VeteranPTSD Epidemic Calls For Action

Msgt Thomas Vance USAF Ret. Published:

The results of the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study that were presented at the American Psychology Association convention on August 8 2014 show there are 283,000 active cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Vietnam Veterans.  Earlier this year, during the Kentucky Assembly Interim Session Joint Hearing of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee held July 10, 2014, focusing on Veteran PTSD cases, 3 representatives from the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Louisville who work extensively with Veteran PTSD patients testified.  They reported that there are 350,000 cases of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans.  VA Guidelines for PTSD call for psychotherapy ranging from counseling and group therapy to exposure and cognitive therapies.  These are educational therapies that would help in most mental health situations.  Then they went on to list the drugs.  Drugs with familiar names such as Paxil and Zoloft, Klonopin, Xanax and Prozac were named. They listed antidepressants, mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anxiolytics and sleep aids, not to mention the various pain medications as many of these Veterans also suffer from physical as well as mental pain.  They went on to say there is no medication that works for PTSD.  The reported cases of PTSD totaling 633,000, does not include Korean, Gulf War or any Veterans of the small engagements of the Cold War.

Veterans suffering from PTSD that live in States having medical cannabis laws are using cannabis as treatment for their condition.  These Veterans as reported by groups such as Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (VMAC), relate stories of relief from many of the symptoms of PTSD.  Many claim medical cannabis has allowed them the first decent night’s sleep since the onset of their PTSD and rely on it as their main and perhaps only effective medication.  Indeed, Veterans applying for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis program report a 70% reduction in symptoms when using medical cannabis.

What should be done?  Considering that Veterans in medical cannabis States are using medical cannabis with great success, that almost half the States currently have medical cannabis laws and that the number of cases of PTSD among Veterans is of epidemic proportions, we call on the Veterans Administration to begin immediately to provide medical whole plant cannabis to Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Currently the Federal Government provides tins of medical cannabis to survivors of the old Compassionate Care Program.  These patients receive a tin of 300 cannabis cigarettes every month and it would be quite simple to expand this program to Veterans living in States without medical cannabis laws.  For Veterans in medical cannabis States the VA could simply do a voucher with the local Cannabis Pharmacies to provide the medicine these Veterans sorely need.

We also call on the VA to immediately begin a study of the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating the many symptoms of PTSD.  Dr. Sue Sisley of the University of Arizona has managed to clear every hurdle placed in front of her in her quest to do a PTSD study of Veterans and cannabis.  For the first time in 77 years the Government is actually providing the cannabis!  Certainly if a civilian can shepherd a cannabis study through every hurdle placed in front of it by the Federal Government, then the Veterans Administration, a branch of the Federal Government should be able to!

Cannabis is currently listed as Schedule1, Dangerous and having no medical value.  This rating was temporary in 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act was passed and it is still temporary to this day.  A simple rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule 2 or lower, which can be accomplished by a signature of the President or Attorney General, would allow the Veterans Administration to provide this desperately needed medicine to the heroes who undoubtedly deserve it.

There is plenty that can be done!  We call on the President, Congress, the  Attorney General and the Veterans Administration to, ‘Git to doing it'!

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  • In my opinion all living Vietnam Vets should receive compensation and treatment for PTSD.  I walked around with for it for 42 years, before I even knew what it was and got help. Not understanding the many negative symptons of PTSD and how to deal with them affected my entire adult life (i.e. my employment, interpersonal relationships, family, friends, etc.). Just like Agent Orange, neither the US Army, nor the US Government ever told us about it, before, during, or after our tour of duty and never called us in to test us, or talk to us about it. When I inquired why we were never told about these issues, I was told "that's not we way we operate ...it's up to you to contact the VA and seek help". 

  • THANK YOU, Msgt. Vance, both for your service and for addressing the needs of our Veterans!