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E40 - Autism

Kirk and Trevor talk to Janna Champagne.  Janna was a critical care cardiac nurse thriving in a high pressure, high stakes, life and death work place.  Suddenly her life was derailed by an illness.  Janna discovered how cannabis could help her life and has become a Cannabis-Specialty Nurse to help others.  Along the way, Janna found another benefit of cannabis to her family.  Come listen to how cannabis helped Janna's daughter through an Autism puberty crisis and probably spared her from out of home placement.


This Episode is sponsored by Strainprint

Episode Transcript

Kirk:  Trever.

Trevor:  Kirk.

Kirk:  You're bringing me a nursing story.

Trevor:  Yeah, I stole a nursing story from you, but I'm going to call it a autism story. So it's not just that I'm stealing all the good nurses.

Kirk:  I just love the people we talk to. How did you find Janna.

Trevor:  Through Sue, of course. Shut out to Sue.

Kirk:  Our Lyme Warrior.

Trevor:  Sue, our Lyme Warrior said, Trevor, you've got to meet this nurse Janna. OK, so a few emails later we've got her on the show.

Kirk:  And it's a great interview. She's definitely, somebody that we can actually learn from, as a nurse. I can learn from her she's a cannabis nurse and she's come out and now calls herself a cannabis nurse. I'm not sure when that happens, but yeah, I really enjoyed listening to it. And again, I break in a couple of times because I wanted to I'd like to find out how people use cannabis with Western medicine and blend it.

Trevor:  And the autism stuff was fascinating. And she explains that way better than me. But one of the things I thought just sort of as a side is she's not a nurse practitioner. Like she's not prescribing. She's acting as a nurse.

Kirk:  She's a nurse.

Trevor:  She's acting as a nurse.  She's not a prescriber. She's helping people manage their conditions with cannabis. And, you know, she's not telling him, you know, stop what the doctor said or, you know, yes, I should talk to your doctor about this. Like she's using cannabis for her clients / patients. But as a nurse.

Kirk:  Well, you see nursing. It's almost like accountants. There are different types of accountants. There's different types of nurses. I mean, you have you have nursing aides that help with the bedside care and basic daily living. You have an LPN licensed practical nurses who are the new diploma nurses. They're the ones that are trained to work in the acute care, in the hospital.  They're the old diploma nurses. What I used to be I used to be a diploma. R.N. You now become a diplomat, LPN licensed practical nurse. Then you have the degree nurses and Janna is a BSN, I noticed. I am also a BSN. BSN nurses go to university. You come up with a wellness model, nursing community health, public health. You're more in the wellness state of mind. So, what she's done is she's calling herself a holistic nurse. I see that as a wellness nurse. That's how I see myself when I'm practicing. I try to help people to be well in their sickness. So, it's kind of cool to see how other nurses are using their education for something that I believe in. Holistic approach.

Kirk:  Yeah. And will that to describe it. But I also thought, like you said, interesting people we talked to. This was a nurse, like she said, triple A personality in the cardiac care ward, throwing lines into people. Like she was, you know, hard core Western medicine, saved this patient now nurse and then stuff changed. How about we let Janna tell us what changed.

Janna:  My name is Janna Champagne, and I'm a Cannabis nurse. You'd be surprised if the types of responses I get to that statement, but it is becoming a bona fide profession and basically, I consider myself a holistic nurse. My focus is alternatives to pharmaceuticals. And of course, cannabis fits that bill really well. So, I work with individual patients and assess their considerations and possible risk factors of cannabis therapy and help to educate them to kind of work around their specific situation and hopefully optimize their cannabis therapy outcome.

Trevor:  Thank you very much. Now, I understand you have a very personal reason why cannabis is sort of the medical field became interesting to you and it sort of happened during some of your training as a nurse.

