Photos courtesy of Alesandra Liriano

BY TIMOTHY BOLGER

Suffering from a rare genetic connective tissue disorder, Alesandra Liriano of Long Island City was unable to find relief from her chronic pain until she found a new vaginal medical cannabis suppository. 

The 43-year-old licensed massage therapist and mother of two teenagers, who was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) eight years ago, credits her relief to Manhattan-based medical cannabis dispensary Columbia Care. The company is developing a wide range of products to give patients different forms of relief options, including this unique pill.

“I tried it and I was shocked and very surprised at how greatly it helped my symptoms because I was in severe pain,” Liriano recalled. “It doesn’t remove my pain. It makes it manageable, where I can function and move around a little easier.”

Chronic pain is one of more than a dozen conditions that qualify patients for receiving medical marijuana in New York state, which is one of 33 states nationwide and the District of Columbia where the treatment is legal. 

Liriano spent years suspected of being a hypochondriac until a doctor finally diagnosed her with EDS, which affects one in 5,000 people, has no cure, and makes her more prone to serious injuries while performing simple daily tasks such as bathing or cooking. It once caused her to suffer a collapsed lung. Earlier this year, she suffered a concussion and dislocated tailbone in a fall and car accident.

Alesandra Liriano

She was on 20 different medications to treat the symptoms until The Empire State legalized medical marijuana three years ago, giving her what she deemed the best alternative to date. She’s been using the suppositories for six months and she said it significantly improved her quality of life, as she no longer suffers from debilitating stomach pain and is now well enough to volunteer and take on more massage clients. The suppositories also spare her the side effect of stomach pain that traditional painkillers can cause.

Columbia Care, which is conducting genetic testing to learn more about the way cannabinoids interact with the body, touts the benefits of suppositories that can be taken vaginally or anally to deliver targeted abdominal pain relief. 

“It’s long been known that suppositories work,” said Dr. Rosemary Mazanet, the chief scientific officer for Columbia Care. “We’ve taken that simple fact and added cannabis to the equation.”

The dispensary has locations in 10 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. It’s local dispensaries are in Manhattan, Riverhead, Rochester, and it most recently opened a Brooklyn location. 

As for Liriano, she just wants others who are similarly coping with severe pain and symptoms of rare diseases to know that alternatives are available beyond the widely publicized medical marijuana delivery methods such as vaping, edibles, or oils.

“It helped me tolerate the intolerable,” she said.

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