PTSD and Medical Marijuana: A Better Path?
In late 2017, NBC reported a new FDA-approved clinical trial that sought to understand how medical marijuana helped returning veterans who were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports around 20 veterans commit suicide every day and the vast majority of those veterans suffer from PTSD. It’s not just veterans who are suffering, everyday people also have PTSD. If you’re a veteran or any other individual that is currently suffering from PTSD and the symptoms related to the disorder, keep reading as we explore the role of medical marijuana and how it may be a positive treatment option for you.
A Better Alternative
The one most prevalent common denominator in the NBC story was that all veterans noted medical marijuana is not only a better alternative to prescription opioids, but there are fewer, if any, fears of addiction. One veteran noted that he was on the verge of ending it all before he was provided an opportunity to try medical marijuana for his symptoms. He had been described 14 different drugs to help overcome the PTSD he experienced while at war. He said that in one day, he stopped all the pills “cold turkey.” He reached for the cannabis prescribed by his doctor, ready to either “find relief or suicide.” He is not alone, either. Many of those suffering from PTSD, military or otherwise, can relate to that sense of helplessness.
Federal Laws, Unique Challenges
There is a unique challenge for veterans, though, when it comes to medical cannabis: it is illegal under federal law, and the nation’s VA hospitals are under federal authority. This means not only can the Veterans’ Affairs facilities and hospitals not prescribe medical marijuana, but only recently, have they been allowed to discuss it with their patients as a possible treatment for PTSD. In 23 of the 29 states where medical marijuana is legal, PTSD is a qualifying condition. As an example, Arizona is home to more than half a million veterans and it is one of the states that makes it illegal to consume marijuana, medical or otherwise. The VA conducted its own studies and noted there was not enough evidence to make a determination, despite the testimony similar to what we included above.
Changes on the Horizon?
This doesn’t mean there aren’t options for veterans. There is overwhelming evidence that shows the many benefits for those suffering from PTSD, including symptoms that present as chronic physical pain, either with or without insomnia and anxiety. In a new guidance issued in the Spring of 2018, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs acknowledges that it cannot “recommend it or assist Veterans to obtain it.” It then notes that veteran participation in state marijuana programs will not affect a vet’s eligibility for VA care and services. Further, in 2018, VA providers were encouraged to discuss medical marijuana with veterans for the first time. The VA cites it as part of its overall “comprehensive care planning.”
The new text on the VA website includes reassurances that veterans will not be denied benefits if they participate in a state medical marijuana program. Vets are also encouraged to openly discuss this with their providers. While the information and any disclosures will be recorded in their files, again, the VA assures veterans it will not be used against them, noting, “As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.”
On the other hand, Veterans Administration clinicians are still prohibited to encourage medical marijuana nor are they allowed to assist with completing any paperwork. Prescriptions for medical marijuana will not be filled at VA pharmacies, and there will be no reimbursements for these prescriptions.
While it’s true that the majority of those suffering from PTSD are military veterans, there are those who have survived difficult times and suffered the long-term consequences as a result of the trauma. We encourage you to contact our offices and together discuss the options that might be available to you. The studies that reveal the benefits of medical marijuana for those dealing with PTSD are many. Many who suffer from PTSD commonly experience many effects, including:
- Loss of Appetite
- Withdrawal from family and work
To speak with a doctor and learn more about how medical marijuana may help with your PTSD, contact Serenity Medical Online today.