Janna:  Yes, actually, I was working full time as a nurse in acute care and critical care - cardiac. Pulling arterial lines and pushing Propofol, which we're not even allowed to do as nurses anymore. Pretty high-level nursing. And my body suffered a pretty traumatic health collapse in 2012. And, you know, the mainstream medicine just didn't have a lot of answers that made sense for my situation. It turned out that I had chronic Lyme disease that had triggered lupus. And so, I started looking for alternatives. And I did do the mainstream treatment for about 18 months and was not seeing any progress. And I was on disability and nonfunctional, really severe symptoms, extreme fatigue. And, you know, for who I was prior to illness, I was kind of an A plus-plus personality, you know, very on task and motivated and energetic with such a different time for me. And I sought cannabis mostly for pain relief. I was in extreme pain with my joints and I knew I didn't want to go down that opioid, you know, death pathway that, you know, you see the results of that working with patients in the hospital. I knew that wasn't an option that appealed. I started the cannabis and in addition to relieving my pain and making me better, functional wise, it also began to modulate my Immune Systems.  It began to help balance my body's systems that were out of whack and it took a few years to fully recover, but now I am actually negative for autoimmune and I'm fully functional. I wouldn't say I'm back to the 110% I was before, but I'm able to function every day. It's not very often at all that I have a bad day anymore. So, it's quite a testament from where I was, literally bed bound and very, very sick before. So, it's made a huge difference in my own life.

Trevor:  I'm really glad. And we do have another topic to get to. But I just want to dig into two of the things you said a little bit more. So, if nobody has heard of lupus before and I'll say I have heard of it, but I'm probably going to get this wrong. It's an autoimmune slash arthritis type disease right, and that was triggered by your Lyme. So that's what you're talking about, your immune system was doing funny things and cannabis helped re-regulate that. Am I am I on the right track?

Janna:  You are correct. Yes. And so lupus is an autoimmune joint disorder, and basically your body begins attacking your own joint tissue. And in my case, I believe my body was actually going after Lyme disease, which also attacks your joint tissue so it can look like self-attack when really the body is going after the infection.

Trevor:  OK, so but no, there's lots and lots we could talk to you about. You know, your whole practice is really interesting. But one of the main reasons we have you on today is a slightly different part of your life. You are also the parent of an autistic child. Can you tell us a little bit about your child? Well, you know what, let's start with, because honestly, as a pharmacist I probably don't have a great grasp on even what autism is, so a tell us a little bit about your child and a little bit about as a nurse, what you and parent, what you understand autism to be.

Janna:  OK, so my daughter has regressive autism, meaning that at birth, from birth to about age two, she was typically developing and she suffered a major regression neurologically and developmentally. She returned, basically, back to being an infant. She lost all of her speech. She lost her eye contact. She lost her receptive language. She would talk to her and she would just ignore you. Lot of sensory issues. She lost her bond with most everybody in her life, including her father, which is unheard of.  The little girls are supposed to be, you know, the center of their daddy's world. And she just couldn't care less if he was around or not. So, it was it was a very, very crazy phase that we went through. You know, as a nurse, I was researching and trying to figure out what had happened. And, you know, ballpark is with autism. It's underlying imbalances in the neurological, immune and gastrointestinal systems of the body. And all of these systems are connected. So when one begins to downward spiral, it can impact another one, basically. And that's where I think mainstream medicine is really missing the mark with autism because they want to stay in their little category boxes of neurology or gastroenterology or immunology.  They don't want to look at how those systems interact. So with autism taking a holistic approach is very important.  That's what initially got me looking into holistic medicine as a nurse and heavy biomed. I had done or heard of just about every intervention you can think of with autism. And I work predominantly now with parents-of-kids with autism. And you hear all kinds of crazy things that people try to help their kids. (One therapy that came up recently was) where they actually gave their child warm eggs and purposely infected them with a parasite to see if that would help.

Trevor:  Oh no, that sounds terrible.

