s State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention Committee and Intervention and Treatment Committee.

Frank is hoping to see Wisconsin join the 30 states and District of Columbia in creating a robust medical cannabis program that will give him access to the only medicine that gives him relief

This profile was originally published in the July 2017 ASA Activist Newsletter