Should PTSD Patients Use Cannabis? Vets Say Yes

Update June 2017: Finally! 5 years after full legalization in Colorado and 16 years after medical marijuana legalization, veterans are now allowed to use marijuana in Colorado for PTSD without risking their Federal VA benefits.

Inclusion as a legitimate medical use means Vets and others with PTSD can acquire medical cannabis that is best suited for treating anxiety and related symptoms of the syndrome.

Many forward-thinking states are already allowing cannabis as a treatment for patients suffering from ailments such as cancer, or side effects of HIV/AIDS medications.

But there is a large group of people who are struggling to have their needs met and to draw attention to a condition which may have been overlooked.

Marine Corps veteran Sean Azzanti recently promoted medical marijuana use in a television ad, by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

He told voters that he and thousands of other veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following two tours of duty in Iraq, according to the GAZETTE.  Attempting to live within the guidelines of what is medically legal in his state, Azzanti tried to relieve ongoing stress and anxiety through prescribed pharmaceutical pills.  But he said they brought him no relief.

But Azzanti’s friends from service who suffered similar anxieties told him they found relief from PTSD from cannabis. Its benefits have been well documented in other studies.

“Marijuana helped me from the moment I started using it,” Azzanti said in the ad.  “It calmed me down. It slowed my heart rate down. My anxiety was gone almost immediately.”

PTSD and Prescription Opiates

Veterans, particularly those returning from war often have a variety of very serious physical ailments as well. But prescription drug pain treatments like Oxycontin are highly addictive and dangerous, killing thousands of people per year.

And the worse news is that veterans with PTSD are often at the highest risk of opiate addiction.

New Mexico a Leader in Cannabis for PTSD

In 2009 New Mexico was the first to allow PTSD to be covered with a marijuana card following the release of numerous studies that found it a suitable treatment.  Today between 2,000 and 3,000 PTSD sufferers are using cannabis in New Mexico to relieve the symptoms.

Since then, Oregon, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, and now Colorado have added PTSD to the approved conditions for use of medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

There are states that allow medical marijuana, but PTSD remains excluded from the list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana card.

In states like Washington and Massachusetts where all use is now legal, veterans and victims of trauma will be able to use cannabis to treat themselves to relieve their symptoms.

But in most cases, even those with legal medical marijuana, it is not an approved medical use.

That should change as medical cannabis continues to become widely accepted, now legal in 20 states.

Veterans will be watching. They deserve better, as does anyone facing post-traumatic stress symptoms.