Janna:  Yeah, it sounds a little off putting this, but, you know, the take on this is that parents are desperate to find answers for these kids. Mainstream medicine really isn't providing a lot of solutions. The mental health medications are overused and there aren't any studies on the long-term effects on children in general, much less kids with autism that already have profound imbalances. And so, my daughter, you know, she was still non-verbal at age 10 and she was still severe on the spectrum. And, you know, I began homeschooling her when she was seven because the local school district couldn't figure out how she learned. And she was very backwards. She kind of an autodidact. She teaches herself a lot of things. But, you know, with her not being able to speak, she can't communicate what she knows. And then a couple of years after that, she entered puberty crisis. Just about the time that I started feeling better with my Lyme. She went into extreme behaviors. And this is common to about 50% of kids with autism. So, we hear it all the time that children are removed from their homes and placed in foster care when they hit puberty because they become aggressive and they begin destroying property and they are self-injurious. I believe those behaviors are communication, that something's not right, and if they can't tell you verbally, they're going to behave,.

Trevor:  OK. I just wanna jump in. You're doing a great job. But just because when we talked on the phone beforehand, that was the first time I'd heard of the term puberty crisis. So this self-destructive or not even self, but this destructive behavior in autistic kids that seems to pop out around puberty. And this is fairly a fairly common thing.

Janna:  It's estimated to occur in about 50% of kids with autism. Parents are fairly well aware.  They hear it can be a game changer.

Trevor:  So, OK, sorry for jumping in. This was the first time I'd heard that term. OK, so we have a daughter who is going through a crisis and the things are kind of spiraling and what happened next.

Janna:  So, I had already used cannabis on myself and saw the results for Lyme disease and with self-injurious behavior, I began to work on the theory that it might be pain related. You know, these kids are harming themselves in an attempt to at release those endorphins, which is the body's natural pain release mechanism.  So, we began treating her with cannabis and it eased our situation and we were able to get her behaviors under control.  Now she's 17, and retrospectively, the cannabis has not only improved to quality of life, spared her out of home placement in the trauma that comes with being removed from your family in your home. But it's also improved her function. And like I said it to, at age 10, my daughter was completely non-verbal. Now, at age 17, she and I are having spontaneous conversations for the first time in her life.

Trevor:  That's fantastic.

Janna: She's also progressed enormously in school since coming out of her puberty crisis. She's completed two to three grades every year in school, and now she's on track to get either a GED or high school diploma, which was thought impossible when she was seven. So, I mean, she's really come a long way.

Trevor:  That an amazing story. Now obviously, this will be different for every different patient and whatnot.

Janna:  of course.

Trevor:  But what kind of doses and strains; what have you been using with your daughter and has it changed?

Janna:  It does. It changes week by week with her, really. And luckily, you know, I'm in Oregon and I'm able to grow our own medicines and I've sort of learned which strains work well.  In general, we tend to stick with in Indica strains for autism.  You know, Indica means the Terpene profile with more sedative and calming in its effect. And that tends to be the better fit for autism in general.  For that calming and sedating because their brains are usually in a state of overstimulation. So, if you were to give a child with autism a Sativa strain that's also stimulating, it can bypass that threshold and actually trigger anxiety or panic attacks or more behaviors. Any approach, the approach differs based on that child too.

Trevor:  Thank you. And just because we get patients, way brighter than us talking to us about Terpenes and whatnot. Do you know specifically which Terpenes seems to work well for her on sort of the sedating end and which ones to avoid on the stimulating end? Have you broken that down that much?

Janna:  Yes, yes. Actually, we love myrcene. Myrcene is found in mangos. It's sedative as long as it's more than 1% in that formulation. And it also helps the cannabis cross the blood brain barrier with autism, we know there's imbalances in the brain. So that's an important piece. Linalool is a great one. Linalool is also found in Lavender. So, it's got that calming and sedating effect. It's also anti-seizure. So if, you know, kids with autism often have a seizure disorder as well. So it could be helpful for that. Humulene is a great one. You find Humulene in Hops and that one is great for helping with sleep, which is often an issue with autism. As far as the Sativa (plants), I typically advise avoiding limonene, which is found in Lemons. It can be just too stimulating. Pinene is another one that I've seen trigger behaviors in kids. So, you know, and it really, you know, I can certainly tell you my daughter's protocol tell you there's about eight different textures that we mix and match. And I really base what I mix for her on any given day on how she's looking that day. And I can tell you, PMS week, it looks completely different from every other week because she requires much higher levels of support that week.

