Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Nov 05, 2006 12:55 pm

Navy Times wrote:November 01, 2006

Troubled troops in no-win plight

By Gregg Zoroya
USA Today
Navy Times

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Chris Packley returned from Fallujah in 2004 a top marksman on a sniper team showcased in the Marine Corps Times for its 22 kills.

“I was exceptionally proud of that Marine,” says Gunnery Sgt. Scott Guise, his former team leader.

He also came home with flashbacks - memories of his friend, Lance Cpl. Michael Blake Wafford, 20, dying on the battlefield. Packley says he smoked marijuana to try to escape the images. He also left the base without permission. ”I wanted out,” Packley says.

Last year he got his wish and was expelled from the Marine Corps. As a consequence, he lost access to the free counseling and medication he needed to treat the mental wounds left from combat, according to Packley, his former defense lawyer and documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Scores of combat veterans like Packley are being dismissed from the Marines without the medical benefits needed to treat combat stress, says Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who supervises the legal defense of Marines in the western United States, including here at Camp Pendleton.

When classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) arise - including alcoholism and drug abuse - the veterans are punished for the behavior, Vokey says. Their less-than-honorable discharges can lead to a denial of VA benefits. Vokey calls it a Catch 22, referring to the no-win situation showcased in Joseph Heller’s satirical war novel “Catch 22.”

“The Marine Corps has created these mental health issues” in combat veterans, Vokey says,”and then we just kind of kick them out into the streets.”

Characters in the 1961 satire were caught in a contradiction. They could be relieved of dangerous flying missions if crazy. But if they claimed to be crazy, they were deemed sane for trying to avoid danger and had to keep flying.

In Iraq, Marines who perform well in combat can be lauded for it. But if they develop PTSD, they can be punished for stress-related misconduct, kicked out of the military and denied treatment for their illness.

In recent months, the Marine Corps has begun investigating the matter, identifying 1,019 Marines who may fall into this group since the war in Iraq began. All served at least one year in the Marines and one tour overseas before being discharged for misconduct.

“We’re digging down into the data sources we have to try and come up with answers,” says Navy Capt. William Nash, who coordinates the Marine Corps’ combat stress programs. ”That it happens at all is obviously not ideal.”

He says each case will be examined to learn whether the Marine suffered combat stress and whether that might have contributed to the misconduct.

The results could help the Marine Corps flag combat-stressed Marines and help them avoid getting into trouble, Nash says.

<span class=postbigbold>More aggressive about PTSD</span>

The military has moved more aggressively in this war to educate and treat combat stress than in previous conflicts. Mental health teams have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers and Marines are asked about their mental and physical health before and after their tours.

A 2004 Army study showed that about 17 percent of combat troops suffer PTSD, a rate comparable with Vietnam-era stress among such troops, says Joseph Boscarino, a senior investigator with the Geisinger Center for Health Research in Danville, Pa., who has conducted extensive PTSD research on Vietnam veterans.

Vokey and his lawyers say they are convinced, based on reviews of medical records, that combat stress was a major factor in the misconduct cases. They argue that either the Pentagon or VA should revise its policies so that these combat veterans are not stripped of the medical care they need to get better.

“People would be appalled if the guy came back and he had lost a leg, lost a limb, and then we say, ‘Oh, you had a DUI (driving under the influence), so you’re going to have to give your prosthetic back,’ ” says Marine Capt. James Weirick, a former member of Vokey’s staff. ”But to a great extent, we’re doing that with these people.”

Packley, 24, received an other-than-honorable discharge. According to a VA document Packley’s mother, Patricia, shared with USA TODAY, the department acknowledges he has PTSD but denied him benefits in July.

“You go to war and they can’t even help you with the problems you get from it,” says Packley, who now does state highway construction in Joliet, Ill.

He says he has been off anti-anxiety, anti-depression and sleep medications for months because he cannot afford it. ”I’m just so stressed,” he says. “It doesn’t take much to get me almost panic-stricken anymore.”

<span class=postbigbold>Heroes in trouble</span>

Marine Capt. Mike Studenka, who supervises a law office located amid infantry battalions at Camp Pendleton, says he sees about 40 Marines each month who are in trouble. About a third fit the profile of combat veterans with impressive records who suddenly have drug or alcohol problems and face dismissal and loss of benefits.

”You have guys coming in this building who are, no question about it, heroes in everything that they have done in the past,” Studenka says. “You have them saying, ‘I just need to get out. I want out.’ That breaks your heart.”

The Marine Corps says post-traumatic stress disorder is no legal defense to misconduct, and that discipline must be maintained.

”PTSD does not force anyone to do an illegal act,” Nash says. “The consequences to the Marine Corps of not upholding those standards of behavior would be a much greater tragedy. It would dishonor all those Marines who have been injured by the stress of war but who have not broken the rules.”

Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen who get in trouble can receive one of four discharges. The lightest is a general discharge, often described as ”under honorable conditions,” in which recipients remain eligible for most VA benefits.

More serious misconduct can lead to an other-than-honorable discharge or, worse, a bad conduct discharge. A serious felony results in a dishonorable discharge.

The law prohibits a veteran from receiving the full spectrum of VA benefits - such things as health care, insurance and home loans - in certain cases, such as those involving deserters, conscientious objectors or those who receive dishonorable discharges.

But the VA has discretion to grant full benefits in other-than-honorable or bad conduct discharge cases. It can still deny them if the agency decides the underlying misconduct was “willful and persistent,” a largely subjective decision, VA official Jack McCoy says.

Statistics from 1990 through September show that about eight out of 10 veterans who received bad-conduct discharges were turned down when they sought benefits, McCoy says.

<span class=postbigbold>Few exceptions</span>

Even if the full package of benefits is denied, the VA can still grant health care for specific war-related injuries such as PTSD. Gary Baker, director of the VA’s health eligibility center, says that in his 20 years of experience he has seen this exception granted fewer than six times.

The VA offers temporary counseling, but no medication, for veterans who are appealing their discharges. Counseling ends if the appeal fails. Vokey argues that the VA could relax its practices and treat veterans who are discharged for PTSD-related misconduct.

Mental health experts say this problem almost certainly occurred in prior wars. But combat-induced mental disorders and how they may contribute to bad behavior were not as well understood.

The issue exists today in the Army but to a lesser degree, says Army Lt. Col. John Wells, a former supervising defense lawyer. Combat-stress cases involving misconduct are handled in informal ways that often do not lead to a loss of benefits, Wells says.

The Marine Corps, by comparison, prides itself on its strict standards. ”We take discipline infraction very seriously,” says Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, a Marine Corps spokesman. It prosecutes about the same number of troops as the Army each year for misconduct, though it is only one-third the Army’s size.

The Marine Corps also does a disproportionate share of fighting and dying in Iraq, making up 20 percent of U.S. ground forces while suffering 30 percent of the casualties. More than 10 percent of American troops who died in Iraq were Marines from Camp Pendleton, which has lost almost 300, more than any other military base.

Marine Corps statistics, though incomplete, show PTSD cases doubled from about 250 in 2003 to 596 in 2004, and then doubled again to 1,229 in 2005.

Although Marine Corps officials say the service has come a long way in recognizing and treating PTSD, they acknowledge that it still struggles to provide treatment resources and to overcome the stigma against those who suffer mental health problems. “There might be some commanders out there who aren’t really willing to accept that there is such a thing as post-traumatic stress syndrome,” says Marine Col. Hank Donegan, a military intelligence officer at Pendleton.

Vokey and his staff agree that many troubled Marines should leave the Marine Corps, for their sake and that of the Corps. To strip them of benefits is wrong, they say. ”It seems to me our country has bought that problem and we ought to fix it as best we can,” says Melissa Epstein, a Los Angeles lawyer and former Marine captain on Vokey’s staff.

<span class=postbigbold>A medal winner’s trauma</span>

One of those PTSD cases involved Ryan Birrell, 24, who served as a sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. After his second tour, in 2004-05, he received the Bronze Star with a “V” for combat heroism.

The citation described five separate episodes of valor, including one morning in February 2005 when Birrell organized the defense of a fog-shrouded observation post in Husaybah that came under multiple attacks by insurgents and suicide car-bombers. A wounded Birrell rallied his troops, tended to casualties and directed fire, often while exposed to enemy gunfire.

