BATON ROUGE -- Like most people who suffer from epilepsy, Victoria Walker can tell when a seizure is coming when she can see the auras. And for years the way to treat it was by ingesting a pill.
The trouble with the pill, she notes, is the time it takes for the medicine to do its work. That could take about 30 minutes. That's too long.
The Lafayette native and resident has found a much quicker way to attack the issue. Vaping medical marijuana, she says, cuts down the time a pill needs to enter a patient's bloodstream.
"I'd like to start the medical marijuana as soon as we get the product," said Walker, 21, who is a patient, a community college student and also on staff at Total Health Clinic, 610 Guilbeau Road, Lafayette, which held a grand opening Monday to celebrate its first day open.
"As soon as you vape, you're inhaling, and as soon as you're inhaling, it's in your system. I've gone to Colorado before. I 100 percent believe in medical marijuana."
Walker and the clinic's staff welcomed prospective patients and others Monday evening. Dr. Chad Rossitter, an internal medicine practitioner who has been in Lafayette for 14 years, heads the clinic along with his wife, Isabella, the office manager.
It's the first medical marijuana clinic to open in Acadiana, and it's next to the region's only medical marijuana pharmacy, The Apothecary Shoppe, where patients will be able to buy the drug by mid-November.
Rossitter got his first referral Aug. 23 from a patient with chronic lower back pain. He has the paperwork framed on the wall -- with the patient's name covered, of course.
The interest in the clinic has "been incredible," Rossitter said. "Patients are just so happy to have an alternative to their chronic, debilitating conditions. I have a lot of patients who walk in those doors scared to tell their doctors they're coming here, and others come in without the advice of their doctors."
The clinic is one of a handful opening across Louisiana. The first in the state opened in Baton Rouge earlier this year. The Rossitters, meanwhile, plan to open other clinics in Lake Charles, Bossier City, Baton Rouge and West Monroe.
Now that the state has allowed the clinics to open and physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients, it opens a new avenue to treat them. It will also allow doctors to reduce the amount of pain-relieving medicines they prescribe, which should help reduce opioid dependency among patients.
"A lot of patients come in here and they're on morphine, Percocet or Lortab," Rossitter said. "It's a shame we go straight to those medications and there's no regulation of them. A doctor can prescribe as many as he wants. You put people on those things, and the next thing you know they're an addict."
Walker knows about that. She takes 12 pills alone for her epilepsy and other medicine for Crohn's disease and chronic pain.
It's also why Brenda Wildridge, of Lafayette, visited the reception on Monday. She takes medications for arthritis, fibromyalgia and lupus.
"I'm trying to get off all the meds they've had me on with the steroids, opiates and everything else they try to put me on," Wilridge said. "So far nothing helps with the back pain. I'm needing some kind of alternative to all the meds I'm on."