Patient Profile: Elisabeth Carlson

June 04, 2017 | SimoneFischer

How this Lake Oswego animal lover uses Cannabis for relief from psychogenic non-epileptoform seizures. Photo by Daniel Berman


The first thing that caught my attention was Elisabeth’s cerebral brilliance. 

My good friend David introduced us, and we both immediately hit it off with our love of animals and all things green. After finding out Elisabeth was a bonafide Oregon Medical Marijuana Patient (OMMP), much harder to come by these days, I knew I had to share her moving story. 

“I’ve been open to Cannabis since college - I am an intellectual-born stoner,” Carlson laughs. 

patient-profile-elizabeth-quote.jpg“I went to class at Cornell on the topic of ecstasy. I found out that most drugs are toxic because nitrogen is present in its molecular makeup. Back before the internet, there wasn’t a lot of research on Cannabis except for a few things that dated back into the 1950s,” she said.

“However, I did find Cannabis has zero nitrogen present, which is why is has little to no toxicity. Once I read that, I tried Cannabis with my boyfriend, now husband, and loved it, but never seriously used it medicinally back then.”  

Carlson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University in 1996, and went to Ohio State University to complete her Ph.D. of Veterinary Medicine in 2005. Her journey with Cannabis all began at vet school during Carlson’s first anatomy test. 

“I remember going to class for the exam, sitting down and the next thing I know, I wake up in a hospital bed. I suffered a massive seizure.”

She was diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptiform Seizures (PNES). 

Most epileptic seizures are caused by light triggers, but Carlson’s seizures are triggered by personal, life-threatening levels of stress, lack of sleep and low caloric intake. When Carlson experiences extreme amounts of stress, her physical body pays the price. After Carlson’s seizure during a vet anatomy exam, she resisted the anti-epileptic medication and the seizures started to get worse. 

Finally, after a severe seizure that lasted more than three days, Carlson’s father begged her to do something about her health. This lead to six years of relying on high-level anticonvulsants. 

“I was on Trileptal and if I wasn’t insured, it would cost me over $300 a bottle,” Carlson said. Once she began using the medication regularly, the seizures eventually subsided. Carlson naturally tapered off her meds once her health stabilized. 

After finding out she was pregnant in 2008, with her doctor’s approval, she successfully weaned herself off of all prescribed anticonvulsants. 

“I was seizure-free from 2008 all the way until last summer. I lost the job that brought me to Portland, my lease was up on my apartment and we didn’t know where we were going to go. All of the stress added up so quickly, I experienced a seizure July 8, 2016. I am a roving Veterinarian and I had a seizure during a house call. Unfortunately, I did not stay there to call my husband or an ambulance. I experienced my second seizure while driving on Highway 26 trying to get to the hospital. I am lucky to be alive,” Carlson said. 

Three days after the episode, she applied for her OMMP card. Carlson knew from the get-go she didn’t want to go back on harsh anticonvulsants again. As of last fall, Carlson started using high-CBD strains of Cannabis to keep stress levels low and her chances of going into a seizure minimal. 

“I have a huge emphasis on CBD. I use CBD in all forms, edible, flower, concentrate, topical, when I feel a seizure coming on. I try to intake as much CBD as possible to stabilize myself. I loved using the CBD patches, back when dispensaries carried them. I have trouble with the sleep-wake transition, and the patch stabilizes me into my morning routine,” Carlson said.

Carlson believes she’s had the best success as a medical patient in Oregon because everything was regulated and organized through the state. Test labs existed and you actually knew what you were smoking – which is important as a patient treating specific medical conditions such as PNES. 

“I am less successful at treating myself without a medical card. It’s more like ‘flowers for fun’ back when all you had was the unregulated market,” Carlson said. 

“I can maintain my quality of life with Cannabis. I can’t do that on pills. No matter what kind of health issues you are dealing with, when it comes to treatment options, you want something that works really well and doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day life. I found that with Cannabis. I have been seizure-free since my incident last summer, Carlson said beaming with pride.

It was awe-inspiring to hear Carlson’s story of healing and perseverance through Cannabis. Thank you for sharing your story with our readers!

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