'We're not lazy drug addicts': Why I need medical marijuana
CANDOUR isn't a noticeable quality in most politicians, let alone first-time political hopefuls.
But for One Nation candidate Torin O'Brien, public perception and stigma won't stand in the way of him revealing he is one of 80 Rockhampton residents with a prescription for medical marijuana oil.
The Commonwealth Muay Thai champion has fallen foul to some of the sport's worst injuries, including a broken leg, three broken ribs, a shattered right arm and multiple fractures in his left foot.
"I've got a pretty good tolerance to pain, which is why my leg went undiagnosed for three weeks before doctors managed to take a closer look and discover the fracture." Mr O'Brien said.
"My arm was the most messed up and required the bone being shaved back before plates were used to pin it back into place."
Doctors prescribed Endone and Tramadol, two drugs renowned for side effects and addiction.
Mr O'Brien recalls a time when he would wake up pain-free but would feel mentally driven to finish the box of pain killers.
"Anyone who's battled pain in their life knows how debilitating it is and you'll quite literally do anything to stop it," he said.
"I've got a strong will, but these drugs are like trying to swim against a fast-moving current when you try and ween yourself off them."
But in February 2019, while preparing for a professional fight on the Sunshine Coast, Police knocked on Torin's hotel room to break the news his father had died.
"It was the same night I broke my arm, but with so much on my mind, I just kept fighting," Mr O'Brien said.
"I found myself back at the doctors who recommended I talk to a psychologist to help me get back on track, which then led to a prescription for Serepax and Prozac."
Both drugs are antidepressants, designed to treat major depression and panic disorders.
"Between the two types of prescribed drugs, I completely lost my personality," he said.
"You become numb to your surroundings. There's no sense of good or bad in your life.
"I was losing serious portions of my memory at a critical time in my young family's life."
Mr O'Brien discovered an alternative option to pain relief following the federal government's new laws allowing better access to medicinal marijuana products.
The Commonwealth's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the signing of more than 50,000 patients onto the Special Access Scheme (SAS) under the new law and, for Torin, he believes it saved his life.
"It's put my life back in order. My daily productivity has gone through the roof and I'm mostly pain-free," he said.
"I don't want users of medical marijuana oil to be stigmatised. We're not lazy drug addicts.
"I get up at 5am on weekdays to go for a 10km run and I'm back to my happy natured self again. It's been the saviour for my family."
Mr O'Brien believes Australia has a long way to go before patients can readily access the non-addictive alternative, and says the Queensland Parliament has a big role to play.
"I strongly believe Queenslanders need to be aware there are other options that can be discussed with certain doctors,"
"This has been a lifesaver for me, and I've heard it's been great for ex-soldiers suffering PTSD, sportsmen and women, anyone who's been dealing with major life challenges.
"In a way, I am fortunate to have had this experience so I have a personal understanding that I can take with me into Parliament."
The One Nation candidate for Rockhampton is also encouraging governments to help bring down the cost of the prescribed medication by listing the drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) register.
It is one of the community needs he will push to achieve if he is elected.
"A 50ml bottle costs $250, but can take up to two weeks for the local chemist to get it in which also needs to change," Mr O'Brien explained.
"There is definitely not the stigma attached to medicinal cannabis these days; it is a well-researched and scientifically proven medication.
"If we can improve access for those in need, I think it will make a positive difference and improve many lives - just like it did for me."