With so much in the news of late about the horrific shortcomings in the medical care provided for our military veterans, you might think that no opportunity to improve their situation would be overlooked. Yet one stone remains unturned: the federally-sanctioned use of cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD is not unique to the military, of course. Anyone experiencing trauma might exhibit symptoms. But the condition is widely associated with our veterans due to the large numbers of those who’ve returned from Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflicts with PTSD symptoms. And those symptoms are many, running the gamut from anxiety, depression and hostility to insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks. Even worse, PTSD is associated with higher rates of suicide.
A simple internet search reveals persuasive arguments dating back to 2012 for allowing the use of cannabis to treat PTSD symptoms. There are mountains of anecdotal evidence showing that cannabis provides substantial relief for many PTSD issues. And yet the very first FDA-approved study of cannabis for treating PTSD in veterans remains in progress.
The states are doing a somewhat better job, with 28 states currently noting PTSD as an accepted use for medical marijuana. Still, that’s just more than half, so clearly some work remains.
In October of 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported that PTSD was the most common condition cited by those using medical marijuana in Illinois (fibromyalgia and cancer were second and third). In that article, a veteran compares his use of medical cannabis to the prescription painkillers and antidepressants he used to take, saying, ““I have more good days in between my bad days. More important, when I do have a bad day, it’s like a road bump, nothing like it used to be.”
So why would anyone resist the idea? Opponents maintain that cannabis merely masks the symptoms of PTSD without treating the root causes. That may be so, but it’s kind of like saying an aspirin masks the symptoms of a headache. When you’re in pain – physical or emotional – you simply want relief, and by all indications cannabis provides that relief. And few would argue that the relief provided by cannabis brings far fewer side effects than the current combinations of opioids, anti-anxiety pills and other medications being used to treat PTSD.
We think it’s time for the federal government and the remaining states to do the right thing by our veterans and provide them at least the opportunity to seek alternate means of relief for PTSD.