Can Medical Marijuana Aid Vets & the Prescription Addiction Epidemic?

August 30, 2010 – For months, media reports have chronicled fiery debates over marijuana’s medicinal utility and its impact on our broader communities. But what about those constituencies who don’t have a lobbyist down at the Capitol or City Hall?

What about our veterans?

National polls consistently show support for medical marijuana rights at over 60 percent. A May Rasmussen report concluded that one in two Colorado voters support outright marijuana legalization, even for non-medicinal purposes. And while state officials now estimate Colorado’s official registered patient count somewhere about 130,000, skeptics remain firmly rooted to the stereotype that patients are just a bunch of lazy hippies looking to evade marijuana prohibition. As a medical marijuana caregiver, I have the honor of serving a couple hundred of our state’s patients on a regular basis. They are anything but lazy or law-evading. Like me, many of them are vets. They are my motivation for writing today.

As a proud Marine who served over two decades ago, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to the health care options we provide to my fellow armed service members who returned home with immense physical and emotional scars.

Well-intentioned though overworked physicians at our nation’s veteran hospitals prescribe anti-depressants and narcotic painkillers with abandon. The net result: VA patients turn into addicts, held captive, not by the injuries that first made them seek medical help, but rather by the addictive pills that were supposed to free them from their agony.

Today, Colorado is one of more than a dozen states where narcotic painkillers are the leading cause of accidental death. Such drug overdoses kill more people than car accidents, including those caused by drunken drivers, Meanwhile, I have yet to find a single documented case where marijuana independently caused a single death in U.S. history.

A 2008 Pentagon survey found one in four soldiers admitting to prescription drug abuse, with another 15 percent saying they had abused painkillers within the previous 30 days. While Congress demanded action, the problem only continues to spiral out of control.

It was with the hope of reversing this trend — joining together with one courageous soldier at a time — that motivated me last summer to seriously explore the idea of opening my own medical marijuana wellness center here in Colorado Springs. By early fall, We Grow Colorado was born, and by December, we were deep in construction dust as we turned a former local veterinarian clinic into a viable center.

Now open and thriving for the last several months, We Grow’s commitment to vets is clear and consistent. We don’t believe in handing out medicine. Rather, we empower our patients to regain control of their lives and fight back against narcotic addiction. We offer discounts to indigent vets and are planning an educational series on PTSD. Sadly, military policy does not allow current service members to utilize medical marijuana as part of their recovery strategy. For now, we can only aid those who have completed their service.

Medical marijuana is not some magic pill. It is one of many therapies that work for some, but not for all, who try it. In a community like ours, where vets play a key role in every aspect of our daily lives, we should show them the respect they deserve. Let’s stop throwing pills at their pain in the hopes of keeping them quiet. Instead, we should stop and listen to what they have to say. If our leaders will do this, as We Grow Colorado does every day, they will hear that many vets benefit tremendously from medical marijuana. Giving them the freedom to choose this non-addictive alternative therapy is the least we can do. By Drew Milburn. Source.

2 responses to “Can Medical Marijuana Aid Vets & the Prescription Addiction Epidemic?”

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that’s triggered by a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after someone experiences or witnesses an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror.

    Many people who are involved in traumatic events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping, after which they improve and get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Symptoms can sometimes interfere with normal functioning, sleeping, and interpersonal relationships. This is often when the diagnosis of PTSD is made.

    Three groups of symptoms are required in order to make the diagnosis of PTSD: (1) recurring re-experiencing of the traumatic event (troublesome memories, flashbacks, nightmares); (2) avoidance to the point of having phobias of places, people, and experiences that are reminders of the traumatic event and (3) chronic physical signs of hyperarousal, such as insomnia, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, blackouts, and difficulty remembering things. PTSD sufferers often have emotional numbing that manifests as difficulty enjoying activities that they previously enjoyed, inability to look forward to future plans, and emotional distancing from loved ones.

    Conventional treatment for PTSD includes psychotherapy, learning coping skills, and family counseling. Medications such as anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, sleep aids, and anti-anxiety medicines are often prescribed. Some patients find relief with these treatments but it is well known in the medical community that PTSD is difficult to treat.

    Cannabis has been used by many PTSD sufferers with good results, especially for insomnia and anxiety. Cannabis can give PTSD patients a sense of well-being and serenity, and it allows them to continue to function with little to no adverse side effects. There are a number of researchers currently exploring the science behind the use of cannabis for treatment of PTSD and the results are promising. For now, PTSD patients that live in states where medical use of cannabis is legal can use it to help decrease the debilitating symptoms of their illness.

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