Wars have been waged for years, leaving behind the many surviving veterans who so bravely fought alongside fellow allies and countrymen. While statistics on those that return home with PTSD aren’t entirely clear, it’s estimated that around 20% of all those that do come back from war suffer from PTSD and/or depression.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, affects some 3 million people and is especially common in those who have experienced medical combat. Nightmares and flashbacks can become haunting, and there is little that takes away the often debilitating mental symptoms that accompany this common condition. Sleep deprivation, insomnia, anxiety, and stress are all too familiar to those who suffer from the saddening symptoms of PTSD.
Hope for PTSD Sufferers found in Medical Marijuana
Studies conducted in the US, Canada and abroad however, have shown medical marijuana to show promise for those who experience symptoms of PTSD. And although there are many reports of those suffering from PTSD finding relief through medical marijuana, few large conducted studies have been made to prove its efficacy.
Those that believe in medical marijuana to treat PTSD however vehemently back the power this plant possesses. In 2013, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center conducted an endeavor that highlighted a connection between the cannabinoid receptors in the human brain and post-traumatic stress disorder. The study was the first to show that those that suffer from PTSD have lower levels of at least one endocannabinoid than those that don’t have PTSD. Consequently, this endocannabinoid is known as anandamide, a word derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss.
While there hasn’t been much study on anandamide and humans, in rats this powerful chemical has shown to impair memory. With anandamide missing in those that suffer from PTSD it’s no wonder they can’t stop reliving the terrible memories that haunt them. And it just so happens that using medical marijuana seems to help replace endocannabinoid levels to their pre-PTSD state.
Alexander Neumeister, MD, who was the lead author of this effort to highlight the positive effects of medical marijuana for those who suffer from PTSD, had the following to say:
“There’s not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD. That’s a problem. There’s a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as antidepressant simple do not work. In fact, we know very well that people with PTSD who use marijuana — a potent cannabinoid — often experience more relief from their symptoms than they do from antidepressants and other psychiatric medications. Clearly, there’s a very urgent need to develop novel evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”
Not Everyone Agrees on Medical Marijuana for PTSD
Unfortunately not everyone who backs medical marijuana believes in its power to help with PTSD. Take Colorado for instance, whose marijuana policies are being watched from people worldwide. In July 2015, Colorado rejected adding PTSD to the list of conditions medical marijuana can be used to treat. So although its legal for recreational use and the state is raking in tax payer’s dollars, the very veterans that have fought for freedom are not able to receive it for the medical help they so desperately need.
Because of the lack of scientific evidence behind medical marijuana for PTSD, only nine states out of the 23 that support medical marijuana have included it for the treatment of this condition. And although countless veterans have attested to how positively medical marijuana has impacted their lives, its use still remains controversial.
Medical Marijuana in Canada for PTSD
Medical marijuana in Canada is a bit different when it comes to treating PTSD. Although there isn’t the scientific evidence to back cannabis as a treatment for PTSD, there are many Canadian medical marijuana patients who just so happen to be veterans looking for a way to quell symptoms of PTSD. In 2014, Veterans Affairs paid out $5.2 million for medical marijuana in Canada.
Prescriptions for medical marijuana in Canada are left up to physicians to decide on. So while this may make it easier to attain medical marijuana for PTSD than it would be for veterans in the States, it’s still up to a doctor to make the final decision. And without the scientific evidence to back it up, many prescribing physicians in Canada are turning their backs on medical marijuana for PTSD.
Enter “Marijuana for Trauma-Veterans Helping Veterans” in Cape Breton, Sydney. This newly formed center is one that is founded by a former military combat engineer who has endured PTSD for years. After finding relief for PTSD through medical marijuana, he believed fellow veterans needed a safe place to access cannabis after the 2014 closing of the Veteran’s Affairs Canada office in Sydney.
There are also three other Marijuana for Trauma centers located in Canada, all serving to help veterans (and others that suffer from PTSD) have safe access and real information concerning medical marijuana. A doctor regularly visits these offices that help those in need receive a prescription for medical marijuana, something they might not get otherwise by their regular prescribing physician.
Legal or not, those that suffer from PTSD are looking toward cannabis to help relieve the often incapacitating symptoms. And as more and more veterans that experience PTSD stand up to speak on the marvels medical marijuana contains to help them experience a “normal” life, there’s no doubt that the studies that the skeptics demand will be conducted and results will undoubtedly outweigh any doubt that is currently held.