In military personnel and veterans, this number rises to more than 30 percent. PTSD amongst veterans is at an all-time high.
Take Robert Vessels, who always knew he wanted to join the Army. He did so the moment he graduated from high school. Soon he was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq during the height of combat operations. The Army suddenly wasn’t what he thought it would be. Thus, he returned from war full of disillusionment. He was riddled with guilt. Full of hopelessness. He stayed isolated in his room. Drinking, playing video games and emerged only for meals.
The story below was got from a website where American vets share their stories.
My friend did 4 tours in Iraq, witnessing shit that I wouldn’t even repeat on here because it depresses me to even think about it. He got out of the military 4 years ago. When he got back he couldn’t adjust, used to go for cover sometimes when he heard loud noises, would break down crying almost every time we got drunk, it just tore him apart.
He went to the VA numerous times and was told there was a massive backlog for counselling but was prescribed heavy amounts of sedatives to try and help him cope. I remember him saying around this time “I haven’t slept in 4 days and I haven’t even drank a cup of coffee, I just wanna sleep.”
He got addicted to these sedatives while waiting for the counseling, then opiates when those wouldn’t calm him anymore, got a girl pregnant, married her and she left him when she couldn’t take his anger issues and the fact he woke up screaming quite often or would stay up for days at a time, basically on guard duty in his own fucking living room. He has done two stints in jail for assault since then, wasn’t allowed to see his kid for a long time, basically stopped talking to everyone.
Eventually, and thank God for this, he got into a twelve-step program for the drugs, which led him to open up and by then he could get the counselling he needed, as he had also been in VA mental hospitals numerous times by now. I saw him a few months ago at a wedding. He looks like he is doing better, but he is still kinda quiet. I know he made some bad choices in all of this, but I often wonder if he was changed by those horrible experiences or if things could’ve been radically different if he got the help he needed when he needed it.
PTSD is real and it’s raw. Medical cannabis, however, can help. There are countless veterans (and others) who have found relief for PTSD by using cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound found in medical cannabis.
How CBD Works for PTSD
Martin Lee is an affiliate of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies(MAPS). He is also the director of Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical uses of CBD. Lee has studied both CBD and PTSD 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,” says Lee. “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, people who suffer from PTSD are believed to have an endocannabinoid deficiency. By replenishing endocannabinoid receptors sites with cannabis compounds such as CBD and THC, researchers believe patients find the much-needed relief they need.
It’s not uncommon for people who suffer from PTSD to have vivid flashbacks of the event (or events) that have triggered their PTSD. Dr J Douglas Bremner is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University who has studied PTSD in depth says,
The hippocampus is responsible for storing memories. The lower hippocampal function can lead PTSD sufferers to experience flashbacks of an event as if they were happening in the present moment.
CBD however, has shown to improve hippocampus function. This has a direct impact on short-term memory loss. In the case of PTSD, CBD can help patients overcome the haunting flashbacks associated with the condition.
While the body may stop producing endocannabinoids that fill these receptor sites in the brain, the cannabinoids in cannabis (namely CBD and THC) can replenish these areas. This is what leads scientists to believe that cannabis can bring relief from the disturbing memories associated with PTSD.
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.
Stress and Anxiety
CBD has also shown to be extremely effective for stress and anxiety, both common symptoms of PTSD. SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Zoloft and Prozac are commonly prescribed, as well as benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. While these medications work for some, they don’t work for everyone. They can also be extremely habit forming, with a slew of negative side effects.
CBD however, has proven to be an excellent all-natural alternative to these prescription medications. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid has shown to be effective for several types of anxiety-related problems, including:
- General anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social Phobia
- Mild to moderate depression
It’s believed the reason CBD is so effective for treating anxiety because it’s thought to boost signalling to serotonin receptors. It enhances 5-HT1A transmission, much like other prescriptions that are used to treat anxiety disorders.
CBD’s effects on the hippocampus are also believed to have an anti-anxiety effect. Like SSRIs, CBD has a positive effect on neurogenesis, explaining why it can be so beneficial for relieving stress and anxiety.
Dependency and Addiction
And if you suffer from PTSD and have become hooked on the opioids prescribed for pain and other symptoms, you’re certainly not alone. According to the VA, between 2010 and 2015, the number of vets addicted to opioids rose 55 percent to a total of roughly 68,000.
Cannabis, however, has shown to help people overcome their opioid addiction. Not only is CBD a natural pain reliever, but many are beginning to see its benefits as an option for addiction therapy.
Former Marine Who Used Cannabis to Help Get off Opiates and Other Prescription Medication
Take Michael Whittier (41) from Philadelphia, for example. Whittier says that after 11 years in the Marines, he began having “some emotional problems.” Depressed and anxious, he went to see a psychiatrist and was “put on a bunch of pills.” He was put on medical board shortly after, got out, and went to his local VA office. Whittier says, “they just started piling me up with medications.”
He was on methadone for pain, but when he complained he didn’t like it, the VA put him on extended-release morphine instead. He was also prescribed Klonopin for anxiety, taking a cocktail of pills every day that soon had him hooked.
Whitter says he was watching National Geographic one day and saw a show about cannabis and veterans. This was a major turning point in his life. He made the decision to forgo using his prescribed medications and use only medical cannabis instead.
“It wasn’t easy,” says Whitter. “I stayed very high the first two or three weeks. I had to keep taking one of my antidepressants in smaller doses because I was having withdrawal symptoms from it. It was worse than the opiates. But I stayed pretty sick. I locked myself in my house until I got over it.”
Whitter is open and honest about his experience.
“Cannabis,” he says, “is not going to dull the pain as much as the opiates are, but it’s also not going to dull your mind. If you get off that stuff you’re going to get sick as hell, but weed will help you through the sickness and it also helps with the pain, with your mood. It will help with everything that’s going on. Because with pain comes depression and anxiety. If you’re in pain long enough, it messes with your mind. And cannabis helps with that.”
Getting off opioids prescribed for PTSD and pain isn’t easy. In fact, its one of the hardest things veterans (and civilians) can face. There’s a reason our country is in the midst of the worst opioid epidemic ever. Opioids are almost impossible to stop taking. And while it’s never easy to quit an opioid addiction, cannabis can help get you through.
“I’ll never say that cannabis cured me of anything,” Whitter says. “Because I did the work. But cannabis really helped me engage with therapy. It helped with self-reflection, to get to know myself better. Cannabis gives me a perspective on things. When I was using opiates and the other medications, the only perspective I had was what I was seeing on TV. It’s a totally different medicine. Cannabis helps people, and the other stuff is killing them.”