”Sgt. Birrell reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest tradition of the Marine Corps,” his citation reads.

After coming home, Birrell took an assignment earlier this year as a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, and his life began to fall apart.

Diagnosed with PTSD, he suddenly demanded a divorce from his wife, abused alcohol and methamphetamines and left his base without permission, say Birrell and Weirick, then his lawyer.

Kicked out of the Marine Corps with an other-than-honorable discharge, he lived in Tijuana, Mexico, for months, often homeless.

“What brought me down there was how the streets were kind of like being in Iraq - that kind of turmoil-type stuff,” Birrell says now.

Birrell says that in Tijuana, he could fill his head with thoughts of where to find food or shelter.

Growing tired of that life, he finally called his parents and they brought him home last month. ”Life is great,” says his mother, Kim Lukas, who says she’s ecstatic to have him home again.

For Birrell, however, insomnia is back. “When I do sleep,” he says, ”I’m constantly waking up from dreams, constantly tired throughout the day.” His nightmares are of war. He visited VA offices this week asking for benefits despite his other-than-honorable discharge. Birrell says he needs treatment for his PTSD. Weirick fears they will turn him down regardless of his battlefield heroism.

Lukas says that makes her angry. “He’s done two tours over there and God knows how many lives he’s saved,” she says. ”He’s going to need the care.”

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Casualty of war: Mental health

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Nov 19, 2006 1:20 pm

The Palm Beach Post wrote:Casualty of war: Mental health

By Anne Usher

Palm Beach Post-Cox News Service

Sunday, November 19, 2006

WASHINGTON — Multiple and extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are resulting in rates of post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers that will likely match or exceed those for Vietnam veterans diagnosed with the chronic condition, government officials and veterans groups say.

The unique circumstances in Iraq, where soldiers face an insurgency without a front line, have left many particularly vulnerable to combat stress and are driving the abuse of drugs and alcohol, military health experts say.

Yet many veterans and active-duty troops are not getting the treatment they need.

About one in six of the 589,000 veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The rate is expected to climb because it can take months and sometimes years for the condition to become manifest. Symptoms include anxiety, sleeplessness, flashbacks and extreme wariness, a recipe that often strains personal relationships and makes it hard to get and keep jobs.

Jesus Bocanegra, a 24-year-old former Army sergeant, said he is haunted by the countless shots he fired at Iraqis while serving as an infantry scout in Tikrit in 2003 and 2004. The McAllen, Texas, native said he lost track of how many innocent civilians he killed.

"How the hell was I capable of that?" he said.

Back home and plagued with anxiety attacks, he tried to close himself off from the world by drinking to the point of passing out, he said. He progressed to marijuana and then cocaine.

"The only way to sustain yourself day to day is to keep yourself drugged up," he said. But "it made it worse."

Eventually, he stopped taking drugs. But it took nearly two years for him to get an appointment at the closest veterans hospital, a four-hour drive away, because it was overbooked, he said. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and given pills, but with no VA therapists in the area, he sought help from a group called Vets for Vets.

"It's good to have someone to talk to," he said. "It's the only thing that keeps me going."

Between 15 and 29 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from PTSD, according to an estimate by Col. Charles Engel, a clinician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. As of August, 63,767 discharged soldiers had been diagnosed by the VA with a mental disorder, and 34,380 with PTSD, data show.

Experts say the PTSD rate among Iraq veterans could well eclipse the 30 percent lifetime rate found in a 1990 national study of Vietnam veterans because soldiers still on active duty are being deployed longer and more often to Iraq and more doctors are aware of the disorder and will properly diagnose it.

But a study released in May by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that nearly four in five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who may have been at risk for PTSD were not referred for further mental health evaluation. The Pentagon was unable to explain to the GAO why some were not referred for care.

Medical experts say mental health and substance abuse problems are intertwined. And drugs ranging from marijuana to prescription antidepressants are easily accessible in Iraq, according to interviews with more than a dozen soldiers who served there.

Soldiers said they used banned substances as a way to mentally escape the violence around them. Others said pills were handed out by medics in the field.

John Crawford, a 28-year-old former Florida National Guardsman who served with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said soldiers in his unit drank alcohol, some took steroids, "pretty much everyone took Valium" and "some did all three."

Crawford said he bought 200 to 300 pills of Valium on the street in Baghdad for $2 as a way to catch some sleep between patrols. After eight months, he built up a tolerance and was taking seven or eight at a time.

The extent of alcohol and drug abuse among combat veterans is difficult to quantify. Announced drug tests are usually done just once a year.

Army Maj. James Weeden, who directed a team of 200 mental health specialists dealing with combat stress in Iraq until he left there in September, said senior officers recognize the strain their troops are under and have begun assigning some mental health specialists to remote forward operating bases.

But seeking treatment in a combat environment is difficult because any travel risks exposure to enemy attacks and roadside bombs. And asking for help is still seen as a sign of weakness.

Weeden and other medical specialists say they can only treat the symptoms of combat stress - with antidepressant drugs and rest, for example - and that soldiers are sent out of Iraq only when they have clearly disabling cases of PTSD. Commanders naturally want to keep soldiers in the field, and most soldiers say that they don't want to abandon their units.

"We strengthen (combat readiness) because we get them back," Weeden said.

Joyce Raezer, director of government relations at the National Military Family Association, said soldiers - some now on their fourth or fifth tour - are bringing "all the baggage from the last deployment into the next."

"The stress is cumulative," she said. Families are alarmed by military statistics showing that 80 percent of soldiers who have been flagged with "mild" symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder have been sent back to Iraq and Afghanistan, many with antidepressants to enable them to still fight.

When the roughly 160,000 soldiers now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan eventually return home, the Department of Veterans Affairs has the resources to offer all of them treatment for PTSD and substance abuse, said Dr. Ira R. Katz, the department's deputy chief patient care officer for mental health. He noted that there are 200 "readjustment" centers for veterans nationwide and that "telemental" health counseling is available over the Internet.

But many soldiers seeking treatment for combat stress when they return say they face steep hurdles getting help from the government.

The Government Accountability Office said the VA has not spent millions of dollars at its disposal to treat returning soldiers, many of whom say their problems were also ignored after being flagged in post-deployment tests aimed at catching early signs of PTSD.

Maj. Gen. Paul Mock, commander of the 63rd Regional Readiness Command for the Army Reserve, told an Army convention last month that he doesn't think the infrastructure is in place to treat all returning troops who need mental health care, especially in rural areas.

Adam Reuter, a 23-year-old former Army specialist from Atlanta who was stationed near the Syrian border with the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Company, said a medic simply handed him a plastic bag filled with pills with no instructions after he was tossed out of a Humvee in an accident. The bag contained Percocet, Vicodin, Tylenol with codeine, a muscle relaxant, Motrin and naproxen.

He said he went back for more and developed a dependency he is still trying to shake.

The military maintains a zero-tolerance policy for drug use on all but prescription medications. Some soldiers have lost their military benefits - regardless of their combat citations - after they have been found to have used banned substances. But many commanders offer leeway in such cases, choosing nonjudicial punishment such as demotion to keep soldiers on duty, said Army Col. Bill Buckner, a public affairs officer at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

•Soldiers in field turning more to illicit drugs, 4A

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Stress disorders, drug abuse, little help for troops

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:31 pm

The Austin American-Statesman wrote:Stress disorders, drug abuse, little help for troops

As repeat tours of Iraq wear on U.S. forces, government struggles to provide mental health care; many say they take refuge in drugs.

By Anne Usher
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The Austin American-Statesman

WASHINGTON — Military personnel on multiple and extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at rates that probably will match or exceed the rate among Vietnam veterans, government officials and veterans groups say.

The war in Iraq, with often-hidden enemies and explosives, has left many service members particularly vulnerable to combat stress and is driving the abuse of drugs and alcohol both in Iraq and at home, military health experts say.

Yet many veterans and on-duty troops are not getting the treatment they need.

As of August, more than 184,500 returning veterans had sought care of all kinds through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and about one in six of those had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a rate expected to climb since it can take months and sometimes years for the condition to manifest itself.

Symptoms include anxiety, sleeplessness, flashbacks and extreme wariness, a recipe that can strain relationships and make it hard for those suffering to get or keep jobs.

