Medical Marijuana Helps Veterans
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that occurs after people experience life-threatening instances like military combat. It can also occur after harrowing experiences like natural disasters or sexual assault. Symptoms usually start soon after the event, and PTSD sufferers relive the episodes over and over, suffer from flashbacks, insomnia and social isolation. Sometimes, it can take months or years for the symptoms to appear.
Most people with PTSD feel very jittery and are always on the lookout for danger. They typically have trouble concentrating, and are quick to anger and startle easily. They also have a tendency toward reckless behavior like drug use, smoking, drinking or reckless driving.
Many of the drugs given for PTSD have terrible side effects. Soldiers talk about falling asleep on the job because they’re so heavily drugged. Many have turned to cannabis to help treat PTSD.
Martin Lee is director of Project CBD and has studied PTSD and the effect that cannabinoids have on the disorder. Cannabis has more than 60 natural components called cannabinoids, or chemicals that are the active compounds of cannabis. Examples are THC, CBG and CBD.
The human body also has natural cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, and researchers have found that PTSD sufferers have lower amounts of an endocannabinoid called anandamide. As it turns out, THC and other cannabinoids from the marijuana plant trigger the same brain receptors as anandamide.
Several states have approved medical marijuana specifically for PTSD, but the Veterans Administration (VA) says to use caution, as there is lack of scientific evidence that cannabis can effectively treat PTSD. The VA views PTSD marijuana use as a growing concern, and cites research that says it can be harmful to PTSD sufferers. The VA also says that cannabis use is the most diagnosed substance abuse disorder they see in veterans.
More research is definitely needed, but there is a very large body of anecdotal evidence that cannabis brings significant improvement in quality of life to PTSD sufferers. People who use cannabis have great symptom relief. TV personality Montel Williams had this to say: “As a sufferer of multiple sclerosis since 1999, I use medical marijuana to ease my painful spasms. Marijuana allows me to function normally instead of having to endure the debilitating side effects and mental fogginess that I found accompanied opiate-based painkillers. I strongly endorse the mission of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access.”
Researchers believe that replenishment of the endocannabinoids by way of the cannabis plant can bring relief to PTSD patients. When signals are normal from the brain receptors, traumatic memories are deactivated and people can naturally forget. Lack of anandamide means faulty signaling, so the PTSD patient relives the episode over and over.