Veterans and PTSD: A Maryland Cannabis Physician’s Perspective
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a huge issue that many veterans in our country face today. The Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital offers many different treatment options for this condition, including support groups, but they are still missing a key piece of the puzzle.
Even though medical cannabis has been proven to help with PTSD, it is still federally illegal, so the VA systems and their doctors are unable to offer medical cannabis as a treatment option for veterans. Despite this fact, many of them have found alternative doctors to help with their symptoms.
PTSD: The Symptoms
PTSD is caused by exposure to a stressful event. The response to the event results in feelings of terror, anxiety, and helplessness. Symptoms can include repetitive recollections of the original event, often in the form of flashbacks or nightmares.
It is said that 22 veterans commit suicide every day due to symptoms of PTSD. However, as more states are moving forward to legalize medical cannabis use, I remain optimistic about the future treatment of PTSD for our veterans.
Cannabis Success Among Veterans
Roberto Pickering, a Marine Corps veteran, reports using cannabis for his PTSD. Mr. Pickering returned from Iraq in 2003 and began having a rough time adjusting to normal life in the states. His anxiety had become so bad that he would use anything to numb his pain. His doctors had prescribed him multiple pharmaceutical medications which provided no relief. He finally began using cannabis to ease his PTSD symptoms, with great results.
Maryland native Eryck Stamper, a retired veteran of the Navy, reports the use of cannabis for PTSD: “Cannabis has allowed me the opportunity to alleviate some of those symptoms I encounter and suffer daily”. Stamper is a registered patient in the state of Maryland and has been a huge advocate for cannabis legalization among veterans.
While both Roberto Pickering and Eryck Stamper are fortunate enough to have access to cannabis to alleviate their PTSD, Johnny Lutz, a veteran who saw combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was not so lucky. Johnny’s mother, Janine Lutz, states that she lost her son to an overdose of prescription medication, which was given by his physicians for severe PTSD. She also believes that her son would still be alive today if he had access to medical cannabis.
PTSD & Medical Cannabis: The Research
Dr. Sue Sisley has been conducting research on the safe use of cannabis by Veterans with PTSD. She was awarded a grant by the Colorado state government to conduct research on 4 different strains of cannabis. The study is still ongoing, but Dr. Sue Sisley has already seen great results.
She believes the hallmark of PTSD is insomnia, and cannabis has shown to improve this condition with repeated use. Hopefully within the next few years, we will have a better understanding of which strains and compounds of cannabis control PTSD symptoms the best.
The VA’s Stance on Cannabis
Because cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the VA hospitals have historically been against cannabis prescription for veterans. However, VA secretary David Shulkin has recently allowed their physicians to talk about cannabis with their patients.
While these physicians are prohibited from prescribing cannabis to their patients, they can at least refer them to certified cannabis physicians. I am very excited about this recent move from the VA, and hope that we can work together to help as many veterans as possible get the treatment they deserve at any one of our Green Health Docs locations in Maryland.
Best Strains for PTSD
Since PTSD causes emotional arousal, strains high in CBD (cannabidiol) tend to be very effective. This is because CBD does not produce a euphoric feeling the way THC does, and thus is more calming. Veterans have reported success with strains such as ACDC and Suzy Q., which are predominately high in CBD. Additionally, strains high in the terpenes Myrcene and Linalool have also been very beneficial for PTSD, as they are known to be anxiolytic.
Green Health Docs provides guidance on the best strains for your condition, including but not limited to PTSD. We also offer a discounted certification for our veterans.