<table class=posttable align=left width=175><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/ptsd_adam-reuter.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>Former Spc. Adam Reuter said he became dependent on drugs in Iraq. He said that he was involved in an accident and that a medic handed him a bag filled with pills and gave him no instructions.</td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/ptsd_jesus-bocanegra.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>Former Army Sgt. Jesus Bocanegra, a McAllen native, said of his time in Iraq, 'The only way to sustain yourself day to day is to keep yourself drugged up.'</td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/ptsd_john-crawford.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>John Crawford, a former Florida National Guardsman, said drug and alcohol use were common in Iraq. Crawford said he built up a tolerance to Valium after buying 200 to 300 pills in Baghdad for $2. </td></tr></table>Jesus Bocanegra, a 24-year-old former Army sergeant with an infantry company based at Fort Hood, says he is haunted by countless shots he fired at Iraqis while serving as a scout in Tikrit in 2003-04.

The McAllen native says he lost track of how many civilians died in the crossfire when he squeezed off rounds at Iraqi insurgents.

"How the hell was I capable of that?" he says now.

Back home and plagued with anxiety attacks, he said he tried to close himself off from the world by drinking to the point of passing out. He said he progressed to marijuana use and then cocaine.

"The only way to sustain yourself day to day is to keep yourself drugged up," he said. But "it made it worse."

Eventually, he said, he stopped taking drugs and visited a VA clinic. Seven months later, a psychiatrist there diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and gave him pills, dispensing medications in five-minute meetings every three to four months. A clinic employee verified his diagnosis and said that with 400 to 600 patients a day, "every doctor is overbooked."

With no VA psychotherapists in his area at the time — one has since been added — Bocanegra sought help from a support group called Vets for Vets.

"It's good to have someone to talk to," he said. "It's the only thing that keeps me going."

Married for just under a year, he is unemployed but hopes to return to school.

He said he is focused now on his mental health and on touring with other veterans to push for improved services for vets, many of whom he says are also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Disability benefits of $2,500 a month help keep him afloat.

Up to 29 percent of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, predicts Col. Charles Engel, a clinician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As of August, the VA had diagnosed 63,767 discharged veterans with a mental disorder and 34,380 with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Experts say the rate of the disorder among Iraq veterans could well eclipse the 30 percent lifetime rate found in a 1990 study of Vietnam veterans because military personnel are being deployed longer and more often to Iraq and because greater awareness of the disorder among doctors will lead to more diagnoses.

Some statistics show the cases climbing fast. The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have sought help for readjustment concerns including post-traumatic stress disorder doubled between October 2005 and June 2006, according to a recent survey of 60 VA-run centers by the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

That increase has made it only more difficult to get quality care, the survey found.

Among active-duty military personnel who served in Iraq, 35 percent used military mental health care services in the year after coming home and 12 percent were diagnosed with a mental health problem, a study published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

Veterans groups fear that the VA won't be able to handle the high proportion of service members seeking such help once they are discharged. They note studies showing that though post-traumatic stress disorder can resolve itself in some people over time, its symptoms can worsen if not treated quickly.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it has enough resources to offer treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse to all of the roughly 160,000 service members now in Iraq and Afghanistan once they are home.

Dr. Ira Katz, deputy chief patient care officer for mental health for the VA, noted that there are 200 veteran readjustment centers nationwide and that mental health counseling is available over the Internet.

As part of unprecedented efforts on its part, the military in September 2005 began giving returning troops a questionnaire aimed at catching early signs of the disorder. Questions include whether they have nightmares, are feeling emotionally numb or super alert, or have physical reactions such as breathing trouble when reminded of a stressful experience. In January, the military put in place a secondary screening test to check for similar symptoms.

But nearly four in five returning troops who may have been at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder were not referred for further mental health evaluation, according to a study released in May by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. About half of those diagnosed with a mental health problem got care, but fewer than 10 percent were referred through the military's new screening program, the JAMA study in March showed.

The Pentagon told the GAO that it generally concurred with the its recommendations and that a systemic evaluation of referrals is planned. After the study's publication, however, the Pentagon said it was flawed because it did not include troops referred to chaplains, primary care physicians and group counseling. The GAO says the Defense Department was not able to provide any evidence that those referrals occurred and still has not provided figures on personnel who may have since received treatment.

After his first Iraq tour ended in August 2005, former Pfc. Josh Revak said, a large number of soldiers in his 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder on the test, but the commanders "just took it as a joke, and I think barely anybody received treatment."

The 25-year-old said he asked for help but didn't get psychological counseling until after a 120 mm mortar landed near him on his second tour in Iraq in June, sending him back to their base in Germany with shrapnel through his foot.

By that time, Revak said, several men in his unit had been disciplined for Valium use.

Medical experts say mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are often intertwined.

"When they don't get the kind of mental health screening — or physical — history tells us they will turn to coping mechanisms," said Steve Robinson, director of government relations for Veterans for America, a 35,000-member organization.

He says many of the hundreds of troops he has interviewed at post-deployment sites are addicted to medications given to them in the field, such as painkillers and sleeping pills. But they are not getting the therapy that normally goes with such medications, Robinson said.

Adam Reuter, a 23-year-old former Army specialist, said that after he was tossed out of a Humvee in an accident in Iraq, a medic handed him a plastic bag filled with pills and gave him no instructions.

The bag contained four kinds of painkillers, an anti-inflammatory drug and a muscle relaxant, said Reuter, an Atlanta native who served with the 3rd Squadron of the 3rd Armored Company from May 2003 until February 2004. He said he went back for more and developed a dependency that he is still trying to shake.

Military personnel said they used banned substances as a way to mentally escape the violence around them. Drugs ranging from marijuana to prescription anti-depressants are easily accessible in Iraq, according to interviews with more than a dozen soldiers who served there.

John Crawford, a 28-year-old former Florida National Guardsman with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said soldiers in his unit drank alcohol, some took steroids, "pretty much everyone took Valium," and "some did all three."

Crawford said he bought 200 to 300 Valium pills on the street in Baghdad for $2 as a way to get some sleep between patrols. After eight months, he built up a tolerance and was taking seven or eight at a time.

The extent of alcohol and drug abuse among combat veterans is difficult to quantify. The Pentagon declined to release the results of announced drug tests specifically for Iraq. The tests are usually done just once a year.

Army Maj. James Weeden directed a team of 200 specialists dealing with combat stress in Iraq until he left the country in September.

He says senior officers recognize the strain their troops are under and in the past year have assigned specialists to address the issue at remote forward operating bases.

But seeking treatment in a combat environment is difficult. All travel is risky, and asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness.

Weeden and other medical specialists say that they can treat only the symptoms of combat stress — with anti-depressant drugs and rest, for example — and that troops are sent out of Iraq only when they have clearly disabling cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Commanders want to keep troops in the field, and most service members say that they don't want to abandon their units.

"We strengthen (combat readiness) because we get them back," Weeden said.

That desire to keep medicated troops in combat troubles Joyce Raezer, director of government relations at the National Military Family Association.

She says U.S. troops — some now on their fourth or fifth tour — are bringing "all the baggage from the last deployment into the next."

"The stress is cumulative," she said.

Families are alarmed by military statistics showing that 80 percent of soldiers who have been flagged with mild symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder have been sent back to Iraq and Afghanistan, many with anti-depressant pills aimed at ensuring they can still fight. Experts say repeated exposure to combat is the greatest predictor of whether a person will get post-traumatic stress disorder and how severe it will be.

When they come home, many seeking treatment say they face steep hurdles getting help from the government. With a wave of post-traumatic stress disorder cases arriving, outreach groups fear the VA will not have adequate resources to treat them and to pay disability benefits.

The VA is proposing a $339 million increase in mental health care spending next year, Katz said Tuesday. That would bring total annual spending on those programs to about $3.2 billion.

Implementation is another question. As of late September, about $42 million of $200 million directed for initiatives to close gaps in VA mental health care in 2006 had not been spent, the GAO found.

"Requesting more money is a step in the right direction," said Paul Sullivan, director of programs for Veterans for America, who was a senior analyst at the VA until he left six months ago.

But he added, "The VA's problems are systemic, and the solutions must be more comprehensive than simple increases in funding."

He noted the GAO findings that the VA lacked a comprehensive plan to implement the funding in last year's budget.

About 144,000 of the 589,000 veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have already been seen at VA-run Vet Centers for "readjustment concerns" ranging from depression and marital problems to full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder.

