Medical Marijuana: PTSD Medical Malpractice

June 13, 2007

Dr. Phillip Leveque, OpEd, Salem-News (OR)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is like a camouflaged elephant in the living room. Those who want to see it do so; those who don’t want to see it, do not.

Even officials of the Veterans Administration admit to seeing the “elephant” and have stated that probably 300,000 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan war have PTSD or will develop it.

PTSD is an insidious mental disease. Hold on now, we who have it or have had it aren’t “crazy” but we do wonder why most of our doctors seem to think it might be “home-sickness” from playing “cowboys and indians” far from home. One afternoon in an artillery barrage would probably change their minds but physicians and psychologists are not likely to have had the privilege of being in an artillery barrage or anything like it.

Often emergency room personnel and severe trauma surgeons and nurses also suffer from PTSD. Luckily, they can get away from their stressors. A combat soldier cannot, unless he gets a “million dollar wound” and is sent home. By then he is most likely already suffering from PTSD and wondering why his caretakers; wife, family, non-veteran friends, etc. wonder why he won’t get over his nightmares, night sweats, crying-out in his sleep “Incoming!” or “Medic!”, running or thrashing about in his sleep or reaching for his rifle, which is never there (although many vets sleep with a pistol under their pillow).

I can understand, vaguely, why a wife or mother might be disconcerted by this behavior. After all, the soldier might be away the army for weeks, months even years, but during sleep all the memories of battle horror come back and almost never go away.

Frequently, some time during this post-trauma time, the PTSD patient discovers that alcohol “drowns ones sorrows”. Alcohol has been known for centuries as the poor man’s sleeping medicine or tranquilizer. Ask any one of the seven million members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcohol is the most common, most frequently available and used for medicine. That’s why there are seven million members of A.A.

Immediate care of physically or psychologically traumatized soldiers is said to be very good. If not, many of the military caregivers would learn the meaning of being “fragged”. It is known that these caregivers were stealing battle souvenirs from wounded soldiers. And why not? The soldier might die of his wounds anyway.

During this post-trauma time some caregiver will say to himself “let’s treat this patients PTSD” and here come a mélange of medications. Here is a list of some of the more commonly used medications. This list is from the article “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Military Returnees from Afghanistan and Iraq” by Matthew J. Friedman in the April 2006 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry: (This listing is ridiculous and unbelievable.)

Paroxetine – antidepressant Phenetzinel – enzyme blocker prolonging antidepressant Elavil – antidepressant Propanalol – anti-adrenergic Gabapentin – powerful anti-convulsant Risperidone – antipsychotic

(Why these weird medicines should work, or are supposed to work, is really a medical mystery. The adverse side effects of almost all of these makes one wonder why they should be forced onto a psychologically fragile PTSD patient.)

Others medications are common sedatives, strong analgesics, muscle relaxants, etc. almost all of which make the patient groggy, stupefied and more non-functional than possibly PTSD itself.

Many veterans with PTSD, especially those from Viet Nam, discovered that marijuana was better than any of the aforementioned medications. However, the official position of V.A. doctors under government regulations are not even allowed to discuss with patients that marijuana might help.

Medical marijuana acts as a homeostatic modulator, which means that it is used to help patients get back into a normal state almost to the extent and cause of their PTSD and many other physical/ mental/ psychological conditions.

Medical marijuana reduces pain and memories of pain, modulates emotional reactivity, modulates negative affect (depression), relaxes skeletal and smooth muscle, modulates mood decreasing anxiety and insomnia and acts as an antidepressant without adverse effects.

The most important feature of medical marijuana is the lack of or minimal adverse effects. It is true that overdoses can cause panic or anxiety effects but patients soon learn to avoid them by inhalation of marijuana medical fumes with a vaporizer.

The most useful attribute of vaporizers is that a patient can easily determine the titration of his inhalation dose within seconds to the dosage which provides relief. The country of Israel, which has been in near constant warfare for fifty plus years, has recognized the benefits of medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD. It is hopeful that their experience will soon get to the U.S. Of course, the Israelis have the Hebrew bible to fall back on. Kaneh bosum (cannabis) was used in biblical times as medicine.

Information for this article was taken liberally, and in great gratitude, from the article “Cannabis Eases Post Traumatic Stress” by Tod Mikuriya, in the spring 2006 edition of the O’Shaughnessy journal. Dr. Mikuriya has studied and written more about the therapeutic benefits of marijuana than any other person.

 



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