How Cannabis Offers a Solution for Veterans with PTSD
In honor of Veteran’s Day, we would like to take this opportunity to shed some light on a frightening health condition that has affected countless men and women who have given so much to make this country great.
What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as defined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is “a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. Worldwide, roughly 8% of the population suffers from PTSD; that statistic, however, skyrockets in reference to U.S. veterans.
According to the 2015 Census Bureau, there are approximately 18.8 million veterans living in the United States, which encompasses nearly 5.8% of our country’s total population.3 When broken down by war, 12% of Gulf War veterans, 15% of Vietnam War veterans, and an egregious 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD
What does PTSD feel like? What role does medical cannabis play?
Victims of PTSD suffer from an incredible display of anxiety induced side effects which can make even the smallest of tasks appear daunting. The primary reason for this is because PTSD “is triggered by seemingly neutral stimuli in ordinary, safe situations, producing detrimental physiological and behavioural responses.
One staple trait of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency which results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the leading symptoms of PTSD. For sufferers of PTSD, the body does not produce enough endocannabinoids to fill the receptor sites naturally, however, medical marijuana has been shown to replace the missing endocannabinoids in the body, bringing patients much needed relief from painful thoughts and memories.
Medical cannabis has, quite literally, been a lifesaver for so many who affirm that cannabis helps them “slow down and think through the trauma rather than hide from it.Patients have indicated that the use of cannabis has reduced the symptoms of PTSD by up to 75% when compared to not consuming.
With little by way of a cure, calling medical cannabis “remarkable” would be an understatement for anyone who suffers from PTSD. Time and time again, patients come forward with testimonials claiming that self medication with cannabis:
*Reduces learned fear, which is the leading cause of PTSD
*Puts patients at ease which enables them to better respond to treatment
*Significantly reduces the likelihood of night terrors and sleep deprivation
*Reduces hypertension, depression, and pain
But, What’s the Problem?
The argument that quickly and consistently arises when promoting cannabis as a treatment for PTSD is that the majority of evidence supporting the benefits of self-medication is largely anecdotal and few scientific studies exist to validate these claims. Unfortunately, as cannabis is still a Schedule I drug, this restricts laboratories’ and doctors’ ability to conduct regulated research, leaving these testimonials subjective and not objectively verified.
The enthusiasm surrounding the effects of cannabis on patients with PTSD is overwhelming and cannot continue to be ignored. The results of consuming cannabis are so incredible that 82% of veterans and caregivers support legalization, and 92% are in favor of federal research in order to further the advancement of its medical opportunities.
Without access to medical cannabis, veterans and civilians alike must either resort to purchasing cannabis illegally or to submitting to harder narcotics to ease the pain, further promoting the opioid overdose epidemic that is running rampant in this country. In fact, the opioid crisis has become so severe that there are currently more annual opioid related overdoses in the U.S. (33,000+) than there are fatal car accidents (30,000+).12 The evidence supporting the benefits of cannabis is so great that in states where cannabis has been legalized, opioid addiction is a remarkable 25% lower than in states where it is still illegal.
For more information about how cannabis can help alleviate not only U.S. veterans, but the United States as a whole, from the current opioid overdose epidemic, read NCIA’s full report, Cannabis: A Promising Option for the Opioid Crisis.
How Can I Help?
The solution is to remain educated. Federally legalizing cannabis in the United States is no small feat. There are endless hurdles and challenges and countless advocacy groups attempting to shield the population from its medical benefits.
But, do not get discouraged.
Simply because this is not an easy task does not mean there are no steps you can take today to progress the cannabis movement. Contact your congressman. Be involved in your local politics. Become a part of the lobbying effort. We must continue to advocate for cannabis reform on a federal level.