Forty percent of the 60 centers surveyed in the study by the Democratic House staff have directed veterans for whom individualized therapy would be appropriate to group therapy instead.

Dr. Frances Murphy, undersecretary for Health Policy Coordination at the VA, told a mental health commission in March that the growing numbers of veterans seeking mental health care has revealed areas in which improvement is needed.

Some VA clinics, she said, do not provide mental health or substance abuse care, or if they do, "waiting lists render that care virtually inaccessible."

"The VA needs more capacity so that vets can get treatment and don't have to wait," Sullivan said.

If they are able to see a VA doctor, hundreds of veterans with severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are being denied disability benefits because their condition is obscured by drug or alcohol abuse, which is labeled "willful misconduct," said Elinor Roberts, legal director for Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based veterans organization.

The military maintains a zero tolerance policy for drug use on all but prescription medications.

Some service members have lost their military benefits, regardless of their combat citations, after they have been found to have used banned substances.

But many commanders offer leeway in such cases, choosing nonjudicial punishments such as demotions to keep soldiers on duty, said Army Col. Bill Buckner, a public affairs officer at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The VA is allowed to give benefits to veterans dealing with alcohol abuse but not illicit drugs, and only if a clinician finds that the veteran also has post-traumatic stress disorder. VA officials say many vets with the condition have trouble making appointments to get that diagnosis in the first place.

Amy Fairweather, who has counseled about 50 Iraq vets for Swords to Plowshares, said the impact of repeated deployments "is enormous."

"It contributes to all the elements for substance abuse, mental illness and family dissolution," she said. "There's only so many times you can be uprooted from family and work. Not to mention that they're over there in hell."

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Treatment for PTSD Should Include Cannabis

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu May 24, 2007 3:56 pm

Salem-News wrote:<a class=postlink href= target=_blank></a> (May-08-2007 11:57)

Oregon Toxicologist Says Treatment for PTSD Should Include Cannabis

Dr. Philip Leveque

Phillip Leveque, a former WWII combat infantryman, physician and toxicologist, discusses the merits of marijuana use for those who suffer from PTSD.

(MOLLALA, Ore.) - For those who do not know it, the humans and all animals so far tested produce two marijuana like substances, Anandamide and 2- Arachidonal glycerol (2AG), which produce exactly the same medical functions as marijuana.

<table class=posttable width=180 height=371 align=right><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=></td></tr></table>Secondly marijuana/cannabis has been used in human medicine for about 4,000 years and have never killed anybody, which cannot be said for almost any other medicine.

Thirdly, between 1850 and 1900 cannabis medicine was the most prescribed and most used medicine for about 100 different diseases in the U.S.

Fourthly, in 1988 after hearing 15 days of testimony, pro and con, DEA Administrative Judge Francis L. Young made the following ruling, “Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. Marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.” Three DEA Administrators, all non-physicians, refused to comply and have deprived millions of desperately ill patients’ effective relief.

Authors Note: Many newspapers and magazines are currently publishing articles about PTSD – what is it and what to do about it. Most reporters AND psychiatrists don’t have a clue. One heavy artillery or mortar barrage would give them some insight.

In World War I, it was called “Shell Shock”. As a frontline Combat Infantryman, pointman, scout and forward observer, I know what an artillery or mortar barrage is like – it scares the bejesus out of the soldier. In a long barrage, I can see the soldier going psychotic – frozen in space and time and not being able to speak or move, even if some battalion officer visiting the front would order him to do so. It happened a lot.

During World War II, if the soldier was lucky (I’m joking) he would be sent back to an aid station and be given a triple dose of a barbiturate sleeping pill. These were called “blue 88s”. They would knock-out the soldier for at least 24 hours. Then he was often sent back to the front. On the off chance it was an officer, he would be sent way back to a rest area, often with as much booze as he wanted for as long as he wanted.

Army psychiatrists have had a field day with this. They first called it “homesickness” (what a crock). They also called it “war neurosis”. That doesn’t cover it. Everybody in a war zone has neurosis. It’s how we cope. Battle is super stressful. A recent example is the serial killer at Virginia Tech who killed 32 students.

The whole student body and faculty had a neurosis. Many will suffer from PTSD.

For a soldier who may be almost constantly under fire with the knowledge that a whole bunch of enemy are trying to kill him and he is so tired and stressed out, does anyone, including psychiatrists, believe the soldier can carry on indefinitely?

Battle fatigue, terror fatigue, combat stress or PTSD seems to slightly cover the situation.

One of the symptoms is the belief that one cannot survive. This is NOT fear or paranoia. With horrible death and destruction all around, how can a soldier NOT know he won’t survive? But still, he carries on.

During World War II, in North Africa, the “nervous breakdown” ratio (another name for the same) was 15 to 20% of living casualties. Some other casualties went berserk and charged a machine gun or ran into a minefield. At the Battle of the Bulge, they shot themselves in the foot or let their feet freeze. No toes on a foot was better than a shot in the head.

The Vietnam soldier discovered an effective treatment for PTSD. They discovered it while in Vietnam. It was high-grade Marijuana and sometimes opium or a combination of both.

It isn’t even known how high a percentage of frontline “grunts”, as they were called, used the above, but it was a lot. They also had access to all the beer or booze they could get their hands on.

This was certainly no different than the “blue 88s” of WWII, and better in the long run.

The Vietnam Administration Clinics have tried every anti-psychotic and anti-depressant in the book as well as highly potent pain killers like Oxycontin and M.S. contin (morphine) with minimal success for PTSD. They did end up with thousands of drug addicts and alcoholics.

I had about 500 Vietnam vet patients. Many had PTSD which was not acceptable for an Oregon Medical Marijuana permit. Most did have some physical injury for which I could give them a permit.

<span class=postbold>Note: This is modified from the article: “Battle Fatigue: What’s wrong with these sissies?” from the author’s book “General Patton’s Dogface Soldier” by Phil Leveque.</span>

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Medical Pot and the Iraq Veteran

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:53 pm

Esquire wrote:Medical Pot and the Iraq Veteran

<span class=postbigbold>Can medical marijuana help returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan war deal with post-traumatic stress disorder?</span>

by Colby Buzzell, Esquire Magazine
September 25th, 2007

<span class=postbold>Can medical marijuana</span> help returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan war deal with post-traumatic stress disorder?

This question -- that it might, that it might not, or that it might even make it worse -- hadn't even occurred to me until recently, when I was on the phone with the receptionist at a local medical-marijuana clinic trying to line up an appointment with a doctor in high hopes of obtaining a California medical-marijuana ID card so that I could purchase some cannabis as "medication."

I'm what you might call a recreational drug user, as well as an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran and a card-carrying member of the VFW. To be honest, the real reason I was looking to score a coveted medical-marijuana card was because I had plans that night to go and watch Zodiac at the Los Feliz theater here in Los Angeles. I read the book years ago, thoroughly enjoyed it, and wanted to see the movie adaptation while under the influence of a narcotic, which at that moment I didn't have.

The idea to obtain a medical-marijuana card came after I clicked on a link that was posted on the Drudge Report that morning, "Calif. high school students 'openly smoking medical marijuana in class'..."

The article essentially said that some high school students down in San Diego armed with medical-marijuana cards were coming to class baked, thinking that these cards might help them get away with it. Hysterically brilliant yet insanely retarded way of thinking. But this got me thinking that if high school kids can easily obtain these cards, then I could, too. Right?

After skimming over the article, I went and did some research online. It seems that thanks to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215), I, being a California resident, now had "the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana."

The girl on the phone told me I needed three, actually four, things to get started. Most importantly, I needed an ailment. I told her I was back from the war and had PTSD. While I was researching medical marijuana online I came to discover that a lot of the things people say medical MJ can cure are disorders associated with PTSD. Some doctors are saying that pot is the best treatment for PTSD, because it provides for the restoration of the sleep cycle, unlike other drugs that disrupt sleep. I even heard that some soldiers at Walter Reed were smoking dope. I asked if I could see somebody today, and she said sure, but I needed to have a California ID card, money to cover the consultation fee ($150), and a copy of my medical records. I didn't have my medical records -- the VA hospital currently possessed them. She told me that by law they have to give me a copy of my medical records and that obtaining them from the VA hospital is easy. Really?! How the hell did she know this? "Do a lot of veterans seek medical marijuana?" I asked.

