Returning veterans are more at risk of homelessness due to their specialized training which is not always transferable in the regular workforce, substance abuse, shortage of affordable housing options and mental illness such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that affects two-thirds of our homeless veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The cause of the disorder and why some individuals are more prone to it than others is unknown.
At first glance, the man who sits before me doesn’t seem like someone who would need medical cannabis—but looks can be deceiving. It’s a common misconception that medical cannabis is only for physical ailments; but numerous patients use medical cannabis to help with mental ailments as well. For Patient A (as we’ll call him moving forward) and many others, medical cannabis plays a critical role in their day to day well-being, both physical and mental.
Given the fact that marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, all United States Military branches have a strict policy against it. The Department of Defense states that "drug abuse and dependence are incompatible with readiness, the maintenance of high standards of performance and military discipline."
According to the 2007 documentary Gulf War Syndrome: Killing Our Own, 400,000 veterans have been affected with Gulf War Syndrome, an illness which includes a long list of symptoms such as: fatigue, persistent headaches, muscle aches/pains, neurological symptoms, cognitive dysfunction, depression, anxiety, insomnia, skin rashes, unusual hair loss, bronchitis, and more. Gulf War Syndrome affected over half of the soldiers who returned home from The Gulf War, but those soldiers were denied treatment. A PR campaign was designed to confuse scientists and make the public believe that the symptoms veterans were experiencing were stress induced and similar to PTSD. During The Gulf Wars, soldiers were given chemical suits for protection; however, those same suits were determined to be ineffective in 1988.
Each year over 18,000 American Veterans take their own lives. That equates to a little over 50 a day, or 2 every hour. Many of these are overdoses on prescription drugs, taken with the hope of coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Too often these drugs end up causing more harm than good in the form of physical side effects or financial cost. Sadly until now, prescription drugs have been the only option open to our military servicemen and women once they return home from war. Thankfully, there is an organization working to change all of that.
An autoimmune disease is defined as “a disease resulting from a disordered immune reaction in which antibodies are produced against one’s own tissues”. There are over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, some of the most well-known being lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis. There are a variety of reasons why a person might develop an autoimmune disease, but a study conducted by Joseph A. Boscarino of The New York Academy of Medicine indicates that individuals who suffer from PTSD have an increased risk of doing so. This means that many of our veterans are not only having to deal with PTSD when they return from serving, but are also developing autoimmune diseases that have a huge impact on their day to day lives.
In case you were wondering, the government does indeed care about the reason you medicate with cannabis. In Colorado, for instance, there are 8 conditions for which a person may receive a prescription for medical marijuana: cancer, AIDS, chronic wasting diseases, glaucoma, seizures, persistent muscle spasms, severe pain and severe nausea. Not listed? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder aka PTSD. But a drug that has been OK'd by Colorado to treat PTSD: MDMA aka Molly. That’s right, the kid at the rave next to you sucking on a pacifier and undulating to electronic dance music is “healing” his or her brain while you and your joint are doing nothing to cleanse your cerebral cortex or better yourself by society’s standards.