Washington Vets Switch from Pharmaceuticals to Pot: Military Connection

Military Connection: medical marijuana

By Debbie Gregory.

There is no denying that veterans who are battling PTSD are finding resources to manage their symptoms. But more often than not, these resources include medications that ultimately increase in dosages as their efficacy wanes.

US Army combat veteran Andrew Collins was frustrated with taking 17 prescriptions daily, and chose to seek an alternative.   His trauma had left him filled with aggression and, at times, contemplating suicide. Collins found that with medical marijuana, he has been able to stop most of his other prescription drugs. He admitted that he was overmedicated, and hopes that other veterans might realize there are alternatives as well.

Recent statistics from the US Department of Veterans Affairs reveal that on average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day due to PTSD symptoms, totaling nearly 8,000 veteran suicides each year. With this in mind, Collins founded the support group Twenty22Many. (twenty two too many), focused on reducing suicide rates among military veterans.

Twenty22Many meets twice monthly at the medical marijuana dispensary Rainier Xpress in Olympia, WA. Owner Patrick Seifert advocates for those who have benefitted from cannabis use, and is proud of the veterans he has helped at his dispensary, numbering some 2,000, by featuring a Wall of Honor for his veteran patrons.

Research shows mixed outcomes surrounding the use of cannabis for PTSD. While some studies indicate positive results of medical marijuana use, others expose risks. Research conducted by the American Journal of Public Health cites that in states where medical marijuana has been legalized, suicides in men ages 20-39 were reduced by 10.8 percent. In contrast, a report by Addition Science and Clinical Practice warns that those with PTSD may be at greater risk of cannabis use disorder. Other studies reveal continued use can be attributed to sleep disturbances and reduction in prefrontal cortex activity.

Are some willing to accept the risks? Apparently, many veterans are. Rainier Xpress’s Seifert continues to act on behalf of those who want alternatives to prescription drugs by lobbying the Legislature to reform laws.

“To me, the 22 a day is absolutely unacceptable,” Seifert said of the veteran suicide rate. “Every one of those women and men who die have a belly full of pharmaceuticals that they got from the VA.”

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Washington Vets Switch from Pharmaceuticals to Pot: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory