Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threating event. An estimated 30 percent of men and women who spend time in war zones experience PTSD.
â??Well, Iâ??d had a lot of guys say that I was crazy, you know, like psychotic or something like that. Which I really wasnâ??t,â?? said Edward Garcia, a Vietnam veteran. â??When I was going off the walls and getting anxious, that was all the PTSD.
Edward Garcia and David Bridges served in separate wars, decades apart from each other. One was drafted into the Vietnam War while the other wanted a life as a career soldier. However, though their paths may have been different, their struggles with PTSD were the same. Both discussed the difficulties of wanting to isolate themselves, battling depression, and feeling anxious in large groups of people or around people in general. They said there is no way of truly explaining what PTSD is like to anyone who has not experienced it.
â??You might see it as weakness or whatever, but youâ?¦ unless youâ??ve been through it or youâ??ve been in combat or in war, you canâ??t explain it to anybody,â?? said David Bridges, a veteran of Iraq.
Both veterans agree that medication is the first step to recovery after being diagnosed. Michael Lambert, Chief of Mental Services at the Amarillo VA, likens PTSD to an injury more than an illness, and explains it as something that takes time and patience. However, Bridges said that when was first given an onslaught of medication, it was difficult to figure out which medications worked best for him, and he quickly lost motivation and described the experience as feeling â??like a zombieâ??.
â??They threw so much at me. I didnâ??t know what to do with myself a lot of the time and I think I was more depressed when I started the medication. Once I figured it out and got it all leveled out, it got much better,â?? said Bridges.
Advocates for the use of medical marijuana by veterans have begun to push for the plant being an option for veterans. Their idea is that veterans should be able to make the choice and decide how to medicate themselves based on their individual needs.
â??Let the patients choose. Let their voice be heard. You know, put it on the list of acceptable drugs for these patients to be able to administer,â?? said John Montgomery, CEO of Kushlabs.com out of California. Montgomery specializes in separating strains of marijuana to determine their specific medical use.
However, despite the push and the recent research into the specific use for medical marijuana, some are still skeptical that a drug could help with any problem.
â??Anything that is going to numb you to what youâ??re feelingâ?¦. Then that means youâ??re not addressing the real problem,â?? said Laviza Matthews of Impact Futures.
According to the DEA, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug, which defines it as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential of abuse. However, recent research has been surfacing arguing that marijuana could have benefits for certain illness like cancer, aidsâ?¦ or even PTSD.
â??The science is absolutely, totally, crystal clear on this, OK? Marijuana is good for about 13 separate medical conditions. Period,â?? said attorney, Jeff Blackburn, who is a strong advocate for the legalization of the drug.
The VA rejected any idea that marijuana could be a substitute from already prescribed medication. They defended their holistic approach and new medications that do not sedate the patients and said that medical marijuana, drugs, or alcohol, mask the issues of PTSD instead of asking the patient to confront them.
â??Thereâ??s no research evidence supporting the use of any illegal substance or marijuana in areas where that is legal, for PTSD. That has just not been support,â?? said Lambert.
Twenty states and the District of Colombia have enacted laws enabling patients to carry medical marijuana with a doctorâ??s permission. But what would it take for the state of Texas?
â??My advice for a state like Texas would be to do baby steps. Follow these other states like Maine, Oregon, Washington and allow a very small amount of dispensaries in the beginning, let the kinks get worked out, let the public get educated on the industry and then ramp it up from there, â?? said Montgomery.
â??The right way to do it is by scientific research and proper investigation. The medicine by the ballot box just really puts public health at risk,â?? said Matthews.