06 July 2015

PTSD Help for the Returning Veteran

As I write this, I’m reminded of my personal experiences as well as people near to me that have had their bouts with PTSD. From my Uncle in Vietnam, my fellow Devil Dogs, and even a woman I met by chance who was crying in front of a hotel where I was staying. She was in town for her brother’s funeral. He lost track of what was real, and eventually was shot by local police enforcement. It’s a serious issue leading some to believe that the only way to stop the pain is to just to end it all. The last statistic I heard was 22 Veterans per day had decided there was no help available to them, and there was only one solution.
Unfortunately we live in a pharmaceutical based society where engineered pills are made to mask the problems but end up creating additional problems like addiction. There are many mind-altering drugs that have a laundry list of dangerous side effects. For a large portion of Veterans seeking the assistance of the VA, they are given painkillers for long-term use. The doctors are limited in their options for management and we have seen a 270% rise in opiates being prescribed in the last 12 years. A study by a Veterans Administration researcher found that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were nearly twice as likely to be prescribed opioids as those without mental-health problems. They are given narcotics equivalent to heroin, or morphine.
Whatever your personal beliefs may be, cannabis has been proven to be far more effective in combatting PTSD. No one has ever died from cannabis use, which is an enormous plus in my book. It’s non-addictive and there is a lot of work being put into making low-to-non-psychoactive strains that are high in CBD (Cannabidiol), and low in THC (the psychoactive chemical).
In a historic moment for the rights of Veterans everywhere, recently the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve an amendment that would allow doctors in the Department of Veteran Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans.
A study by the University of Haifa found that the introduction of cannabinoids immediately following trauma might actually prevent the development of PTSD symptoms. Not only that, but CBD has also been proven effective as a treatment for anxiety, a prominent symptom of PTSD. Additionally, a study showed the application of THC in a consistent regimen for PTSD sufferers caused a statistically significant improvement in the severity of symptoms.

One investigator of PTSD and cannabis is the One investigator of PTSD and cannabis is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Martin Lee is a MAPS affiliate and director of Project CBD, and has studied PTSD and cannabinoids in depth. “Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD,” Lee wrote, “Innate to all mammals, anandamide (our inner cannabis, so to speak) triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant.”

In other words, one impact of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency: the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill receptor sites, and this is where the cannabinoids found in marijuana play a therapeutic role. By replenishing these missing endocannabinoids with those found in cannabis, researchers think marijuana pharmaceuticals might bring PTSD patients relief from their memories.
“Scientists have determined that normal CB-1 receptor signaling deactivates traumatic memories and endows it with the gift of forgetting,” Lee said, “But skewed CB-1 signaling, due to endocannabinoid deficits (low serum levels of anandamide), results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the hallmarks of PTSD.”

We are making slow headway in helping Veterans, but it is happening. It’s just a matter of putting real science at the forefront, and blocking out uneducated prejudices that would stop us from providing the help that people need.

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