Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a major health risk for many U.S. veterans. It can severely impair the quality of life and in some cases can lead to life-terminating consequences. Highly stressful and life-threatening experiences in combat leave the marines more susceptible to developing the symptoms of PTSD. PTSD is thought to be the driving force behind this.
It is apparent that PTSD among vets is a health emergency. Physical injuries play an important role in bringing down the quality of their life as well. Various pain-killers, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants and sedatives offered by the healthcare providers do not seem to bring about significant improvement. Marijuana is something that has shown encouraging potential to help with various psychological and physiological issues faced by vets.
The use of marijuana among military vets is on the rise all across the U.S. Even the states where cannabis is not legal, many vets are opting to try out the health benefits of marijuana. According to VA, more than 22% war veterans were using cannabis in the year 2014. That figure has likely gone up since.
The cannabinoids present in various strains of marijuana affect the endocannabinoid system in the human body to reduce the symptoms and effects of PTSD. Vets with PTSD have higher levels of cannabinoids receptors. This makes marijuana a helpful solution for various stress related problems.
The following are some of the many ways marijuana has been shown to improve the quality of life for many vets:
Improved Mental Health
The overall emotional and psychological health of vets suffering from stress disorders is significantly compromised. Reliving the stressful combat scenarios through flashbacks and nightmares can induce impairments, like sleeplessness, depression and anxiety. Occupational instability, family discord, feelings of detachment and estrangement are also common among many vets.
Cannabis is anxiolytic. This is to say it helps reduce anxiety. The anti-depressant qualities of marijuana are also coming to the forefront. Impairment in short-term memory is one of the side effects of marijuana use. Our endocannabinoid system regulates our fear and deals with memory retention. Cannabis affects the system to induce memory impairment. This helps vets’ manage their flashbacks better and improve their ability to deal with stress.
Cannabis has a calming effect on our brain. Many vets are in the state of “constant emotional arousal”. This leads to sleep apnea as well as outbursts of anger and violence. It is hard to focus and concentrate as their brain feels it has to be alert and on guard all the times. Cannabis helps cope with this problem and encourages a calmer and Zen approach to dealing with life.
A Better Alternative
Rather interestingly, marijuana is helping veterans bounce back from their dangerous substance abuse. The prevalence of life debilitating substance abuse among war veterans is much higher than the civilian population. According to a study in 2012, 32% of vets with PTSD were also being treated for substance abuse.
Cannabis can provide the relief many vets try to get from the harmful substances, like alcohol and cocaine. It offers them a healthier, more stable substitute. Cannabis can improve the mood and drive of many vets without inflicting irreversible health repercussions that are associated with serious substance abuse.
Assistance with Pain Relief
PTSD can make you relive the trauma and induce physical pain symptoms in your body. Sleep disturbance, hyper arousal as well as anxiety contribute to increasing physical tension and stress, leading to pain all over the body. Many vets complain of debilitating pain that makes it difficult to get out of bed.
Many vets develop chronic pain. Fibromyalgia is also common. Cannabis helps calm the musculoskeletal centers of the body and allow the body to relax. Better management of pain improves the vets’ engagement in social, occupational and recreational activities, improving their overall quality of life.
Cannabis is increasingly proving its efficacy when it comes to offering relief from physical and psychological pain for military vets. Healthcare providers should not ignore the benefits of marijuana to health and well-being of vets and recommend appropriate doses of medical marijuana when necessary.