Marijuana Cannabis for Treatment of PTSD in Veterans

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The use of marijuana for medical purposes has been a long-standing argument.  Studies have shown that cannabis use is very effective for many medical conditions, one veteran I spoke to said he had started out using opioids to treat his PTSD.  The side effects from them he said for him was unbearable, he said it got so bad that he felt suicide was his best option to end the torment that he was living with.  It was at that point he said he tried cannabis and for him he felt it worked much better without the side effects or suicidal ideations that the opioids had given him. Independent studies have shown the use of marijuana cannabis does help lessen the effects that PTSD has on them.

But with marijuana still being classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government The Veterans Administration has not set a standard for the use of cannabis for the treatment of PTSD that many veterans suffer from. The percentage of veterans who suffer from PTSD varies from each war era.  According to The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), 11-20% of veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, 10% of veterans of the Persian Gulf War, and 30% of those serving during the Vietnam War have had PTSD symptoms to varying degrees. (Betthauser, et al.)

PTSD is a very common and serious mental disorder that many veterans of all ages suffer from daily. “PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster.  People with PTSD may relive the event via intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares; avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma; and have anxious feelings they didn’t have before that are so intense their lives are disrupted.” (American Psychological Association) It affects the relationships they have with family, friends, and co-workers.  A large percentage of the veterans who suffer from PTSD don’t get the medical and psychological help that they need to cope with the effects of PTSD.  For the majority that do seek treatment with the Veterans Administration they are prescribed multiple mood-altering drugs, including opioids and antidepressants to help fight the anxiety and depression that is associated with PTSD.

While those opioid based narcotics do help some, they are highly addictive, and many veterans do become addicted to them. Retired Marine staff sergeant Mark DiPasquale says cannabis freed him from 17 opioids, anti-anxiety pills and other medications prescribed to him from the V.A. (Associated Press) Another Marine Corps veteran Roberto Pickering was drinking himself to death.  “When I got back from Iraq, I felt like an eggshell, and a basket case, and I was just doing all this self-destruction behavior that I could think of to not fell anything at all” (Gutierrez & Dubert) In 2016 the American Legion Petitioned the American Government to change the restrictions on marijuana.  They asked that Congress remove the marijuana from the Schedule 1 narcotics list and to reclassify it to a lower schedule.  Right now, marijuana is still listed on the Schedule 1 narcotics, grouped in with such drugs as heroin, LSD, and other drugs that have no medical use and are only used to get high.

Cannabis better known as marijuana, does have medicinal uses that can help treat certain medical conditions, it is even more effective when administered in CB-1 and CB-2 form rather than just smoking the flower itself.  Unlike the other drugs that it is classified with on the Schedule 1 list.  Cannabis has been found very effective in helping to alleviate symptoms of PTSD. “Indeed, the acute effects of cannabis use (e.g., relaxation, promotion of sleep) may directly modulate many of the symptoms experienced by those with PTSD, specifically.” (Boden, et al.) Studies have shown a large increase over the past several years. “In 2013, a study found that nearly 20 million people admitted to using marijuana in the past month, with over 8 million using almost daily.”(Bonn-Miller & Rousseau) Some of the contributing factors that were associated with the increased use were the number of people diagnosed with PTSD and social anxiety disorders.

Until recently veterans were only given the choice of opioids or antidepressants to help them battle PTSD, if they wanted to use cannabis for treatment it was at the risk of losing all prescription medication from the V.A. Now with many states legalizing cannabis for medical use the V.A. has started to council veterans on the use of cannabis.  But council is all they can do, because cannabis is still illegal under federal law the V.A. health care providers can’t prescribe or distribute cannabis.  In other words, they will not provide veterans with medical marijuana, but they won’t stop them from getting it from private practitioners. “Essentially, the V.A. is saying it will not be responsible for providing veterans with medical marijuana.”  (Kohut)

The V.A. needs to start looking at studies that have been done outside of the V.A., studies like that of Dr. Suzanne Sisley who has been doing a clinical trial with veterans evaluating cannabis for PTSD treatment.  But instead the V.A. looks at observational studies that are taunted with human bias.  Because of this V.A. researcher’s studies didn’t have sufficient data to make recommendations for the medical benefits of cannabis. Even former Veterans Administration Secretary David Shulkin admitted during a press conference back in May 2017 “that he couldn’t’ endorse medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance.”

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that.  But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that me be helpful.” (Kelly)

The V.A. argues that veterans that use cannabis for treatment of medical conditions will become addicted to cannabis, while seeming to be overlooking the high addiction rate for those using opioids and antidepressant drugs.  I am not saying that a certain number can’t or won’t develop a dependency on cannabis, but the effects of a cannabis dependency are far less devastating then a dependency on opioid based drugs.  Most that use cannabis use it in forms that take out the THC part that gives a person that high like you get from smoking cannabis.  For example, they use the CBD oils that are separated out of the plants.  “Besides the CBD oils, cannabis can be consumed in many other forms, such as in flower, hash, wax, food products and tinctures.” (Bonn-Miller & Rousseau) There are also multiple ways to administer the cannabis, inhalation (smoking or vaporizing), ingestion and topical.

The use of medical marijuana needs to be standardized throughout the Veterans Administration not just in states that have already legalized it for medical use. With the high rate of addictions to opioids and other antidepressants medications they need to take a serious look at the other alterative, that being cannabis.  Veterans should have the choice of what they use to battle the effects that PTSD has on them and those around them.  Since it has been proven how effective cannabis is in the treatment of PTSD, the federal government needs to take a good long look at the medicinal uses for marijuana and take it off the Schedule 1 narcotics list. Addiction to opioids is one of the nations leading drug addictions, so giving veterans an alternative that has a much lower addiction rate seems to be a far greater alternative.

Cite this paper

Marijuana Cannabis for Treatment of PTSD in Veterans. (2022, Feb 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/marijuana-cannabis-for-treatment-of-ptsd-in-veterans/

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