Trevor:  I do want to come back to PMS, but Kirk is making hand signals at me.  How are you actually getting it into her? So you make the tincture and then is she drinking it? Are you putting in her food? How is it as a getting in?

Janna:  Oh, well, if we need a quick response, say that she's showing signs that she's triggered and a behavior is forthcoming, we'll use something that's quicker acting.  We'll give it to a sublingually, which she tolerates or even by vape pen. And vape pens are not something I recommend using on a regular basis with kids with autism. When they're headed towards a full tilt behavior, it's a great tool for stopping it in that moment. And then just for her baseline support. We put the tincture in an empty capsule and she swallows it twice a day.

Trevor:  OK, PMS, because we've sort of circled around that in a couple other ones. So what have you been finding works well in PMS, at least in your daughter?

Janna:  Well, for my daughter, like I said, our big focus is with the puberty crisis was relieving pain for her. We saw non-verbal signs that she was having migraine headaches. She gets bloated. She gets constipated. So, we treat according to those symptoms for her.  For other kids, it might look like heightened anxiety or OCD or, you know, so it just sort of depends. But for her PMS week, we really increased the pain-relieving strains for her and that seems to really help. So, she went from being diagnosed PMDD, which is the Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It's basically homicidal PMS to where now she's very well managed and not just with the cannabis, but we've added in some herbs that help to decrease her estrogen dominance as well. And that combination has worked very well.

Trevor:  This is all very interesting. Before Kirk jumps in with some more questions, one of the ones we were talking about before, we have a friend of the show who is a nurse in Manitoba. Now, obviously, you know, there's going to be different laws in Canada versus the U.S., but we'll throw this one out anyway. So, we've got a nurse we know he treats his anxiety with cannabis and his college is kind of coming after him because, well, you know, obviously he's a drug addict. And just as a cannabis use disorder, how about your college? You're obviously very out there as somebody who not only treats people with cannabis, but uses it yourself.  Does the College of Nursing of Oregon have any complaints about, you know, you are nursing under the influence of cannabis?

Janna:  You know, I haven't I haven't had any professional ramifications to doing this work. It is there are a lot of nurses who are too fearful to do this work. And it really comes down to it being a personal decision how to proceed. I really feel like this work gives purpose to what my daughter and I have experienced in our past. And so it's very therapeutic. And I see the benefits of educating patients and empowering them to try cannabis and helping to guide them to products that might best fit their situation and how to work around things like pharmaceutical interactions or other possible risk factors they may entail, like predisposition to schizophrenia. The outcomes are really what kept me going, you know, in the Oregon State Board of Nursing. And really none of the state boards in nursing in the U.S. have adopted any guidelines for cannabis nursing. There is the NCSBN put out a scope of practice, quote unquote, for cannabis nursing. And so I abide by that to the letter. And basically, what I do is considered patient education. And I follow the guidelines by the Oregon State Board of Nursing for Patient Education. You know, I'm not giving advice of how to change their prescriptions. I'm working with their physicians whenever possible. And oftentimes patients get results and they go to their physician. And then the physician will call me and say, what are you doing, and I want to learn about this. So, it's really interesting how it's how it's sort of matriculating and evolving over time.

Trevor:  Thank you very much. That gives us a glimmer anyway into cannabis nursing south of the border.  Kirk might jump in with some more questions in a second. But before I forget to ask, so we've sort of gone over autism or kind of gone over some of what you do with cannabis and autism in your daughter. Anything else you think our listeners need to know about autism or cannabis or the combination that I've sort of missed?

