Serving in the armed forces can be associated with a lot of traumatic experiences. Participating in or witnessing the carnage and the after actions of active battle stay with us as a residual terror for years. Extreme and debilitating anxiety caused by reliving experiences that challenge the social constructs we learn as children are as real as the footage seen by the society we protect from the comforts of their homes. Unfortunately, these traumatic experiences can affect veterans and the innocent victims of geo-political conflict for many years after the battle has ended due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is common among veterans. While we do not have good records for WWI and WWII, statistics taken during and after actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam indicate between 11 to 20 percent of our soldiers were affected. Modern Psychiatry and Medicine have offered a raft of pharmaceuticals to help cope with PTSD, but oftentimes these pills conflict with each other or have side effects that rival the negative effects from PTSD. Could cannabis be beneficial in relieving symptoms of PTSD in veterans? Recent research suggests that is a possibility. Let’s take a closer look at cannabis for veterans with PTSD below and what we know so far.
What is PTSD?
In the words of an individual who has known PTSD quite intimately:
“It’s a war within yourself that never goes away.”
In scientific terms, PTSD is a disorder that affects people who have witnessed or experienced a specific traumatic event or a set of circumstances. This condition can lead to intense and often disruptive or disturbing emotions and thoughts related to what they have experienced, even though those events or experiences are not currently happening.
Symptoms of PTSD can include:
- Intrusive, involuntary thoughts, dreams, flashbacks, or memories
- Trying to avoid places, objects, people, activities, and situations that trigger the stressful memories
- Altered states of cognitive thought, such as feeling estranged from society or blaming one’s self
- Mood changes and changes in interests that were once enjoyable
- Irritable, angry, suspicious, or reckless behaviors
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
Veterans and PTSD
PTSD doesn’t solely affect veterans, it can happen to any individual who is involved in or witnesses traumatic events, but veterans face a higher risk due to the nature of events that can occur during conflict whether or not they are direct combat or combat support.
Today, PTSD is far better understood than it once was and is recognized as a legitimate psychological condition. The horrors many veterans faced in earlier combat wars did not always get the same level of recognition or support. Back then, the condition was often referred to as “shell shock.” And, veterans were not always encouraged to speak up about their symptoms or to seek treatment. However, there are now ongoing discussions about the risks of PTSD.
Unfortunately, most veterans are given prescription medications like antidepressants or antipsychotics to mitigate the symptoms of PTSD. While these drugs can be effective to some degree, they also come along with dangerous side effects and adverse impacts on quality of life. It’s a Catch 22 really; For example, many prescriptions are associated with a high rate of addiction, yet avoiding the meds sometimes leads to continued irrational thoughts and suicide. 17 veterans take their lives every day and PTS is a routine culprit.
Cannabis for Military-Related PTSD
With more states and even the federal government taking steps to relax laws surrounding cannabis, new doors are now open to many veterans with PTSD. Some veterans have already sought cannabis to help with PTSD symptoms and report good outcomes compared to prescription medication. PTSD is now listed as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in almost all states with a medical cannabis program.
In 2021, one of the first studies of its kind yielded promising results about using cannabis to target PTSD symptoms. The research was a follow-up effort based on a year-long evaluation of cannabis users who had PTSD. The former evaluation found cannabis users were able to impressively decrease PTSD symptoms. The more in-depth study obtained a more clinical look at what cannabinoid concentrations were effective.
Cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) carry a lot of properties that could be important to veterans with PTSD. For example:
- THC, CBD and/or CBN may be beneficial for sleep support
- CBD may deter the symptoms of anxiety
- THC may reduce anxiety symptoms at lower doses (see micro-dosing)
- CBD may deter depressive thoughts and what I call re-play or dwelling on the non-stop loop of memories. The only ‘back’ buttons you need are on the TV remote and your computer.
- THC may reduce the instance of nightmares related to PTSD.
-More extreme cases of PTS may benefit from using Cannabinoids in conjunction with microdosing Psilocybins. Again, Federal Guidelines do not exist because research on these compounds has been hampered by previous regulations. Do your research. Preliminary findings offer that the use together offers a ‘reset’ button of sorts, allowing some patients to ‘archive’ some of the recurring visual footage.
Tips for Using Cannabis to Target PTSD Symptoms
- Find out if medical or recreational cannabis is available in your state.
If you are under the care of the VA, make sure to touch base with your care provider about how the use of specific cannabinoids will 1) affect your benefits and 2) interact with the medication schedule prescribed by the doctor. Even though the VA is a Federal organization, state by state and even office by office differences occur. VA or personal care, check things out with a doctor before you go big. Many anxiety prescriptions have alarming interactions with cannabinoids.
- Stick with a lower-THC flower to prevent the risk of added paranoia or anxiety. While you cannot overdose on cannabinoids, moderation is sometimes difficult when you experience the positive effects of cannabis. After my retirement, I was so pleased with how CBD (one of the non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis/hemp) gave me control over the replays, I went too big on dabs which had the effect of cancelling the positive, palliative effects of the CBD.
- If you’re new to cannabis for PTSD, start with a small amount, gauge your symptoms, and adjust intake as needed.
- What you introduce to your body and how it is introduced are real variables. Modern cannabis offers not only Marijuana bud (flower), the components of cannabis are now available on their own as isolated cannabinoids. Depending on your own PTS, you may find that you do not like the effect rendered by THC, but CBD and CBN provide the kind of response you desire.
- Lastly, always trust a reputable source. Bad news, like most things, there are unscrupulous players in the cannabis industry. Federal directions on cannabis are scant which leaves your needs open to the black market. Just because your local gas station is hawking CBD, doesn’t mean thats the bottle to buy. Do your research. Cannabis/Hemp is an accumulator plant. If the soil is full of garbage, the plant accumulates it and you ingest garbage (or worse). Make sure the cannabinoids are Grown in USA and offer up to date testing for anti-fungal chemicals, pesticides and other contaminants like solvents and heavy metals.
And if the method of induction is smoking or vaping, your device matters too. Chinese vape pens and pipes often use substandard materials or unhealthy manufacturing components (lead solder) that are invisible to the untrained/naked eye. Bad news, sh*t from china may be affordable, but they are not our friends.
If smoking is your choice, be sure to pick up a good glass pipe to enjoy a cleaner, more flavorful smoke that is better capable of ensuring an experience you can trust. Always go for high-quality glass pipes manufactured right here in the U.S.A. from the best possible materials.
Trust Chameleon Glass for Glass Pipes You Can Count On for Quality
At Chameleon Glass, we offer a wide range of hand pipes, water pipes, and smoking accessories to make sure everyone has the best experience regardless of what type of pipe you use. All of our glass pipes are crafted in North America, most of them right here in the USA and put through a stringent quality control process before they reach you. You will never find a cheap knock-off laden with lead, glass dust or harmful toxins. Chameleon Glass delivers only 100% Unique, 100% Handmade, 100% Original pipes. Be sure to check our diverse collection to find your perfect pipe for your smoking sessions.
Personally, this 21Bravo uses a Monsoon and an Easy Clean for my daily drivers. Enjoy.