Let Veterans Turn Over A New Leaf

By Nancy Chan

More and more veterans are taking marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a concern since there are no conclusive results that reflect sustainable positive effects.

Marijuana, like drugs so often are, can be an unpredictable substance. Quantities of its psychoactive component delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and non-psychoactive component cannabidiol (CBD) vary from plant to plant; THC and CBD concentrations depend on cultivation method and strain.

Leafly.com, the world’s largest online marijuana resource, has information on 1,824 strains of marijuana as of 2016. Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, marijuana’s main strains, can still be crossbred with other hybrid strains in an untold number of ways.

Both professionals and enthusiasts have reasons for developing their own ideal ounce. The possibilities seem endless.  

Ironically, possibilities are marijuana’s greatest hindrance for societal approval. The drug is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, meaning our government believes it has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical treatment and no applicable safety standard.

Harder drugs like ecstasy and heroin are also identified as Schedule 1. The implication here is ridiculous.

Many veterans have reached a point where they feel outside approval is no longer necessary for their treatment of choice. Marijuana’s ability to reduce acute stress, anxiety and nightmares is enough to justify its use, even though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) acknowledges there are no studies on the number of veterans currently using marijuana or the benefits of marijuana for veterans suffering from PTSD.

Why not, if the side-effects of prescription drugs are known? Antidepressants such as Zoloft and sedatives such as Klonopin have decreasing effectiveness, and leave individuals feeling like zombies.    

One former marine veteran, Logan Edwards, was contacted by NBC News about how marijuana saved his life.

“The first time I used it, I wanted to cry. Because it did everything for me that the Oxycontin, benzodiazepines and antidepressants the VA prescribed me for three years did not do,” Edwards said. He believed cannabis allowed him to return to school and resume his relationships.

Cameron Shearer, a City College veteran who acquired PTSD from the 2014 Fort Hood Texas shooting, has a similarly positive outlook.  

“When I came back from Texas, I was taking 18 different medications in a given day,” Shearer said. “But since I started smoking pot, it’s down to four. I consider that an achievement.”

Shearer admittedly enjoys the plant’s versatility. Living with PTSD doesn’t seem like such a hard pill to swallow if there are less pills involved.

“This is the choice I like. It works. You can absorb it in many different ways,” Shearer said. “I could do things sober, but you can’t stop thinking about things and tears come up to your eyes.”

Lane Worley is another City College veteran with PTSD. His hands easily become clammy whenever he’s in a crowd or an area with a lot of people, including class.

“The thing you need to understand is prescribed drugs are meant for you and are not meant for the public,” Worley said.

Worley is not the only one aware of the stigmas. Veterans already have trouble reintegrating themselves into society, whether it’s finding employers or friends.   

To that end, marijuana does have uses. But a lot more needs to be done for veterans’ sakes, including actual government studies and potential alternative therapies.

They deserve our care.

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Send an email to: Nancy Chan