Cannabis Patient Care - December 2021

Cannabis Patient Care December 2021

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17 patient focus december 2021 | cannabis patient care PTSD and Cannabis: Four Veterans Weigh In Veteran's Advocacy Organizations are Blazing the Trail to Overcoming Treatment Denials, Fear of Losing Benefits, and Stalled Legislative Action B Y D A V I D H O D E S I T'S BECOME INCREASINGLY clear that people suffer- ing from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be sig- nificantly helped dealing with the effects they experience through therapies that include treatment with medical cannabis. Doctors and mental health experts agree that this anxiety disorder is complicated. The brain processes that govern the development and persistence of PTSD have yet to be identi- fied fully, but PTSD includes sleep disturbances, memory and cognitive impairments, altered pain sensitivity, depression, emotional numbing, and suicidality (1). And though PTSD can af fec t anyone who has experienced a lingering traumatic event—such as a car accident (2)—the biggest single population of people af flic ted by PTSD are veterans returning from deployment who were involved di- rec tly in combat or were other wise traumatized by their war-f ighter experience. For example, it is estimated that about 30% of the Vietnam War veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime (3). These veterans are generally so amped up from the hyper- vigilance required to maintain their own safety and the safe- ty of their comrades while deployed that they can't just turn that hypervigilance off when they return to civilian life. Some speak about walking around a restaurant before sitting down to eat, checking out the perimeter of their space like they would in a combat situation, looking for vulnerabilities that would compromise their safety. Others talk about sitting in a crowded setting in a room and facing the door to monitor what may approach them, and analyzing all activity around them to categorically determine whether that activity is com- ing from a friend or foe. That ramped-up mentality is deeply rooted in the minds of some veterans, as they can relive certain tragic moments of deep fear and regret for the rest of their lives. The SOP from Veterans Affairs Doctors Doctors at the Veterans Health Administration have typically followed a pharmaceutical regimen for treating PTSD patients that includes Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac, among other antidepres- sants and antipsychotics (4). But that treatment regimen has come under more and more scrutiny as veterans discover that those doctors, using those drugs, are really just numbing them out and masking their pain. The PTSD veteran can end up becoming addicted to opioids over time, and has no life beyond sitting in the dark at home trying to come to terms with what has happened to them. And all too often, they end up coming to the conclusion that sui- cide is the only real solution out of their PTSD nightmare. A New Way Out with Cannabis Over the last decade or so, these returning veterans have found that cannabis can help them get back the lives that pharma- ceuticals have taken away from them. And fellow veterans have formed dozens of organizations that help veterans discover the true healing that cannabis offers, albeit with a myriad of problems associated with federal prohibition that continues to hound even the best efforts of veteran cannabis advocacy organizations. Here are the stories of four such veterans. Eryck Stamper and Veterans Initiative 22 One cannabis advocacy organization is Veterans Initiative 22 (5) founded by Navy veteran Eryck Stamper. The organization is named after the statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide every day (though that figure varies from year to year [6]). It was founded with the goal of preventing the high rate of suicides facing the veteran population. "Veterans Initiative 22 is kind of a two-fold organization," Stamper said. "We're hiring business practice assistance for vet- erans, family, and first responders in the cannabis alternative

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