May 25, 2024

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MEDICAL MARIJUANA COULD OFFER BETTER TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR NORTH CAROLINA VETERANS WITH PTSD

6 min read

One of the groups that could benefit enormously from obtaining a North Carolina marijuana card are veterans that live in North Carolina and also have a qualifying condition. Veterans are one of our most valued populations that often face many physical and psychological challenges. Many of our veterans incurred medical conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder while in service to our country. Since the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act has not yet been passed into law the future is not clear about what a medical cannabis program will look like in North Carolina. As the proposed bill (SB 711) currently sits it is likely that PTSD will be a qualifying condition that would allow veterans to get approved for a North Carolina cannabis card. More than just veterans would benefit from a medical marijuana program in North Carolina. There are thousands of other residents in North Carolina who could benefit from medical cannabis treatment for their PTSD, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, as well as other qualifying medical conditions. Most states that have a medical cannabis program have PTSD listed as a qualifying condition due to how efficacious medical marijuana can be in treating the underlying symptoms. If North Carolina wants to live up to its self-appointed nickname of the “Nation’s Most Military Friendly State,” then the state legislators should keep PTSD as a qualifying condition for a North Carolina cannabis treatment.

Veterans with PTSD: Could Benefit Most from a NC Marijuana Card

Experts have revealed that the medical marijuana movement started in California’s Bay area in the 1980s as a response to the AIDS crisis. During this period, the movement realized they could not gain the support needed to pass medical marijuana legislation until it was expanded to include other populations and medical conditions. Among the other populations, our veterans were the group that was directly involved in moving medical marijuana programs into law, especially those who sought to treat their PTSD with medical cannabis. Academics who have analysed the reasons many conservative states have started medical marijuana programs have determined that veterans advocating for medical cannabis treatment options has helped get these programs passed. Daniel Mallinson, who is an assistant professor with the School of Public Affairs at Penn State-Harrisburg stated that. “inclusion of different qualifying conditions has made medical marijuana more palatable to lawmakers where it wouldn’t have been before and it has also helped change the view of who a marijuana user is.” 

Many experts now believe that veterans are likely to be an invaluable resource for the medical cannabis movement going forward. There are still 14 states that have not established a medical marijuana program and veterans are likely to be the most influential advocates in getting legislation passed.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is classified as a neurological disorder that can present itself in the form of anxiety triggered by a traumatic event that has happened in the past. The mode of presentation or symptoms associated with PTSD varies from person to person, with each patient being affected differently due to their battle with the condition. Regardless of the diverse effects of PTSD, it still presents with some common symptoms which include intense phobias, insomnia, lack of concentration, unconsciousness, and hallucinations. In the worst cases, the patient may be violent or struggling with suicidal thoughts.

What’s the connection between Veterans and PTSD?

The Veterans Affairs (VA) has gathered reasonable data to show how their members, both veterans and those still in service are frequently and gravely affected by PTSD. Not surprisingly, anyone with an experience of a traumatic event can potentially develop PTSD, but our military personnel are more predisposed to trauma than the average American. A careful analysis of data has shown that 6% of all Americans will develop PTSD at some point during their life.

  • Between 10% and 11% of soldiers that served in Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom consequently suffered from PTSD in a given year.
  • About 12% of Desert Storm veterans struggle with PTSD each year.
  • About 15% of Vietnam veterans deal with PTSD annually, with an estimated 30% having experienced it at some point in their lives.

How Can Medical Marijuana Help PTSD Patients?

Medical marijuana has shown great promise in providing patients with an effective treatment option for PTSD because medical marijuana can handle multiple symptoms of the condition, unlike some traditional PTSD treatments. 

Traditional PTSD treatment options

There are numerous traditional treatment options available for PTSD patients but they do not efficiently treat all the symptoms of the condition and are often associated with terrible adverse effects. PTSD being a neurological disorder can manifest both with psychological symptoms as well as physical symptoms, and no traditional treatment has effectively managed both symptoms. Many PTSD patients frequently undergo psychological counselling in addition to medication treatment with psychiatric pharmaceuticals. Treatment of PTSD is often complicated by the resulting side effects from these standard medications such as reduced libido, weight gain. These side effects can be exacerbated in patients that are being treated with multiple medications simultaneously. 

Medical Marijuana Effectively Treats PTSD and Could Reduce the Need for Other Medications

Doubts about the effectiveness of medical marijuana in the treatment of PTSD have been reduced with evidence from research studies suggesting that it can treat both the physical and psychological symptoms of the condition. Medical cannabis could be capable of providing relief to patients suffering from PTSD by utilizing a two-pronged treatment option which other PTSD drugs have failed to do. This is because the endocannabinoid system receptors are found almost everywhere in the body including the brain. Therefore, medical marijuana can handle both psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression and it has also been attributed to helping reduce or prevent the physical effects of PTSD.

Veterans’ PTSD Stories are Highly Persuasive to Lawmakers

Just as anyone who has experienced a traumatic event could be at risk of developing PTSD, veterans are perhaps at a disadvantage compared to other groups. As medical marijuana has provided relief to PTSD patients, treatment becomes complicated when they move to a state that does not have a medical cannabis program or has medical marijuana programs that haven’t recognised PTSD as a qualifying condition. As they share their touching and highly emotional stories, laws and programs change which broadens access of cannabis treatment for everyone, veterans and civilians alike. “Because veterans are highly respected in North Carolina, their stories are moving and persuasive. It was amazing to see how minds were changed when veterans’ stories were able to gain an audience before lawmakers,” Garrett Purdue, a spokesperson for NC Families for Medical Cannabis and the son of former governor Beverly Perdue, told Kaiser Health News. 

Throughout the south veterans are held in high regard and as such their influence is expected to help establish medical marijuana programs in other southern states which have yet to embrace the benefits of medical marijuana as a treatment option. 

Millions Suffer from PTSD, not Just Veterans

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it was estimated that 6% of all Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their life. Although we do not have an estimate of how many North Carolinians suffer from PTSD, we do know that about 21 million Americans are expected to suffer from PTSD.

Most of these patients will resort to using traditional medications which could come with several unfavourable adverse effects such as sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal disorders, impaired cognitive functions, and other unwanted side effects. Luckily, our gallant veterans who have travelled abroad to fight our wars have also been fighting for us at home, embarking on different missions and visiting different states to spread the word of medical marijuana’s efficacy in the treatment of PTSD and other innumerable medical conditions. Fortunately, their efforts seem to be paying off as we draw closer to having medical marijuana program in North Carolina in the coming months.