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Why Are More Veterans Than Ever Using Marijuana For PTSD?

In many states, post-traumatic-stress-disorder or PTSD is one of the many conditions that patients are hoping will be approved for medical marijuana. A growing number of veterans, however, are tired of waiting for the law to catch up with what they know in their hearts and minds to be the answer.

Vets & cannabis

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Cannabis has a unique ability to allow the mind to release it’s hold on traumatic memories, lessening the severity to which they can affect our lives. The relaxing effects, and ability to help with insomnia and nightmares all make it an attractive alternative to the dangerous, addictive drugs pedaled to our nation’s heroes by the pharmaceutical industry and our government. Ten states now list PTSD as a condition that can be legally treated with cannabis.

The effects on PTSD in studies on cannabis are limited and sometimes contradictory. The VA is also concerned with a rise in the number of veterans they have documented as having what they term “marijuana dependence”. While it can help with mental health problems, it has also been suggested by some studies to cause latent or subdued pre-existing mental issues to come to the surface, such as hereditary schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Better or worse?

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For some veterans, what is known as “cannabis use disorder” can have a negative effect on their road to wellness. Described as an inability to sleep or increase in irritability after ceasing use of the substance, this occasionally seen withdrawal symptom is far milder than that of many prescription painkillers, let alone dangerous drugs like heroin or meth. For a sufferer of mental anxiety like PTSD, however, sometimes even this mild withdrawal after steady use to treat their condition can cause negative outcomes.

“Marijuana may initially provide some relief,” but for those with PTSD, “it’s very hard to stop it once you start it,” she said. “It gets into this vicious cycle.” Dr. Karen Drexler, the VA’s deputy national mental health program director for addictive disorders.

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Dr. Drexler also says that the emotion-numbing effects of marijuana can hinder what is the most effective treatment for PTSD: talk therapy. This is in stark contrast to what many cannabis users claim, feeling that using cannabis helps them get in touch with their emotions, improve relationships, and heal. Dr. Dustin Sulak, a physician in Maine, treats veterans and says that cannabis can help them engage in talk therapy.

PTSD: A life-long struggle

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For those who fight for their country and, in the process, for their lives the trauma inflicted is far deeper than just physical injury. The scars of war can affect the human psyche for years, for decades, for life. For many veterans, regardless of whether they use cannabis or not, talking though it is the most effective, if not the easiest treatment.

 “For most problems the Marine is issued a solution. If ill, go to sickbay. If wounded, call a Corpsman. If dead, report to graves registration. If losing his mind, however, no standard solution exists…”

“A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he’s finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands, love a woman, build a house, change his son’s diaper; his hands remember the rifle.” – Anthony ‘Swoff’ Swofford: – Jarhead

In November, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to vets in states where it’s legal. The proposal failed to pass the House. Currently, veterans can still potentially lose their access to pain medications and treatment for testing positive for cannabis. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every single day.

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Do you think the soldiers who put their lives on the line for their country should be able to decide with their physicians if cannabis is right for them? Share your thoughts on social media or in the comments below.

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