To the surprise of many and according to Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested to the audience at a town hall event in Phoenix Thursday that marijuana legalization should be “on the table.” It could be that after all of the time spent in an enemy prison camp in North Vietnam, the Senator from Arizona can understand the pain other veterans suffer. This unforgiving mental anguish is commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
The Veterans Administration is starting to listen to many other veterans who complain about harsh drugs prescribed by VA doctors for PTSD. John J. Walters writes that “treating PTSD with marijuana could curb veteran suicides.” Veterans committing suicide is averaging 22 every day. It has increased more than 20 percent since 2007.
Prescribing powerful psychotropic (mood altering) drugs like Lorazepam for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety is common practice among military doctors, writes Walters. Drugs like Lorazepam do not help our vets coming home with PTSD.
“Part of the problem with treating PTSD with high-intensity (and generally highly-addictive) pills is the tendency for veterans to self-medicate”, says Alec Dixon, a U.S. Navy veteran and the Director of Client Relations for SC Laboratories. Dixon continues, “Veterans—whether Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf, Korean, or Vietnam War vets—have largely self-medicated as a form of personal coping and treatment with PTSD.”
In other words, because of the zero-tolerance stance the military takes on cannabis use for PTSD, our veterans are self-medicating with booze instead of being allowed to smoke marijuana medicinally. Possibly Senator John McCain remembers his own personal tragedy when he returned from Vietnam and understands the “medicinal” choices given today’s veterans?
Dr.Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli neurological scientist, has been experimenting with marijuana for a very long time. Dr. Mechoulam identified THC as the active ingredient in marijuana. Decades later, he believes this “psychoactive compound” can help a myriad of neurological and psychiatric conditions. . . including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Mechoulam believes that Israeli vets with PTSD can be helped through medicinal cannabis use.
Dr. Mechoulam found that veterans with PTSD cannot forget the experience(s) that caused the trauma. He explained that “an animal which has been administered an electric shock after a certain noise will eventually forget about the shock after the noise appears alone for a few days. Mice without cannabinoid systems simply never forget – they continue to cringe at the noise indefinitely.” Simply put, someone with PTSD needs something to aid in “memory extinction.“
In 2010 Arizona voted on the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. Gov. Jan Brewer told her attorney general to raid cannabis dispensaries that the Arizona voters had mandated. Brewer did not listen to the voters who put her in office. That’s a normal chain of events for GOP leadership.
Senator McCain could unknowingly be opening doors for hundreds of veterans suffering from unending pain no one can see. The old “hawk” might be leaning toward helping our vets. The majority of the GOP doesn’t want to spend the money it will take to actually help PTSD victims. Listen to McCain’s words and bring the legalization of marijuana to the table.
Richard Andrew is a guest blogger for Ring of Fire.