Cohen Brown spent more than half his life in constant pain – until it stopped three weeks ago.
Brown has a rare condition, neurofibromatosis, which causes benign tumours to grow through his body on nerve tissue, causing severe pain.
He smoked cannabis every day to reduce the pain but said the cannabis also got him stoned and made him lethargic and feeling like crap.
However, his pain specialist last month allowed his GP to prescribe him Tilray cannabidiol (CBD), a medicinal cannabis which was introduced to New Zealand last year.
CBD is in cannabis plants but contains no tetrahydrocannabinol which is the compound responsible for getting users high.
Doctors have been allowed to prescribe CBD products to patients without needing approval from the Health Minister since last September.
Brown, one of a small number of New Zealanders prescribed the product, said it had changed his life.
He now puts Tilray oil under his tongue three times a day instead of smoking cannabis at least three times a day.
“It’s a strange feeling to be pain free but I am slowly getting my head around it,” he said.
“I had been living with pain for about 13 years, it’s like losing a best friend.”
It was better than illicit cannabis in all respects, he said.
“It kills the pain and it doesn’t get you stoned, it’s 100 per cent better.”
He was now more lucid, is able to stand up straight and is more energetic – he can walk the dog.
“I have got my life back.”
The 25-year -old is the son of Invercargill woman Christine Brown, also a neurofibromatosis sufferer, who had major facial surgery this year to realign her face.
His father, Lee Brown, said his son was “back to being Cohen” after getting off the illicit cannabis.
“He is more lucid, he isn’t stoned any more, we couldn’t be more happy for him.”
Cohen Brown continued to fight health problems, with a specialist telling him this week he had a low-grade brain tumour which would be reviewed every six months.
It was nothing to worry about at this stage, he said.
“I am still walking around.”
He had no plans to smoke illicit cannabis again.
Medical Cannabis Association New Zealand co-ordinator Shane Le Brun said the charity organisation was fundraising for Brown so he could afford Tilray, which was costing about $460 every 20 days.
“His condition is fairly severe and he’s been suffering for a majority of his life, we feel he deserves a chance at some peace, pain relief and a good night’s sleep.”