The War at Home With PTSD

4270001055_ac8bf9b5fd_z“A small trouble is like a pebble. Hold it too close to your eye and it fills the whole world and puts everything out of focus. Hold it at a proper distance and it can be examined and properly classified. Throw it at your feet and it can be seen in its true setting, just one more tiny bump on the pathway of life.     Celia Luce

“The U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) recently adopted a policy prohibiting VA physicians from recommending medical marijuana to their patients, even if marijuana is the safest and most effective medicine to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other service-related conditions.”

“No doubt the policy stems, in part, from the VA’s efforts to address the serious problem of drug abuse among returning veterans. Veterans’ advocates and organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) certainly share this concern; last fall, DPA issued a report calling for immediate policy changes to improve veterans’ substance abuse and mental health treatment.”

“Yet seen from the larger perspective of helping veterans adjust to civilian life, the VA’s stance on medical marijuana is counterproductive and harmful. The ban means that–despite their service to our country–veterans who reside in the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana are denied the same rights as every other resident of these states.”

“At minimum, the VA should be actively studying whether cannabis and its unique chemical ingredients can be used to reduce post-combat trauma without contributing to drug dependency. Ample research and anecdote strongly suggest this is the case.”

2.  From Sue Major Holmes: “Medical Marijuana and PTSD: VA Doctors Can’t Prescribe Pot Despite New Mexico’s Promising Example”:

“When Paul Culkin came home to New Mexico after serving with an Army bomb squad in Iraq, he tried counseling and medications offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to cope with his post traumatic stress disorder.”

“Nothing worked very well. Then he found a new alternative: marijuana.”

“New Mexico is the only state that explicitly allows people with PTSD to smoke pot under its medical marijuana law – an issue that is getting attention around the country at a time when traumatized vets are coming home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in large numbers.”

“New Mexico’s medical marijuana law has created a conundrum for the Veterans Affairs, which does not allow its doctors to prescribe pot because the drug is illegal in the eyes of the federal government. So, patients like Culkin must seek out an endorsement from a private doctor.”

“PTSD accounts for more patients than any other of the state’s 16 eligible debilitating conditions approved for medical marijuana treatment.”

“Culkin wishes the VA could provide it.”

“Oh my God, it would be so helpful,” said Culkin, 30, who heads the New Mexico Medical Marijuana Patients Group formed last December as a support and education group.”

“If the VA handled all needs – including medical cannabis – care for veterans would improve, he said, because the doctor would know everything about the patient.”

“If these guys fought the hardest they could, why not give them the best medicine, or an alternative medicine you can?” Culkin said.”

3.  From Stacy Bannerman: “Husbands Who Bring the War Home”:

“About 63,000 soldiers will return from combat tours between July and December. According to military statistics, nearly half of active-duty National Guard members, 38 percent of Army soldiers, and 31 percent of Marines report mental health problems upon return from Middle East deployments.”

“If just 20 percent of them have post-combat stress, then it can reasonably be projected that roughly half of those veterans will commit at least one act of severe domestic abuse or interpersonal violence in the coming year. That’s approximately 6,300 veterans’ wives and kids who are at risk.”

“President Obama declared that major combat operations in Iraq are over. They may just be starting for thousands of America’s military family members.”

4.  From Matt Ferner: “Veterans Still Can’t Discuss Medical Marijuana With Their VA Doctors”:

On Wednesday evening, the House voted down an amendment that would allow veterans the opportunity to discuss medical cannabis as a form of treatment in states that have legalized the substance for medical purposes.

Introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), the amendment would have altered the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to allow qualified veterans easier access to medical cannabis in the 21 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana.

The Department of Veterans Affairs currently bans physicians from recommending state-legal medical marijuana to veteran patients.

Blumenauer’s amendment wouldn’t have allowed VA doctors to prescribe or provide medical marijuana to veteran patients, but it would have allowed for the physicians to have open discussions with their patients and kept VA funding from being used to implement medical marijuana prohibition. The amendment text, via Blumenauer’s office, read:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement Veterans Health Administration directive 2011-004 with respect to the prohibition on “VA providers from completing forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding a Veteran’s participation in a State marijuana program.”

The amendment was killed by a 225-195 vote. However, Blumenauer said that despite the loss, the vigorous debate and close vote was a signal that progress was being made on medical marijuana issues.

“There was a spirited and very strong floor debate in support of the amendment,” Blumenauer said. “The move toward making marijuana reform less of a partisan issue was underscored as there were more Republicans voting for the amendment than Democrats voting against. And, with probable votes of members who were absent, it’s very likely the vote total in favor or my amendment would’ve been 200 or more.”

Twenty-two Republicans joined the 173 Democrats who voted in favor of the amendment, while 18 Democrats joined the majority of Republicans who voted against it.

“It’s inexplicable and inexcusable that VA doctors can’t answer their patients’ questions and give their best advice,” Blumenauer added.

The VA estimates that as many as 20 percent of soldiers who recently served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to The Associated Press. Scientists have speculated that marijuana could help veterans suffering from PTSD symptoms, which can include anxiety, flashbacks and depression.

Earlier this year, the federal government signed off on a historic study looking at marijuana as a treatment for veterans with PTSD. The study will examine the effects of five different potencies of smoked or vaporized cannabis on 50 veterans suffering from PTSD.

Currently, there are ten states that allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for PTSD-related symptoms.

Picture Credit.

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