Adam Smith, a veteran who battles PTSD, recently discussed what he views as the lifesaving help in recovering his mental health that he found in cannabidiol (CBD).
The hellish experience of war fuels PTSD. Many of us grew up around veterans who reacted emotionally, in various ways, when recalling wartime experiences. Others refused to talk about it all or only offered snippets. For some, this behavior could have signified undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Modern medicine has only begun to understand PTSD. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) didn’t even officially recognize PTSD as a legitimate mental health condition until 1980.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in a steady supply of troops who remained haunted by what they had experienced in those lands far from home – and brought the PTSD with them as they attempted to rejoin civil society.
Understanding PTSD and How It Affects Veterans
PTSD is a common mental disorder. It can affect anyone that has experienced traumatic events in their lives – childhood abuse, survivors of serious accidents, and, of course, soldiers who served in combat.
The most basic explanation of this complicated phenomenon is that a person “relives” past experiences in response to stimuli in the environment that in some way reminds them of the incident.
Symptoms include sleep disturbances, nervousness, panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness, and emotional detachment. Some cases are less severe than others. A person may recover on their own, without any treatment, after a matter of weeks. For others, the road to recovery is rockier.
CBD Treatment for PTSD
The experts estimate that 9% of all people will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.
Could CBD play a role in improving the millions of lives affected by PTSD?
As he discussed in his Independent editorial, Adam Smith’s use CBD offered him real help with his PTSD symptoms when other medications did not. He recalled the mountains of pharmaceutical drugs that he had been given that delivered no results.
Suicide: A National Crisis Among Veterans
Suicide rates among veterans, most of whom suffer from diagnosable (and likely treatable) PTSD, have skyrocketed in recent times. The most recent data indicates that 17 veterans kill themselves every day.
While the government pays admirable lip service to the importance of our soldiers — who pay for the political decisions of leaders at home with their blood and toil — the failures of the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) to significantly curb these alarming rates of self-harm has called their commitment to the troops into questions.
According to Smith, if his experience is translatable, CBD could have potentially helped to prevent the massive losses we’ve experienced of our soldiers.
He describes his own experience with cannabis following a dark period in which he struggled with alcohol consumption and contemplated suicide. Before turning to cannabis, Smith describes the cycle of failed treatment with prescription drugs, alternating between periods of medicated sedation and recurring symptoms.
Attempting conventional approaches to PTSD treatment, in short, was a miserable experience – one shared by many veterans who return home ill-prepared and unsupported as they try to re-integrate into the world. Cannabis, Smith says, helped him sleep, feel more relaxed, and generally “better.”
The next step in the fight for universal access to CBD treatment, as it pertains to our armed forces, is to lobby the FDA to federally recognize the medicinal value of CBD and to lobby the federal legislature to de-schedule cannabis from its current schedule alongside heroin and methamphetamine.
Because of the draconian and ongoing marginalization of marijuana in the legal system, providers at the VA are currently unable to prescribe CBD to returning soldiers. Once the FDA recognizes CBD as a legitimate therapy, the VA will be allowed to explore its therapeutic potential with patients more freely.