"All the time," she told me. I told her I'd call her right back.

I immediately called the VA hospital to see if I could possibly obtain my medical records that day because I needed the weed that night. Of course I was immediately placed on hold. While patiently waiting, I listened to the Muzak and various voice-over messages: "The VA can provide free medical care for two years from your discharge from active duty for conditions possibly related to your service, regardless of your income status. Please contact the enrollment-and-eligibility office at a VA health-care facility near you or call...The VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System is here to serve you....A VA representative will be with you momentarily....We're proud to serve our country's veterans, because we know that the price of freedom is not free. Thank you for making the VA your provider of choice."

After waiting on hold for what seemed like forever, I finally hung up. My watch told me that I was on hold for twenty minutes. I debated for a split second whether or not to physically go down there. I've found that you can die just from the waiting that they make you do there, and all kidding aside, you can get terrifying PTSD just by walking into a VA facility trying to get tested and/or treatment for PTSD: depression, flashbacks, nightmares, rapid heart rate, irritability, outbursts of anger, emotional numbness, thoughts of suicide -- all symptoms I feel whenever I go there. So instead of reliving that traumatic experience, I went back to sifting through the multiple medical-marijuana ads printed in the LA Weekly. I figured that maybe there was another doctor in this damned town who could help me out without having my medical records, right?

It didn't take me long to find one.

The first thing I noticed about his office was the skateboard, which struck me as being out of place for Beverly Hills -- old-school pool-model deck, Indy trucks, and Powell Bomber wheels -- pretty much the exact same setup that I skate on, or used to.

He was wearing a floaty white linen tunic shirt with subtle embroidery around the neck, designer jeans, and wavy So-Cal blond hair. Supermellow, talking to me the entire time in a voice just above a whisper, which made me wonder if he spoke that way all the time, or if he did that because he didn't want people next door hearing what he was saying.

After I took a seat on the leather chair, I asked him if he skated. He told me he did, but with a smile said mostly he loved to surf. He asked if I skated and I told him that I did, but not nearly as much as I used to. I skate mostly as transportation now, liquor store and back, reason being the prolonged bending of the knees now sometimes creates a large amount of stress and pain afterward, sometimes so great that I have a hard time falling asleep at night. I've been skating off and on since the fifth grade, and in high school I participated in sports, which over time probably added a lot more wear and tear to my knees. Sometimes they'd go out on me. I had these issues when I enlisted in the Army, but I kept them hush-hush because I didn't want to be kicked out. In the Army, it was easy to obtain Vicodin, codeine, Percocet, you name it, from others in the barracks and wash them down with a beer or two for the pain whenever the issue came up no problem. But since being discharged, I have no way of obtaining pills. So I told the doctor I was interested in turning to alternative medicines.

The whole time I was yapping about all this, he was taking scribble notes with a black pen on a plain white piece of paper. I then told him about the time I went down to the VA to get my head checked out for PTSD.

<span class=postbold>It wasn't till</span> my wife and I moved back to the 213 that I came to find out that I was possibly wired differently now. One of the reasons why I wanted to move back to Los Angeles was because of an article I came across on the protesting that was going on all across the country on the anniversary of the war. The article listed estimates of how many people showed up to each protest in each major city. L. A. was somewhere near the bottom, and when I saw that, I thought to myself, That's where I want to live. Not because the antiwar crowd bothers me, but because I wanted to distance myself from the war as much as possible, and what better way to do that than to live in a city full of narcissists?

I didn't want to see any yellow ribbons, shake hands with strangers thanking me for my service, and I didn't want to view any antiwar slogans like "No More Racist War for Oil!" or sit in a restaurant next to a table of rich NYU kids hearing them regurgitate to each other whatever antiwar rhetoric their draft-dodging professors told them that day.

While apartment hunting, I was living by myself at a month-to-month cold-water efficiency near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Western. I was having difficulty landing a place because most landlords could give two shits if you were in the Army. All they cared about was what job you presently had, how much you made now, and if you could pay the rent. (Saying "Aspiring writer" also didn't help my situation too much since all they would hear instead was "Unemployed.")

While on a business trip, my friend Gabe came down to visit me, and as we were leaving the building so I could give him a ride back to his hotel in Irvine, he asked if the neighborhood I lived in now was bad. I looked at him and said, "After Iraq, what's a bad neighborhood?"

Immediately after I told him this, fireworks went off a close distance from where we were both standing. They were sporadic, as was the screaming that came from that same direction.

"Are those gunshots?" Gabe asked curiously, as I thought to myself, No way, that's geographically impossible, we're here in the United States, that shit only happens in the movies, like for example Boyz N the Hood. Just then I heard a ricochet bullet whir close by, and my brain registered that yes, holy shit, those were gunshots being fired, probably a 9mm.

Instinctively, I took a knee behind a car for cover and scanned over to the location where they were coming from as my friend ran down the street totally wide open like an open target as the shooting continued.

"Get down!" I yelled. "Get the fuck down!"

An image ran through my head of Sergeant Horrocks tackling a private who didn't take cover when we were under assault in Mosul.

When the shooting subsided, I got up, ran to the car, told Gabe to get in, and we drove in the direction the shooting was coming from.

"Are you nuts?!"

"No. I just want to see what happened."

When we drove to the location the shots were fired from, a low-rent apartment complex, we saw several youths standing around in a panic, and in the middle of all that a half-lifeless individual wearing a Hanes wifebeater completely soaked in red blood sprawled out on the front lawn faceup, and a young girl standing next to him with tears running down her face hysterically screaming, "Why?!"

On the freeway down to Irvine, I explained to my friend that whenever you hear shooting, not to run, but instead get down and seek cover. He then asked me why I didn't get out of the car to help when we drove past the scene.

"I don't know," I told him as the car radio was softly playing some song I'd never heard before. "I was never really trained to do that."

After dropping him off and parking my car near where I lived, I walked back to my building; the whole block was taped off with a dozen-plus black-and-white police cars parked all around it. Instead of going straight up to my room, I stopped by the liquor store on the corner first to pick up a twelve-pack. I do this every night. Then I walked up to a police officer and asked him about casualties.

One dead, two in critical condition.

For the amount of shots fired at that close range, I analyzed that the gunman had pathetic aim. After thanking the po-po for the intel, I carried my twelve-pack silently up to my room, cracked the window open, lit up a smoke, and drank while listening to the police helicopter flying up above.

Many nights in L. A., I would wake up when I heard the ghetto bird circle up above the building, with its spotlight sometimes beaming down through the lone window in my room. In Iraq, Kiowa attack helicopters would fly above us constantly on combat missions, and I loved that sound.

For a year straight after I came back, I hardly ever left my room, and the only walking that I did was to the liquor store and back to numb myself in my room. I found that I was no longer interested in going out. Nothing interested me, not even butterfly collecting, and I found myself not interested in meeting or talking to new people, either. Why should I? I had already met a lot of the best people you will ever meet, in the military.

When a friend of mine from the Army who I still keep in touch with told me that the days now went on and on and every day felt like being placed on QRF and waiting for something to happen, I told him I felt the exact same way.

Quick Reaction Force means you sit around all day, sometimes for several days, and wait for an attack and/or a mission to happen.

After some encouragement from this friend, I decided to go to the VA. He told me that you have to go through a lot of bullshit, but once you do, it's worth it, especially if the Army called you back up to active duty. Rumor is PTSD can get you out of redeployment.

At the VA, the physician who does the initial screening for PTSD asked: "In your life, have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that in the past month, you..."

Followed by four questions:
<li>Have had nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to?</li>

<li>Tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of it?</li>

<li>Were constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled?</li>

<li>Felt numb or detached from others, activities, or your surroundings?</li>
After I truthfully answered yes to all four questions, the doctor at the VA told me that if I answered yes to just three out of the four, I would screen positive for PTSD.

What is PTSD? The VA Web site defines it:<blockquote><i>Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. A traumatic event is a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD.

People with PTSD experience three different kinds of symptoms. The first set of symptoms involves reliving the trauma in some way such as becoming upset when confronted with a traumatic reminder or thinking about the trauma when you are trying to do something else. The second set of symptoms involves either staying away from places or people that remind you of the trauma, isolating from other people, or feeling numb. The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling on guard, irritable, or startling easily.

