Medical Marijuana Improves Treatment Options for North Carolina Veterans With PTSD
One demographic that could stand to benefit tremendously from getting a North Carolina Marijuana Card is veterans, a population that often faces unique physical and psychological challenges they incurred in the service of their country.
And while we don’t yet know what form the state’s medical marijuana law will finally take, it would be a great service to veterans if PTSD were recognized as one of the qualifying conditions. In fact, it could benefit thousands of North Carolinians if PTSD made the cut!
When you look at how medical marijuana can safely and effectively treat PTSD, it’s no wonder that so many states with medical marijuana programs recognize it as a qualifying condition. And if North Carolina wants to do right by its self-appointed nickname of the “Nation’s Most Military Friendly State,” our legislators won’t buck that trend.
Veterans with PTSD Some of the Most Important Marijuana Advocates
While experts say the medical marijuana movement began in California’s Bay area during the 1980s as a response to the AIDS crisis, the movement didn’t really gain momentum until it expanded to include other populations and other conditions.
And one of the populations that most helped move the marijuana needle was veterans, especially those who sought to treat their PTSD with cannabis. Scholars who study the movement say the inclusion of veterans helped sway some of the more conservative states that have established medical marijuana markets.
“It helped change the view of who a marijuana user is,” Daniel Mallinson, an assistant professor at the Penn State-Harrisburg School of Public Affairs told Kaiser Health. “That makes it more palatable in these legislatures where it wouldn’t have been before.”
And now experts say that veterans are likely to be a valuable tool for the movement going forward, as medical marijuana advocates try to establish markets in the 14 states that still haven’t gotten aboard the cannabis train.
What is PTSD?
PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a form of anxiety brought on by some past traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD are diverse, and each patient may be affected differently by their own battle with the condition.
And although the effects of PTSD are many and varied, common symptoms include intense phobias, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, blackouts, and hallucinations. In the worst cases, patients may become suicidal or violent.
What’s the Link Between Veterans and PTSD?
The VA has compiled some sobering data to show just how frequently and severely PTSD affects our service members and veterans.
And while anyone who has experienced a trauma can potentially develop PTSD, as these numbers remind us, our military personnel are subject to far more traumas than the average American. In fact, as you consider these numbers, keep in mind that the VA estimates that about 6% of all Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives, and it’s easy to see how PTSD disproportionately impacts our veterans and active personnel.
Between 10 and 11% of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans have PTSD in a given year.
About 12% of Desert Storm veterans deal with PTSD each year.
About 15% of Vietnam veterans deal with PTSD annually, with an estimated 30% having experienced it at some point in their lives.
How Can Medical Marijuana Help PTSD Patients?
Medical marijuana is a highly effective treatment for PTSD, because unlike traditional PTSD treatments, cannabis can address multiple symptoms of the condition.
Traditional PTSD treatment options
Although there are several treatments for PTSD patients, they don’t all effectively treat multiple kinds of PTSD symptoms, and are usually associated with negative side effects.
PTSD is a mental health problem, but it can cause physical symptoms in addition to psychological ones. Unfortunately, no traditional PTSD medications can address both kinds of symptoms, meaning patients often must undergo psychological counselling in conjunction with a cocktail of psych meds.
Treatment is also complicated by significant and intolerable side effects often caused by PTSD meds, such as weight gain and diminished sex drive. And because PTSD patients are often on multiple medications, that means even more side effects.
Medical Marijuana Effectively Treats PTSD, Reduces Need for Other Medications
Marijuana has been shown to effectively treat both the psychological and physical symptoms of PTSD. Researchers believe cannabis is able to provide this two-pronged relief when other PTSD meds can’t because there are cannabinoid receptors located in the brain and throughout the body, enabling marijuana to treat both kinds of symptoms.
And so medical marijuana can address psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms like chronic pain and sleep disorders.
In fact, not only has medical marijuana been shown to reduce the number of PTSD meds patients need to take, it has also been shown to reduce self-medication with drugs and alcohol.
Veterans’ PTSD Stories are Highly Persuasive
While anyone who has experienced a trauma could potentially develop PTSD, veterans are perhaps more associated with the condition than any other groups.
And as those veterans find relief with medical marijuana, many of them have joined up with and even started lobbying and advocacy groups to travel to states without medical marijuana programs or with programs that don’t recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition. Often, these veterans’ stories are highly effective at broadening access to medical marijuana for everyone, veterans and civilians alike.
According to Garrett Purdue, a spokesperson for NC Families for Medical Cannabis and the son of former governor Beverly Perdue, because veterans are so respected in North Carolina, legislators tend to find their stories especially moving and persuasive. “For [lawmakers] to hear stories of those people that are trusted to protect us and enforce the right of law,” Purdue told Kaiser Health News, “is pretty compelling.”
In fact, the reverence with which veterans are held throughout the South is expected to mean that their lobbying and involvement could make all of the difference in those Southern states that have yet to embrace medical marijuana.
For example, Chayse Roth, a former Marine and a resident of Wilmington, N.C., learned firsthand how persuasive his personal story was. Roth served multiple stints in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and has been working with NC Families for Medical Cannabis, testifying before legislative groups and meeting with individual lawmakers.
“I’ve lost more men to suicide since we went to Afghanistan in ’01 than I have in combat,” Roth told Kaiser Health. He said that although he doesn’t use marijuana, he wants others, especially suffering veterans, to have the option. “It’s just unacceptable for these guys to go overseas and win the battle and come home and lose the battle to themselves,” Roth said.
Millions Suffer from PTSD, not Just Veterans
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 6% of the U.S. will experience PTSD at some point. That’s 21 million Americans who are expected to suffer from this debilitating condition.
And while we don’t know how many North Carolinians are suffering from PTSD, if the VA’s estimate holds true here, that’s almost 630,000 North Carolinians who are expected to grapple with PTSD at some point in their lives.
That’s 630,000 people who will have no choice but to use traditional PTSD meds, with side effects that can include sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal distress, and impaired cognition and “brain fog,” because they lack a medical marijuana market.
Fortunately, some of the very same veterans who fought for us overseas have been fighting for us at home, traveling the nation to spread the word of medical marijuana’s ability to treat innumerable conditions, PTSD among them. And fortunately, their work appears to be paying off here in North Carolina, as we continue to move closer to a medical marijuana program of our own.
Could Medical Marijuana Benefit You?
You don’t have to wait until North Carolina passes a medical marijuana law to take your first steps to getting a North Carolina Marijuana Card.
Reserve an evaluation today with one of our caring doctors, and we’ll set you up with an appointment just as soon as the state’s medical marijuana program is up and running.
You’ll meet with your doctor virtually from the safety and convenience of your home, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. Not only will you learn if medical marijuana could benefit you without even leaving your sofa, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-7320, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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