Amid shifting attitudes on medical marijuana, baby boomers are big buyers –

Second of three parts

Every day, Helen Narke battles a burning sensation in her mouth that is never expected to go away.

It’s caused by neuropathy – a type of nerve damage resulting from numerous conditions – that she said stems from a dental injury from several years ago. 

Narke has used prescription narcotics to relieve the pain, but the medications left her in daze. When she wasn’t sleeping – which was often – she turned dysfunctional. In turn, she said her relationships with her immediate family devolved and her desire to live lessened.

“I’m telling you, it’s the worst kind of pain you can deal with,” said Narke, 66, of Schwenksville, Montgomery County. “It was suicidal pain.”

Narke sought an alternative to remedy the pain without the side effects of the Oxycontin she had been taking. For months, she anxiously awaited the opening of Pennsylvania’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

When they arrived, medical marijuana was not the immediate remedy she anticipated. But after tweaking doses and forms, Narke finally found a regimen that works for her. She credits the marijuana with restoring her life.

“If I didn’t use the marijuana, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Narke said. “That’s how serious my injury is. That’s how painful living with that was. I’ve got it under control and I’m really happy about it.”

She is not alone.

More than 2 million Americans use medical marijuana, including 87,500 Pennsylvanians and nearly 43,000 New Jersey residents. A significant chunk of them are senior citizens, like Narke. In many ways, they are now among the biggest drivers of the medical marijuana market.

“The attitudes toward marijuana are changing enough that people who are living with chronic pain are often willing to try anything,” said Dr. Ari Greis, director of the Medical Cannabis Department at Rothman Orthopaedic

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