While there is little evidence to support the idea that marijuana could treat mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, some states are deciding whether to legalize the drug to help patients with PTSD. Although there is not much concrete proof that pot is beneficial for them, many veterans are choosing marijuana as their means of relief from their PTSD symptoms.
Members of the military say that they often prefer using marijuana over prescription drugs like Klonopin and Zoloft which can be ineffective for them or leave them feeling like zombies. Whether marijuana actually has some effect on PTSD symptoms or not, the reality is that Veterans Affairs has noticed a troubling rise in veterans diagnosed with marijuana dependence. Although patients with PTSD may believe that the drug is easing their symptoms, it can actually hinder their recovery in the long run.
Improving or Worsening Symptoms?
After returning from war, many veterans are dealing with traumatic events that have caused a number of mental health problems ranging from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and most commonly, PTSD. Some have multiple diagnoses for mental illnesses and are dealing with issues like insomnia or flashbacks of war trauma.
Many veterans turn to drugs like marijuana to help them with their insomnia but unfortunately it can become difficult for them to quit once they get involved in it. Marijuana dependency can be a dangerous problem especially for people with mental illnesses and in many cases it can worsen their condition or even lead to suicide.
While some may feel that it helps their symptoms, the darker stories of dependence make it a difficult decision for states who are weighing whether marijuana should be legal for those with PTSD. Lawmakers are beginning to sympathize with those who feel that marijuana is relieving their anxiety but there is also some evidence to show that drug can make symptoms worse.
Marijuana Studies to Find Evidence
Since 2009 there have been 10 states that listed PTSD among the ailments for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. A few other states have given doctors enough discretion to recommend pot for people that suffer from PTSD.
In November, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment that would allow doctors to recommend marijuana to veterans in states where it was legal but the proposal failed to pass the house. In order to be recommended by doctors, the drug would have to pass randomized, controlled trials that would prove its effectiveness to users.
There is a significant lack of major studies involving the effectiveness of marijuana in treating conditions like PTSD but there are currently some underway including two funded by Colorado where the state health board has been holding off on legalizing the drug for PTSD. Those involved in the study concur that there is not yet enough scientific evidence to support the idea that marijuana can help treat PTSD but they will be closer to finding out after a few years of research.
Currently, without any evidence supporting marijuana as a solution for PTSD, the growing rates of dependence on the drug among veterans is alarming. Since 2002, the percentage of veterans with both PTSD and marijuana dependence rose from 13 percent to nearly 23 percent meaning about 40,000 veterans are now addicted to the drug.
People with "cannabis use disorder" sometimes have trouble sleeping or grow irritable without the drug and also sometimes lose their ability to maintain relationships or hold down a job. The potential for dependency is one of the biggest problems with legalizing marijuana as well as the tendency for marijuana to numb emotions which could get in the way of talk therapy. Once more evidence available it will be possible for doctors to make a more informed decision before prescribing marijuana to PTSD patients.
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