Janna:  Well, I wrote an article on the subject a few years ago, and it's my daughter's story and her positive response and a lot of the science supporting cannabis for autism.  There are a lot of articles that support that, that autism is endocannabinoid deficiency as one of the root causes. And so, you know, looking at it from that perspective, realizing that that according to another research study, kids with autism commonly experience what we call a anandamide deficiency. Anandamide is the cannabinoid we make in our body that that works the same way as THC from the plant. So, I mean, there's a lot of hesitation sometimes of parents to call me and they're not sure which components to try. And of course, I always revert to their wisdom about their child and in their feelings about it. But a little bit of education can sometimes help to push through any fears and realize that, you know, with cannabis we're actually addressing a route contributor to autism in these kids, and I really think that is why we see such profoundly positive responses.

Trevor:  Thank you very much.

Janna:  Definitely worth trying. Yeah,

Trevor:  And I think you did send me that link and we'll try and get on the show notes so people can have a read of that article. Kirk, anything else that I've been missing?

Kirk:  A couple of questions I have. We're all sort of Western trained health professionals. I'm a nurse. You're a nurse. Trevor is a pharmacist.  I'm going to make an assumption. When you had your illness and working with your daughter, you probably started with Western medicine and then you sort of started your own holistic approach with cannabis and herbs. Are you still balancing Western medicine with the cannabis in your practice?

Janna:  It's definitely having the knowledge of Western medicine that I have from my nursing experience helps because I think, well, I know the biggest considerations around starting cannabis therapy has to do with the pharmaceutical interactions. So, knowing the pharmacology and understanding how cannabis might change, how a drug works in the body or even block it, you know, those are important distinctions and also combined effects. I mean, I look very closely at how cannabis can combine with things like antihypertensive or anti-diabetics.  Teaching the patient to monitor their level to ensure that that they're continuing in a really safe manner and avoiding any potential adverse effects of those combinations. So, it definitely, there are parts that bring in that knowledge.  Overall, my daughter and I, the only prescriptions we're on are antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers. And it's because they're more benign than a lot of the over the counter medicines.  Otherwise we're strictly on supplements and on the cannabis. And this just kind of brings in another area where I specialize. It's nutrigenomics and it's looking at genetics and using it to guide targeted supplementation to help decrease some of those genetic mutations in their contributions to the underlying imbalances in the body. So we're on quite a few supplements combined with the cannabis.

Kirk:  So obviously in Western medicine, we're all trained to document, document, document. So how do you deal with skeptics that they're saying, well, you're taking the Western stuff, so how do you know the cannabis is working? How do you know that the herbs are working? How do you justify using cannabis in your in your therapeutic approach?

Janna:  Well, oftentimes, if a patient is calling me, the mainstream approach is not working for them or they would not be reaching out. So, you know, oftentimes with polypharmacy, as you know, we get into side effects that are being treated by more pharmaceuticals. And so what I find and what I teach my patients is to start the cannabis therapy and how to work around any medications they're currently taking documenting for their physician. Part of our patient handbook is a journal for patients so they can they can write down which component of cannabis they took, what the response was, you know, of course, making sure they're monitoring other situations is applicable. And then what I find is once you get stabilized on the cannabis therapy, it usually reduces the reliance on the pharmaceuticals. And this is often the case. And this is where bringing, you know, making sure they're communicating with their physician comes in because we know that a prescription is a doctor order. And as nurses, we can't advise against that. So I always tell the patients, when you feel like you may not need the pharmaceuticals as much, go to your doctor and ask him to help you reduce the dose or wean off of it or whatever it is your goal might be. So it's really it's still there's a lot of collaboration with Western medicine in my work.

Kirk:  And I was sort of asking you about documentation. Have you ever used the App Strainprint?

