Vets use medical marijuana for PTSD

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @AKochergaBorder

kvue.com

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 11:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 18 at 11:44 PM

EL PASO, Texas -- Homecoming is a happy day for soldiers. But for some, the fight does not end after deployment. 

A soldier, who does not want to be identified, says two men in his unit in Iraq committed suicide and he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. The solder's family fears there’s a stigma attached to his treatment: medical marijuana.

"It helps. It just soothes you. It’s really nice. It’s nice to know it’s something organic," he said.

He began using marijuana after his girlfriend at the time noticed the worsening symptoms.

"She was like, 'Hey, sometimes you get paranoid. Sometimes you get angry. Sometimes you get frustrated really easy. And it’s hard to hear that you do that.' It makes you feel like a monster," he said.

He’s found relief because he lives in New Mexico, one of the few states that allow medical marijuana to treat PTSD. 

And a lot of veterans moved to New Mexico for that very reason.

Hilda Chavez helps doctors screen patients and works with those who qualify.

"We have been told consistently by most of the vets that they were overmedicated with drugs that were making them sleep all day, or making them more anxious, and they would lose control of their lives," Chavez said.

The soldier saw, first hand, the effects of prescription drugs on another veteran suffering with PTSD: his older sister.

"You’d ask her to get something, and it was almost like she was doing it in slow motion. And sometimes she’d slur like she was drunk, but she wasn’t. She was just on the pain meds," he said.

He says she became addicted to the medication.

"She took a nap one day and just didn't wake up," he said.

She was 30 years old.

Veterans Affairs declined KVUE's request for an on camera interview but provided a statement which says because marijuana is not legal under federal law, VA providers cannot participate in any medical marijuana programs.

But according to the VA, veteranss who use medical marijuana are not prevented from seeking treatment at VA facilities. This soldier is doing both and feeling better.

"I just want the vets to see this is living proof that there is help," he said.

He hopes others also find help and access to medical marijuana once they come home.

New Mexico’s medical marijuana program requires patients with PTSD to also get counseling.
 

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