In addition to the symptoms described above, we now know that there are clear biological changes that are associated with PTSD. PTSD is complicated by the fact that people with PTSD often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. These problems may lead to impairment of the person's ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems, and family problems. </i></blockquote>When I clicked on the link on their Web site for more information on treatment, it of course, no surprise, directed me to a page that read "Page Not Found."

<span class=postbold>I told this doctor</span> in Beverly Hills all about the initial screening at the VA, as well as why I never followed up on it. Weeks after visiting the VA, I finally received a phone call back to set up an appointment with a counselor there, but by then I'd lost all interest in the matter, and never called them back. I had had a realization while I was seated in the waiting room, which looked like a casting call for <i>Born on the Fourth of July</i>, with dozens of sullen veterans, a lot of whom were missing limbs and confined to wheelchairs, several proudly wearing ball caps that read WWII VETERAN or VIETNAM VETERAN. I sat there with all my limbs intact, looked around, and realized in comparison I had absolutely nothing to bitch about. I thought no matter what horrific things I did or saw, it probably paled in comparison to these guys, you could see it in their eyes. I was lucky. My platoon wasn't wiped out. I wasn't living under a bridge in Santa Monica. Once I realized this, I walked out the door.

He then asked if I was suicidal, I told him no, though at times I do find myself thinking about how life feels a bit pointless now, and he asked how often I drank and how much, and after I told him, he suggested that it'd be a good idea for me to cut back a little bit on my nightly consumption. Mentioned something about permanent liver damage. After taking more notes, he handed me a piece of paper with my full name printed on the first line.

<blockquote><i>The above-named patient and I have discussed the use of medical cannabis during the course of a medical history and physical examination following guidelines of the Medical Board of California.

I believe cannabis is a medically appropriate treatment for this patient. I am a consulting physician for the patient, who has demonstrated a legitimate medical need for cannabis. My patient understands the risks and benefits associated with this treatment and that alternative treatments may be available.

The patient has been advised that California Proposition 215 notwithstanding, the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis, even for medical purposes, is still illegal under Federal law at this time.

Approval Period: 12 (twelve) months

Other Instructions: Recommended va-porizer/edibles
At the bottom, he signed and dated it. Awesome. I didn't even have my meds yet, and I was already beginning to feel a whole heck of a lot better. Using his Mac laptop Web cam, the doctor took a quick snapshot of me sitting in his office and printed out the card and handed it to me. He said something about how the medical-marijuana card now allowed me to legally purchase cannabis, but to use discretion and also keep in mind that it was not a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, which meant I could still get busted if I was not careful. For example, don't smoke weed in your car, especially around the locations where they sell medical MJ, because the cops will bust you immediately.

When I told him that I was more interested in consuming the medication orally via edibles, like brownies, he told me to be extremely careful. He had a client who ate a whole brownie in one sitting, and she was out of it for three whole days, had hallucinations and everything. He suggested I only eat a small bit at a time.

With my new card and letter of recommendation in hand from the doctor, I thanked him for his help with a personal check paid to the amount of $175. As I was leaving his office, he tensed up and requested that I be a bit incognito on the way out with that piece of paper with his signature on it. He asked for it back, and then folded it up for me like a burrito and covered it with a blank piece of paper, handed it back, and kindly said to call him whenever I had any questions.

<span class=postbold>I walked past</span> two menacing security guards, both looking a bit bored standing by the main entrance of the "Farmacy," which, once inside, felt nothing like any pharmacy I'd ever been in before, not even in Amsterdam. It was more like a head shop on Telegraph Avenue, with a dash of a festive co-op nonprofit-dot-org vibe.

I took a seat inside by the front desk and told the earthy girl sitting behind it that it was my first time. I had to be registered in their system. I handed her my medical card, driver's license, and doctor's note. She was kinda hot, in that Charlie Manson Girl kind of way, and while filling out and signing a waiver that pretty much requested I don't medicate in or around their facility, she typed some info into the computer and said all that was left was a phone call to the doctor to confirm. She called, gave his office my name, and just like that I was in their system, ready to go.

Once in the back, which of course, was papered with various portraits and photographs of Bob Marley, I was greeted by my own personal salesperson, a thirty-something with round Lennon glasses and hair down to his shoulders. Advertised up on a chalkboard was today's staff pick and the special of the day. Behind glass display counters was a buffet of various glass medical cookie jars filled with nuggets of green bud of various breeds, as well as a wide array of pot brownies, pot cookies, pot cupcakes, pot soda, pot butter, pot ice cream, pot lasagna, pot potpie, and pot chocolate bars in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and potency.

It was hard for me to concentrate as I eyed the inventory, partly due to the two mariachis in the corner playing live music, one playing an acoustic guitar, the other sitting down on a stool playing an accordion.

I purchased a bunch of edibles, which my salesperson placed in a white paper bag and stapled shut for me. I shoved them into my backpack. Since it was my first time, I received a free sample -- a red lollipop that came equipped with a sticker on the packaging that read, "This product contains medical cannabis for 215 patients only. Not for resale." And "Keep out of reach of small children. Caution while driving or operating machinery."

On leaving the Farmacy, I stuck the lollipop in my mouth and rode my Vespa all the way back to the pad, paranoid the entire time that a suspecting black-and-white LAPD cab might pull me over for whatever reason. I can just see the link right now on Drudge:

"Iraq-war veteran arrested in Hollywood with several pounds of medical-marijuana brownies...tells judge marijuana was to treat his PTSD...."

There's a reason why I no longer drive a car and now own a Vespa scooter, and it's not because I've watched Quadrophenia one too many times. I tell people that it's because I save money on gas, sixty to eighty miles per gallon, which, in a way, is my middle finger to the oil industry. The other reason, which I don't tell anybody, is that I'd probably be in jail right now if I continued to drive a car in Los Angeles.

Twice I exited my vehicle to engage in violence on some busy street because of some idiot driving like shit here in L. A. Would I have done this before experiencing a year in Iraq? Hard to say, but thoughts of violence only went through my head when these individuals decided to give me the finger.

When that happens, what I'm seeing is some guy who could give two shits. While I was over there, he was here, and not only that, he's in a polished luxury sedan, making over $100K, no cares in the world, hair styled, cell phone to the ear, doesn't have to worry about the Army calling him back up to active duty, or a phone call from a friend from the old platoon saying, "Hey, did you hear? Such and such just got killed." And now this douchebag is going to flip me off? When he's the one driving like the complete asshole?

With a scooter, I don't get anxiety when stuck in traffic, I can just maneuver and weave my way in and out of it no problem and park my shit wherever I want. It's a lot less stressful. I made it home without incident and spent the entire weekend heavily medicated. Since nobody told me how much or how little to use when medicating, I had to just figure it out myself.

At the time, I was married and living in a loft apartment in downtown L. A. The reason why we moved into a loft apartment was mainly because there are only four walls in a warehouse loft -- so I couldn't close the door and hole myself up in my room like I did all day and all night at the last place we lived. I'd be forced to be in the same room with my wife. But what happened instead was I just put up invisible walls all around me.

When she got home from work, after dropping her purse off on the counter and some small talk about how the day was, she opened up the fridge, saw the meds in there, and asked, "What's all this?"

I had changed my mind about going out and seeing Zodiac, so my ass was on the sofa and Apocalypse Now was on the flat screen, and I said, "Oh yeah, I went out today and got a medical-marijuana card."

She was confused. "How the hell did you get one of those?"

"I have PTSD," I said, taking another bite from a brownie.

"What?! Are you serious?!"


"But you don't have PTSD?"

I liked the marijuana a lot because it helped me sleep, and if I could sleep all night and all day I would, and I slept all that weekend, probably the best sleep I'd had since the war, and on Monday I felt like a new person.

"<span class=postbold>I'd wake up</span> and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said 'yes' to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there...." -- <i>Apocalypse Now</i>

My wife was the love of my life, the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but when I came back from Iraq, she was now a complete stranger to me, as I was to her. I couldn't relate to her, and she couldn't to me. So I don't blame her at all for not wanting anything to do with me anymore. Hell, at times I don't want anything to do with myself either.

But whatever, I left L. A. for San Francisco, and a couple months later, when Todd Vance, a friend of mine from my old platoon, called me up to see how I was doing, I told him about the divorce. In shock he exclaimed, "No way!" Not because he was surprised that I was divorced now but because this meant that almost every single one of us who was married now wasn't.