Trevor:  It is a Canadian app. We're big fans and they're sponsors of the show. We'll throw that out. But even if they weren't, we're big fans. We like to talk about it as being sort of a diabetic log for cannabis. And it's just one of these days have a look. It's literally All one word. So from the patient's point of view, it's an app where they enter in their strain and then it'll remind them 10, 20, 30 minutes later to ask them how it how it helped. It's really nice for the patient to log. And then the company has gone the extra step further on. So for the patient, everything's free. There is clinic software, on the other end. So, you know, doctors, nurse, whatever, can actually collect all this stuff from their various patients if they use Strainprint app to log it. And they've got other miscellaneous things like a Strainprint community. And they'll even say, you know. Forty five year old. Female patients with MS in Manitoba have been using Strain X. It can even be something one you know, yes it is Canadian based, but, you know, could give a practitioner an idea about what strain to try next because it's been working in this patient group, in this part of the country. So, yeah, we're shameless promoters of Strainprint. But have a look. We just as like I said, a diabetic log for cannabis. It's been very handy.

Janna:  Yeah, it sounds like a great service. And, you know, patients... That's one of the reasons they call me is because, you know, in Oregon, they'll go to the doctor and get a signature saying they may benefit from cannabis therapy. You know, it looks nothing like a prescription. You don't have the exact chemical composition there after you don't have a route, you don't have a frequency. And then they're left to walk into a dispensary where there can be thousands of products and they have no idea what medical quality versus, better left for recreational and what might actually best fit their situation, what might be best avoided. So that's that's a great service that they're offering.

Trevor:  Yeah. We're, like I said, shamelessly promoting. But it's worked well with lots of people we've talked to.

Kirk:  Yeah. just as a practitioner, Jenna, I would suggest look it up I think you'll find the work with your practice.

Janna:  Yeah, we'll do that for sure.

Trevor:  Kirk, I feel a little smarter about autism.

Kirk:  Autism? I think Trevor, it is a spectrum. So I think one person's autism is another person's normality.

Trevor:  I think I like this quote. I forget who it is from. A famous autistic person, I forgot her name. Doesn't matter, she said. So, you know, when you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism.

Kirk:  Exactly. Yeah and I can't imagine how fortunate I've been in my world with my kids.

Trevor:  Temple Grandin look, I remember the name Temple Grandin.

Kirk:  I couldn't imagine waking up one morning and my child has a different personality. I couldn't imagine it.

Trevor:  Well, no. And like she said, you know, her daughter no longer relates to dad. I've got a daughter that would suck. You know, let's ignore what would be bad for the patient, the child. But as a parent, that would be terrible.

Kirk:  And I'm working on a new role called Papa; granddad. So I've got a little granddaughter and I love her to death. It's astounding. I couldn't imagine her personality just changing.  It's tough work.  Good interview. Good on you to find a holistic nurse in Oregon. Well done.

Trevor:  Yeah. And thank you Janna. You taught us lots and I got the feeling there's lots left to learn.

Kirk:  Music. I didn't bring any again.  I'm just counting on our fellow.

Trevor:  Rene, can you save us one more time.

Rene:  Certainly. I've got a band here from Fort River, Manitoba. Population. I don't know what is it?  Twenty-six.  It's just north of Dauphin and this is a band that's been around for about 25 years and they just recorded some new music in the last couple of years. Their name is Eden Myrrh and this is an instrumental piece that they call Marching Out. So that's the tune for the day.

Trevor:  It's been another good one. I beat you to it.

Kirk:  You did. It's another good one. Yep. Reefer Medness - The Podcast.

Trevor:  Come on back, everybody.

Kirk:  Yeah. You find us in all the social media. You find us on iHeart radio. You find us in Stitcher.  You find us in SoundCloud. You find us an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

Trevor:  But the home of everything Reefer Medness still is .

Kirk:   That's our web page. You know people we like to grow by word-of-mouth. If you tell a friend you've found us, they'll tell a friend and we'll be like a shampoo commercial.

Trevor:  And so on and so on and so.

Kirk:  We're growing word-of-mouth people.  Join the team. Come on, Reefer Medness.