I am elated that PTSD is now a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. This will also be a wonderful healing process for family and friends of PTSD survivors because their health and mood can affect relationships and overall stability in life. Cannabis has helped me to cope with the stress of being a caregiver for someone who is medically fragile.
My husband Daniel is an Honorably Discharged Disabled Veteran. He served in the Army for six years and was discharged July 2012. He is diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Tinnitus, and Sinusitis, and has bulging discs in his back which are all military related. We were married four years before my husband came home from his second tour in Iraq with a multitude of health problems and night terrors where he would wake up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat and paralyzed in fear. From night terrors to hypervigilance, my husband has lived on the cusp of a chronic fight-or-flight state which, made even simple tasks like walking through a crowd overwhelming.
PTSD, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety condition caused by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions. Symptoms may include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety, or depressed mood. The persistence of PTSD over time is attributed to changes in brain chemistry that occur at the time of the trauma, when adrenaline and stress hormones are hyper-responsive.
Trauma survivors who have PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. Their symptoms can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem-solving, which may affect the way the survivor acts with others.
PTSD may be caused by an endocannabinoid deficiency where the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill receptor sites. This is where the cannabinoids found in cannabis are thought to play a therapeutic role. By replenishing these missing endocannabinoids with those found in cannabis, researchers think cannabis might bring PTSD patients relief from their experiences.
PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults in a given year, though the disorder can develop at any age including childhood. About 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.
Here are some facts (based on the U.S. population):
- About 7 to 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
- About 8 million adults experience PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have experienced trauma.
- About 10 out of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives, compared to a rate of 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).
According to the National Center for PTSD: “Rates of PTSD are much higher in children and adolescents recruited from at-risk samples. The rates of PTSD in these at-risk children and adolescents vary from 3 to 100%.” According to The Effects of High Stress on the Brain and Body in Adolescents report from Yale, Stress is believed to contribute to the physical and behavioral health problems of adolescents.
PTSD and the Military
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
- Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
- Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.
Currently, the main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy and medication. Daniel would come home from the VA with bags of medication. None of which helped my husband, but in fact made his symptoms worse and caused him to sleep for days. We have incorporated cannabinoid therapy in his daily regimen since 2013 and he is recovering with great strides. We incorporate whole plant medicine high in CBD, THC, and CBN. He still has irregular sleeping patterns, but he is not up for three to four days straight as often. We are still addressing his insomnia which has left him with extreme work limitations. I have seen wonderful improvements in mood, depression, and anxiety.
"Getting better" means different things to different people. There are many different treatment options for PTSD. For many people, cannabinoid therapy can get rid of symptoms altogether. Others find they have fewer symptoms or feel that their symptoms are less intense. PTSD symptoms don't have to interfere with everyday activities, work, and relationships. I am overjoyed that Bill SB17-017 has passed through the legislature in Colorado. I am hopeful that medical and non-medical marijuana states will soon follow suit because everyone has the right to quality of life.
IN THE NEWS: PTSD is the first new qualifying condition added under the state’s medical marijuana law since its implementation in 2001. The state’s eight other qualifying conditions are: cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, cachexia, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea and severe pain.
“Allow Medical Marijuana Use For Stress Disorders” Bill SB17-017
Sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar, D; Rep. Jonathan Singer, D
Summary: The bill creates a statutory right to use medical marijuana for a patient with acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill creates the same rights, limitations, and criminal defenses and exceptions as the constitutional right to use medical marijuana.
Status: Passed General Assembly on April 25; signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper
Effective date: June 5, 2017
-Lacie, Care Specialist, Devoted wife and caregiver
THE REALM OF CARING is conducting research on those with PTSD, specifically, as part of our Observational Research Registry. Participants are asked to complete a general baseline survey, and those who qualify are sent a PTSD-specific survey the following month. Click here to register.