When I told Vance about the new line of medication that I was on, at first he chuckled at me, but later on he called me back to tell me that he's been thinking about MJ, as well as about an advertisement he saw in the back of the weekly paper that was targeting veterans.

I got in contact with the marketing director for MediCann, who came up with the ad campaign, and in an e-mail exchange she told me that "a high percentage of our veteran patients have the diagnosis of PTSD. The most popular effect is that marijuana stops the night terrors or flashbacks associated with PTSD. Patients with this diagnosis typically use marijuana at night to help get to sleep and stay asleep without being woken up by their nightmares."

<span class=postbold>I wore a Mini</span> Combat Infantry Badge lapel pin the day I decided to go back to the VA to go through with my testing. At the VA hospital in Los Angeles, I asked to see somebody for help with PTSD. The lady wrote down a name and phone number for me to call, and I politely told her that I wasn't going to go through that hell again, and that I wanted to see somebody that day. An individual then walked me to an office that had a paper note taped on its door that read, OUT TILL MONDAY, then he walked me over to another door that read OUT TO A MEETING. He then handed me a map of the hospital and told me to go to a separate building across the way. Once at the building, I was told to go to yet another building, and at that building, after signing in and taking an elevator up to the second floor, a guy there then told me to go back down and go to yet another building next door. I was getting PTSD all over again, and right about the time I was about to say fuck this and head down to the nearest medical-marijuana facility so I could restock and medicate myself into a coma, I decided to keep on going, and I walked into the cuckoo's nest of the mental-health ward. I told the lady behind the counter that I was told to come here to see somebody for PTSD, and she asked for my name and some basic info, and then she asked where I slept last night, and I told her the truth: "Believe it or not, I slept in my rental car."

I had driven down the previous night from San Francisco, leaving late at night down the Highway 5, and whenever I got tired I pulled off the freeway into the rest stops, and I'd sleep for a couple hours until I awoke, then I'd drive again until I couldn't. She gestured for me to take a seat. I thanked her and glanced at my Swatch to see what time it was, and with a smile she warned me not to do that, and that I was going to be waiting for a while.

There were about a dozen of us in the waiting-room lobby. One guy was mumbling to himself about something and all the others looked totally homeless and defeated. Above the television set was a red-white-and-blue sign WELCOMING VETERANS FROM OIF/OEF. I was the only one there who looked like he participated in that conflict, everybody else looked considerably older.

A guy came around with sack lunches and started handing them out to everybody. When he came to me, I told him I wasn't hungry, and he said that I should take one anyway, if I wasn't hungry now, I would be. Inside the brown bags were sandwiches, chips, an apple, a drink. What people couldn't eat they handed to somebody else, the same exact way soldiers do when sitting around eating MREs. A soldier will eat what he wants and hand out what he can't, so nothing is wasted. Across a range of combat and life experience, it was quite heartwarming to see that go on here in the mental ward.

Finally a lady came out and called my name.

After looking at my records on her computer, it showed that the VA tried several times to contact me ever since I came in almost a year ago. I told her that my patience was thin and I'd given up, but this time I was going to go through with the counseling no matter what. She asked me what my Military Occupational Specialty was in the Army. I told her 11 Bravo. Her eyes widened up a bit, and she said, "You must of saw a lot." I didn't say anything, and she told me about how she gets a lot of infantry guys now.

"There are two things I tell every OIF/OEF veteran not to do when they return home," she said. "Don't drink any alcohol or take any drugs whatsoever. Number two is to not watch the news or any movies that might remind you of the war."

An example she gave was <i>Black Hawk Down</i>.

I gave the nice woman a smile.

Beside the drugs and alcohol, I was a-okay. I don't pay attention to the news, and I actually don't care too much for Black Hawk Down. Personally I think the flick's a bit overrated and essentially just a stylish two-and-a-half-hour ad for the military. I knew of so many guys at basic training who enlisted because of that movie and had pipe dreams of being a Ranger or D-Boy. I'm more of a fan of the Vietnam-era Hollywood movies. Their war was a bit more rock 'n' roll and the soundtrack a bit cooler as well. I also pick up on the antiwar messages in those films, something unfortunately I didn't quite register prior to enlistment.

After scheduling an appointment to see somebody about PTSD, I thanked her, and on the way out I put on my sunglasses and lit up a smoke. The sun was out, the grass looked freshly mowed, a veteran was playing his acoustic guitar on a bench, and I was now feeling a little hungry, so I decided to walk on over to the PX for a bite to eat. On my way there a vet from a previous war walked by. He had a hat on that advertised that he was a Vietnam veteran, and I could see that his eyes viewed the combat pin on my lapel and he gave me a subtle head nod and said, "Welcome home."
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For Veterans, Marijuana Can Mean Life

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:05 pm

For Veterans, Marijuana Can Mean Life

<span class=postbigbold>Switching from marijuana to legal "prescribed" drugs can be a killer.</span>

by Tim King, Salem News
November 28th, 2007

<table class=posttable align=right width=350><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=350 src=bin/morse_lynn-tombstone.jpg alt="Lynn Morse was denied a Purple Heart for a battle injury that his life partner says was documented, this is as close as he got to adequate recognition for his role as a soldier in the Vietnam War."></td></table>For one Vietnam Veteran in Illinois, a substance many call dangerous, medical marijuana, meant life. When Lynn Morse used it he could function and cope, when he abandoned marijuana in order to "comply" with the VA and go on prescription drugs, he died.

His partner of three decades, a pilot named Susan Tackitt from Marion Illinois, is also a VA volunteer who spends countless hours at the side of disabled and sick veterans. She has a few things to say about medical marijuana.

"My companion of 30 years, a Vietnam Combat Veteran from the 101st Airborne 2nd brigade was introduced to marijuana while serving his country between 1967 and 1968."

She says it was given him as a stress reliever after a firefight. He was given the marijuana by people in his command, and many Vietnam Veterans experienced the same thing.

"My companion Lynn Morse continued to use it stateside to subdue the demons of war. He was a productive self supporting citizen as many Vietnam Veterans using marijuana for medical purposes are."

But she says there was a big drug bust in Franklin County, Illinois where he lived. The incident exposed improprieties in the local police force and many were fired because of their involvement. Some twenty year sentences were handed out to pot growers.

"This made Lynn's paranoia from PTSD even worse and he decided to seek help at the VA in Marion Illinois. He stopped smoking marijuana and started taking their psyc. drugs and that is when I lost the man I loved."

She says Lynn lost his "drive" and was determined to be disabled from PTSD.

"Our daughter has a bone deformity which the VA never acknowledged as being related to Agent Orange. She lost her dad a year ago on October 19th 2006 at the VA intensive care unit. He would have been 60 his next birthday."

So what was gained by the country's archaic drug laws in this case? A man who was able to be productive watched that inner drive vanish. Marijuana is natural, drugs made in laboratories are not. It's as if nobody can figure out that everything synthetic has roots in natural substance. Why spend millions replicating the effects of a treatment that is already useful and available in a garden?

<table class=posttable align=left width=140><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=139 src=bin/tackitt_susan.jpg alt="Susan Tackitt says she'll keep fighting for Vet's rights."></td></tr></table>Susan contends that marijuana still helps many Vietnam Veterans and they are reaching the age to retire. If steps to change existing laws are not taken, there will be many more like Lynn.

"We need to make medical marijuana legal for them because I see them enter the VA hospital and they are heavily sedated to calm them. I realize this cannot be proven but i am very thankful the American Psychiatric Association is backing medical marijuana. Now I pray the vote in December sways in favor of it."

Susan Tackitt, unlike most of society, is willing to put her butt on the line she says, "not only because they served our country but because they got a raw deal."

In spite of losing her life partner, she has remained in her volunteer role at the VA. She had a good reason too, her dad, another veteran, was living at the Marion, Illinois VA nursing home.

"My dad was in there but he passed away October 5th 2007." She still volunteers there after losing her father too, it is a dedication that is rare in this day and age.

"I am very active in trying to get medical marijuana passed. I am pushing to get it all passed for the Vietnam Vets who still use marijuana and also for it to be an option to all veterans with PTSD. The government is who introduced to to our military and should be accountable for those veterans still using it today."

She decries the use of deadly drugs so easily embraced by this society, and says marijuana is the happy medium for millions who suffer from PTSD.

