Medicating War with Marijuana, Part One

In Part One of a two part series, Pronews 7 takes a closer look at the fight to legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes and whether or not it could be used to help veterans with PTSD.

Reports show that 30 percent of veterans are diagnosed with PTSD. The psychiatric condition, also known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, causes people to relive nightmares, have flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged from people after experiencing or witnessing a life threatening event. Advocates of medical marijuana have begun to argue that the controversial drug could have a calming effect on veterans and potentially help them with these symptoms.

â??Itâ??s doing the studies, doing the test runs, and seeing the benefits with these patients. A lot of the states are allowing this now. Maine is one of the new ones,â?? said John Montgomery, CEO of out of California. â??Again, when you have thousands of soldiers or individuals that suffer from PTSD that say this improves or this helps me, itâ??s a voice we have to listen to.â??

The Amarillo VA has a different approach to dealing with PTSD. They have holistic programs that offer therapy, exercise, camaraderie, and extracurricular activities. Michael Lambert, head physician of the mental health department of the VA, explained his approach to PTSD.

â??Itâ??s called the silent wound and I like to think of it more as an injury than an illness in a way. And that makes sense because it takes time and itâ??s a process,â?? said Lambert.

Lambert explained that the VA recommends a list of medications once a person is diagnosed with PTSD. The list was lengthy, but Lambert said they now have medications that do not sedate the veterans as much as they used to and are much less chemically-based. However, new research suggest that medicinal marijuana could also be considered an aid to veterans and could help combat symptoms like anxiety and the ability to sleep with less harsh chemicals than the currently prescribed medication. However, Lambert disagreed.

â??The best responses are from people who stop drinking, they donâ??t use drugs and avoidance mechanisms that are chemical based,â?? said Lambert.

But two veterans spoke out on the issue and said that medications can be helpful, but problematic as well.

â??It helps a lot. It does help when you get put on meds. Itâ??s just, you donâ??tâ?? want to get thrown into so many different types where they counteract with each other and they just make you a zombie,â?? said David Bridges, an Iraq veteran.

Edward Garcia and David Bridges are veterans from Vietnam and Iraq respectively, and both agree that PTSD is an individual diagnosis and that there is not a blanket remedy. But both agree that if medical marijuana helps, soldiers should be allowed to use it.

â??When I get excited, you know, I need something to calm me down really quick. I canâ??t wait four or five days for those pills to work. And marijuana seems to do that,â?? said Garcia.

â??I do support the fact that, if it would help and individual, to calm them down, because a lot of times itâ??s anxiety," said Bridges.

Any possession of marijuana in the state of Texas, even for medical purposes, is illegal as it is still considered a schedule one drug. However, local attorney Jeff Blackburn said it can be defendable in court through a very complicated process. But he believes that state and the courts must make a change to allow for its use medicinally.

â??What we need, for starters, is to decriminalize possession and we need to create a defense expressly based on necessity for people that really need it. Then we ought to let the jurors decide,â?? said Blackburn.

Though it may not be on the ballot box this year, advocates and opponents have agreed that the issue of legalizing marijuana could be coming to Texas soon.