Medical Marijuana and the PTSD Veteran

by
May 2, 2017

medical-marijuanaIt is a topic of debate, but probably not as much debate as it should be.

Medical Marijuana is a growing trend in the United States, especially over the past decade. Cancer, Epilepsy, MS, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinsons and many other diseases are now being combated with the use of Medical Cannabis.

But why not PTSD for our returning Veterans? Well, as a matter of fact it is in some states. The topic is a very touchy issue, especially with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA.Gov even states, “Marijuana use for medical conditions is an issue of growing concern. Some Veterans use marijuana to relieve symptoms of PTSD and several states specifically approve the use of medical marijuana for PTSD. However, controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD. Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.” (Read More)

The Doctors who wrote the article on the VA’s website, Dr. Bonn-Miller and Dr. Rousseau, dismiss the use of cannabis saying, “Marijuana use is associated with medical and psychiatric problems. These problems may be caused by using, but they also may reflect the characteristics of the people who use marijuana.

While personally knowing many Veterans that self-medicate with cannabis to treat their PTSD symptoms, they state to have other ailment corrections as a side effect from the use of Marijuana. “…all my knee pain and back pain is gone for several days after I smoke…” one anonymous Veteran told me. “I take a couple puffs and I have no night terrors, anxiety attacks, even my acid reflux is diminished…” he goes on to say.

Dr. Bonn-Miller and Dr. Rousseau address testimonials such as this anonymous Veterans statements like this in their article,

The belief that marijuana can be used to treat PTSD is limited to anecdotal reports from individuals with PTSD who say that the drug helps with their symptoms. There have been no randomized controlled trials, a necessary “gold standard” for determining efficacy.

They go on to say that patients afflicted with PTSD are more likely to become addicted to marijuana, “People with PTSD have particular difficulty stopping their use of marijuana and responding to treatment for marijuana addiction. They have greater craving and withdrawal than those without PTSD

When asked about the statements made in the VA Article, our anonymous Veteran said this, “Where are their studies showing that cannabis doesn’t work on PTSD? If no studies have been done to prove that it does help PTSD, where are the studies showing it doesn’t? The VA is government funded, and is supposed to be helping us Veterans. Shouldn’t that include investigating every avenue for medical treatment if it would mean the better and more long term treatment of their patients?”

The article entitled “Marijuana Use and PTSD among Veterans” on the VA’s website concludes with encouraging Physicians to not dismiss the use of cannabis in their treatments, but doesn’t really advocate for it either; stating that there are many programs to treat Substance Abuse Disorders and that Veterans using cannabis have multiple disorders.

Individuals with comorbid PTSD and SUD do not need to wait for a period of abstinence before addressing their PTSD. A growing number of studies demonstrate that that these patients can tolerate trauma-focused treatment and that these treatments do not worsen substance use outcomes. Therefore, providers have a range of options to help improve the lives of patients with the co-occurring disorders.

“I am curious as to why they are quick to label a Veteran like me who uses marijuana as a junkie. The weed I smoke is less damaging than the anti-depression meds and narcotic pain killers they had me on. I couldn’t even get out of bed most mornings on those pills.” Our anonymous Veteran stated.

The overuse of anti-depressants and opioids in the treatment of Veterans is a growing concern in the Veteran community. Many Veterans stating similar outcomes on pill regiments prescribed by the VA Hospital doctors, citing increased fatigue, depression, suicidal tendencies and opioid addiction.

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