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Treating PTSD with Marijuana

Treating PTSD with Marijuana

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.

About karololesiak

Karol Olesiak is a poet, writer, and activist. He is a graduate of Eugene Lang Liberal Arts College at The New School and an MFA student at The University of San Francisco. As a Navy sailor, he commissioned the USS Ronald Reagan, navigated the straits of Magellan, and served in the Persian Gulf. In 2011 Karol headlined The Bowery Poetry Club in New York. That same year he became a staunch supporter of The Occupy Wall Street Movement and became entrenched in the Occupy network of affinity groups. Karol was one of the founders of www.soldiersforthecause.org. He became an antiwar activist in 2010 and has written many political essays. He has been translated into Spanish. Karol's poetry has been incorporated into cinematography and sound art.


  1. As a 100% disabled vet with chronic PTSD I strongly support your work both from a medical and political viewpoint.
    In 2010 I wrote to the directors of the Battle Creek, MI. VA medical center and the Ann Arbor, MI. VA medical center asking for them to allow veteran patients to take marijuana as an adjunct to VA treatments. Both directors responded with a positive letter to me stating that vet patients at their medical centers would be allowed to take medical marijuana without any punishment, since MI. has a legal marijuana program in place.
    They did also state that VA physicians would not be allowed to sign any state permit forms.
    Several of my health care professionals at the VA do support my taking marijuana for medical reasons, because they see how much it helps me cope with the manifestations of PTSD as an adjunct therapy.
    I was the founder of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access (VMMA) and acquired the endorsement from Veterans For Peace board of directors.
    Thank you all for your work keeping the injustice visible. Occupy!!!

    Martin H. Chilcutt

    • First of all, thank you for your service. I apologize for taking so long to respond to your comment. I believe this is an important issue to more then the majority of this country; but for those that sacrifice in the uniform there shouldn’t be any discussion. Unfortunately, the VA is not an organization that will move on this issue quickly. It will be up to medical professionals outside of the VA to provide ‘permit forms’ pro bono in states that do allow medicinal marijuana. I can’t imagine that people prescribed medical marijuana for anxiety or depression should be allotted permissions before combat veterans with legitimate traumas. It will also be up to folks who own dispensaries to provide low cost medicine to vets instead of waiting for the state governments to act. I know in California some dispensaries provide discounts to prior military but, in my opinion, operating at a loss for the 7% of the population who have worn the uniform would show that this is a legitimate subset of the medical industry. Thank you again for commenting.

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