Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afflicts military veterans more than any other group. That is why it is not surprising that the medical marijuana (MM) debate has spilled over into the discussions on PTSD treatment. The Department of Defense (DoD) has a well known zero-tolerance policy against any scheduled substance. However, the Veterans Administration (VA) has traditionally been separate from the DOD. The two organizations do not overlap. And as we have mentioned in previous articles the VA has been seeking alternative treatment to PTSD. A 2008 RAND Corporation study cites that 20% of recent returning combat veterans found MM useful in treating PTSD.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), working under the auspices of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, are preparing a three-month study of combat veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan is on hold until the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Public Health Service (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) agrees to sell researchers the marijuana needed for research — or until the marijuana can be legally imported.
Does science supersede politics? History of the war on drugs has proven that politics dominates hegemonic. The DoD will never reverse their zero-tolerance drug policy, in our opinion. The majority of the push from MM proponents comes in states where MM is already legal. In Colorado the legislature has already rejected the classifications of PTSD as a justifiable license for MM. Since PTSD’s symptoms can include drug abuse there is justifiable concern. There is a need for due diligence to the veterans coming back from harm’s way with severe emotional trauma. If there was even mild evidence that marijuana aided with this trauma then there are worse things than cannabis-smoking veterans.
David Lynch Foundation’s transcendental meditation approach is by far the preferable path, but meditation is not for everyone. Polls show that the majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. But this is not a legalization issue. This is an issue of medicine and treatment. Having known many veterans with PTSD I can say with some authority that the hyper vigilance associated with the disorder could be medicated with a sedative like marijuana but most veterans would not choose this. Of the PTSD combat veterans I have known, most crave the hyper vigilance of their PTSD so much that they try to accentuate it with stimulants. The usage of cocaine in self-medicating PTSD sufferers is a well-documented fact. That being said, we do believe that MM should be given as an option to PTSD sufferers.
European governments currently test a host of “illicit” substance to relieve the sufferings of those traumatized by PTSD. Veterans who have given their sanity for a cause deserve all avenues to be open to them. Yes, people are going to take advantage, as they do with medical marijuana cards in California. But that does not obscure the advantages of exploring all paths in the treatment of PTSD.