PTSD, Vets and Medical Cannabis

By February 24, 2010articles

Did you know that since 2001 more USA vets have committed suicide than have died on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan?  Or that 20% of soldiers returning from the killing fields suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression?

There are 1,249 patients enrolled in the New Mexico medical marijuana program, the majority of them suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), cancer, and HIV aids.  As of this month (February 2010) statistics for these top three conditions were:

Number of Patients

So, the largest group of patients enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program are those suffering from PTSD.  Yet Albuquerque’s Veteran’s Administration hospital does not allow its physicians to prescribe marijuana.

It’s not only in New Mexico that vets are disallowed from using a drug that has proven itself capable of alleviating depression and PTSD; in California veterans are forced to sign ‘pain contracts.’ They are required to submit to drug tests prior to the dispensing of narcotic pain medications; if the test shows up positive for cannabis, narcotic pain relief is discontinued.  This despite research proving a symbiotic relationship between Cannabis and opiates, allowing a chronic pain patient to take much less narcotics – a benefit for long term health.

Drug Enforcement Agency, Marijuana and the VA

The policy forbidding doctors to recommend medical cannabis comes direct from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, which is based on the fact that, federally, marijuana is still classified as illegal; this despite the fact that 14 US states now sanction the medical use of marijuana.

There are numerous stories to be found on the internet and in the media telling how individual veterans use medical marijuana for relief from PTSD with great effect. These vets repeatedly describe the zombie-like state caused by opiates and other prescription drugs and tell how marijuana allows them to reduce their opiate use and reclaim their lives.

If the VA is looking for scientific support for medical marijuana use in PTSD, it is readily available.. A 2007 study of marijuana use by PTSD patients, reported in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, found that the severity of PTSD symptoms correlated with the use of marijuana as a coping method, with that being the only motive for using the drug.

And surely it is better to use marijuana in a supportive environment than to self-medicate with alcohol and abuse of prescription only drugs.

One vet, Paul Culkin, a Staff Sergeant on the Army bomb squad in Iraq, uses marijuana to help with his PTSD.  He told his local newspaper:

“A lot [of veterans] are self-medicating, especially with alcohol, or are given prescription drugs while still on active duty and they come out addicted. “When they get out, they go into the VA rehabilitation program but if they test hot for cannabis [they have a problem].”

Culkin heads up the New Mexico Medical Marijuana Patient’s Group, along with another patient and vet, Mr Garcia. Both men cite expansion of the medical marijuana program, including through the VA system, as a key objective.


Author Dianne Morgan

More posts by Dianne Morgan

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Larry says:

    I am also an Iraqi freedom vet. I thought I was fighting to protect our freedom, but freedom is just an idea becouse none of us are actually free.

    Its my body and I should be free to do with it as I please. As long as I am not affecting any other people. I believe in holding people responsible for thier actions, so if you do harm to others or put others in harms way then you are wrong, but what you do in your own home to yourself should be your right or freedom. I believe that our leaders have perverted the laws and have violated our constitutional rights as Americans.

    I personaly believe that our founding fathers would be dissapointed in the direction our government has led us.

    • jk says:

      “Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see” Thomas Jefferson

      I thank God that i have my medical use card and personal grow license and a va dr that supports my use of this fine healing medicine.

  • Juan Connor says:

    Let me get this straight…Uncle Sam is responsible for screwing me up while I served and now the VA is forcing me to give up my rights in order to receive treatment? What kind of hypocritical BS is this?

    They owe each and every one of us who suffer and they have no right to treat us as if we still on active duty. This smells to high heaven. The US govt only gives a shit about how many of us they can use as cannon fodder and then dispose of us after we no longer of any use to them.

  • randy says:

    i am diagonosed with ptsd and many other things from the va and also deemed unemployable and recieve full benefits through social security.

    i was at a ptsd treatment program at the north little rock va in march of 2010. it is an 8 week inpatient program but you can leave on the weekends. 7 weeks into the 8 week program, i was very upset and shook up from having to discuss my trauma in very extensive therapy with a psychologist and i decided to smoke instead of having an anxiety attack. When i return to the va after the weekend i would have to take a uranalysis every time, I failed the uranalysis for marijuana.

    They got the results on a Tuesday and i was goin to graduate that friday… 72 hours left of an 8 wk course. when they saw that i tested positive, they told me i had 5 minutes to pack my bags and leave the hospital. i was transported to north little rock by a disabled american veterans van so i had no transportation and i was 7 hours from my home in louisiana. i even had a meeting with all the bosses from the program and they told me i had to leave and i needed to leave now.

    one female asked if i had somewhere to go and of couse i told her i didn’t and i guess i would just have to sleep under a bridge in little rock where i knew no one. the woman replied, “well thats your choice if you decide to do that and then they had the nerve to tell me i was welcome back to the program anytime!!!

    They didn’t print out discharge papers, they didn’t make me sign nothing and they didn’t write me a prescription for my anti depressant that they just told me has the worst withdrawals of any anti depressant. So i ended up homeless in little rock with no money, no meds, nothing at all but a suitcase with my clothes in it and then got robbed on the streets. So needless to say, i feel like i would rather die than ever see anyone from the va again.

    There were only 3 oif/oef patients, me and 2 others that were between 20 and 30… one being and amputee at the knee. They kicked all 3 of us out after 7 weeks of therapy with only one more week to go for graduation. My life will never be the same and i will never ever trust or respect the va again. They are very lucky i’m not another statistic yet and i would almost rather be a statistic rather than go back to the va for help. i never could understand how these veitnam vets could be so bitter and hate the va so horribly when the va tries to help people. I see now and i’m probably more sick with the va than any vietnam vet.

  • EnlightenedGrunt says:

    I am a Iraq combat vet with PTSD. I stuggled since I got out in 07 with self medicating with alcohol, which is very destructive. Having formerly had security clearence, I always assumed and agreed weed and other drugs were “the devil”. By some chance of fate, I tried it about 3 months ago, and I AM A NEW MAN! Once a week or overy other week seems to be enough for me, I now have a solid job, am not depressed as much, have a more jovial attitude, and am again working on going back to school in my off time. LEGALIZE IT.

    Fact of the matter is that there is a lot of money and infrastructure built around preventing this, it will be a hard battle, but when even our own CIA uses drugs (brought into the US) as a means to obtain black money (and therefore no accountability), something is horribly wrong. If you have PTSD, TRY IT!

  • john parks says:

    When enough American blood is shed that the Iraqi people are as free as the American people, do the Iraqi’s get to keep their rifles and hooka pipes?

    I keep getting mine taken away. It’s time to stop acting like sheep and take back our country. I was suicidally depressed and suffering from ptsd after, among other things, being repeatedly beaten and abused by my depressed, self – medicating, Viet Nam veteran father.

    For self, medicating my own depression, I was put in prison for nearly five years. Now I’m on parole, struggling through marriage counseling trying to pick up the pieces of my broken marriage. The counselor gives me a psych evaluation which suggests that I am suicidally depressed and need medication.

    Really? God bless(ed) America. Down with the system. — p.s. Thank you Govorner Pawlenty. Enjoy your time in Hell. Thank you also to the Bush family. When their little girl stole a prescription pad, forged the doctor’s signature, and was caught with crack cocain in rehab, she was sentenced to a whirlwind South American publicity tour with the press in tow. Want to understand what’s really going on? go to

  • Amsterdam coffee shops says:

    I would like to see more federal openness toward the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. It is thought that the cannabinoid anandamide helps in filtering information processed by the brain. Perhaps this is why cannabis may be helpful for those with PTSD.

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