"If these guys are given the drugs the government wants to shove down their throat to keep them from going off will put them on the couch in their own little world and some not able to function on their own. It tears my heart out when I hear a combat veteran with PTSD end his life because he didn't get the treatment he deserved."

Visit Susan Tackitt's MySpace page:
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Depression: Medical Marijuana is a Successful Therapy

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Feb 29, 2008 5:45 pm

The Salem News (Feb-28-2008 17:02)

Depression: Medical Marijuana is a Successful Therapy

Dr. Phillip Leveque
<i>Phillip Leveque has spent his life as a Combat Infantryman, Physician, Toxicologist and Pharmacologist. He has experience with 4,000 medical marijuana patients.</i>

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=300 src=bin/staley_william.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>People like these combat soldiers in Afghanistan may face many challenges with depression in the future, but laws prevent doctors from prescribing what is probably the best medicine known to man, cannabis, or marijuana.</span></td></tr></table>
(MOLALLA, Ore.) - The Merck manual includes Depression in Psychiatric and Mood disorders in which anxiety and PTSD are also included. They show several pages of the why and wherefores so I'm not going into a psychiatric tirade.

I do feel there is an extensive overlap in all of these psychiatric conditions and I hope my point will become clear to the reader.

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Plan, (OMMP) did not include any psychological medical conditions which I felt was a sad mistake. If a patient tells a doctor that marijuana works for ANY condition, it is best if the doctor listens and pays attention.

The old crap, "It's all in your head" is certainly active here.

Very few doctors have been recipients of an artillery or mortar barrage. It would alter their conception. At any rate, all of the above conditions are real AND in some patient's heads. The worst thing is they are difficult to dislodge and get over.

As far as depression itself is concerned, it seemingly was first noted by Doctor Tod Mikuriya who reviewed medical records of about 38,000 marijuana patients at the Oakland, California Cannabis Buyers Club database. He found that many interrelated psychiatric conditions according to patient's histories, were ameliorated with cannabis/marijuana.

He also found that VA doctors were treating these patients with a wild grabbag of psycotropic medications. (See Friedman, M.J. et al April 2006 American Journal of Psychiatry.)

Subsequent medical articles have indicated the abject failure of these medications. These include Serotonin, contraband drugs like Paroxetine, anti-depressants like Trazadone, MADIS like Phenetzine, Tricyclies like Amitriptyline, anti-analgesics like Propanalol, anti-convulsants like Gabapentin and anti-psychotics like Respiridone, Respiridone. I am flummoxed and wonder the rationale of these. They all have well-known BAD adverse side effects.

Early in my practice with marijuana applicants, I learned that Vietnam Veterans had discovered this herb while fighting the war. They told me that cannabis/marijuana worked well for psychic as well as physical medical problems.

Both Dr. Tod Mikuriya and Ed Glick R.N. found in history taking and reviewing medical marijuana and records that marijuana provided effective treatment. I ended up with at least 400 PTSD veterans who fortunately had other acceptable physical ailments so that I could help them get marijuana permits.

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Testimony By Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., USA

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Jun 06, 2008 9:28 pm

House Committee On Veteran's Affairs wrote:Testimony By Colonel Charles W. Hoge, M.D., USA

Director, Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research
Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense

House Committee On Veteran's Affairs

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss the Army’s research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). I will focus on research initiatives at WRAIR but want to first acknowledge and thank Congress for the tremendous increase in funding for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research. The $300 million dollars allocated to PTSD and TBI research in the FY07 appropriation is in the process of being awarded to numerous Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and civilian research organizations under the management of the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command’s Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).

I would like to briefly discuss the findings of three studies published since my last testimony to this committee in September 2006, which highlight both the successes and challenges in addressing the mental health needs of our service members.

The first is a study reported this past November in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) involving nearly 90,000 Soldiers who completed both the post-deployment health assessment (PDHA) and the post-deployment health reassessment (PDHRA) after return from deployment to Iraq. Soldiers completed the PDHA immediately upon their return and they completed the PDHRA six months later. The study confirmed that many mental health concerns do not emerge until several months after return from deployment, highlighting the importance of the timing of the PDHRA, particularly for Reserve Component Soldiers. 20% of Active Component and 42% of Reserve Component Soldiers were identified as needing mental health referral or treatment, most often for PTSD symptoms, depression, or interpersonal conflict. About half of Soldiers with PTSD symptoms identified on the PDHA showed improvement by the time of the PDHRA, often without treatment. However, more than twice as many Soldiers who did not have PTSD symptoms initially became symptomatic during this same period. One counterintuitive finding was that we could not demonstrate any direct relationship between referral or treatment for PTSD as identified on the PDHA and symptom improvement six months later on the PDHRA. The difficulty in demonstrating the effectiveness of the PDHA assessment may reflect, in part, the inherent limitations in screening or the fact that mental health services remain overburdened with the current operational tempo, despite the extensive efforts to bolster services and training. An encouraging finding was that many Soldiers sought care within 30 days of the PDHA and PDHRA even if they were not referred, which suggests these assessments may be encouraging individuals to seek help on their own following discussion of mental health issues with a health professional or participation in concurrent Battlemind education.

The second study I’ll discuss is the recently released Mental Health Advisory Team 5 (MHAT-V) report. We have conducted MHAT evaluations every year in Iraq since the start of the war, and twice in Afghanistan. The MHATs have shown that longer deployments, multiple deployments, greater time away from base camps, and combat intensity all contribute to higher rates of PTSD, depression, and marital problems. The MHAT-V included for the first time a sizable number of Soldiers on their 3rd rotation to Iraq. The study showed that with each deployment there is an increased risk; 27% of Soldiers on their third deployment reported serious combat stress or depression symptoms, compared with 19% on their second, and 12% on their first deployment. The MHAT-V also showed that Soldiers in brigade combat teams deployed to Afghanistan are now experiencing levels of combat exposure and mental health rates equivalent to those experienced by Soldiers deployed to Iraq.

Soldiers encounter a variety of traumatic experiences and stresses as part of their professional duties. The majority cope extraordinarily well and transition home successfully. However, surveys in the post-deployment period have shown that rates of mental health problems, particularly PTSD, remain elevated and even increase during the first 12 months after return home, indicating that 12 months is insufficient time to reset the mental health of Soldiers after a year-plus combat tour. Many of the reactions that we label as “symptoms” of PTSD when Soldiers come home are, in fact, adaptive skills necessary in combat that Soldiers must turn on again when they return for their next deployment.

The 3rd study I’ll discuss is one that we just published in the New England Journal of Medicine pertaining to the relationship of PTSD to mild traumatic brain injury (or “mild TBI”). It is important to clarify terminology. Reports have indicated that as many as 20% of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have had traumatic brain injuries, but what is not always made explicit is that the vast majority of these are concussions. “Mild TBI” means exactly the same thing as “concussion,” which athletes or Soldiers also refer to as getting their “bell rung” or being “knocked out.” I advocate using the term “concussion” because it is less stigmatizing than the term “brain injury,” is better understood by Soldiers and Families, and is less likely to be confused with moderate or severe TBI. A concussion is a blow or jolt to the head that causes a brief loss of consciousness or change in consciousness, such as disorientation or confusion. Full recovery is expected, usually within a few hours or days. This is very different from moderate or severe TBI, where there is an obvious injury to the brain that almost always requires evacuation from theater. Although most Soldiers are able to go back to duty quickly after concussions, there has been concern that concussions in combat, particularly from blasts, may have lasting effects that are not immediately visible. Some Soldiers report persistent symptoms (termed “post-concussive symptoms”), such as headaches, irritability, fatigue, dizziness, problems concentrating, sleep disturbance, balance problems, and cognitive or memory difficulties. Our study involving 2,500 infantry Soldiers was one of the first to look at the relationship between concussions Soldiers sustained while deployed to Iraq and these types of physical and mental health outcomes three months after their return.

There were three key conclusions from this study:

First, the study highlighted a problem that we face with not having an accurate diagnostic tool in the post-deployment period. We are not aware of any questionnaire or test that can accurately tell us who had a concussion while deployed, or which symptoms were caused by a concussion that occurred months earlier, as we are attempting to do with post-deployment screening. In our study sample, 15% of Soldiers reported a concussion while deployed based on the questions currently being used on the post-deployment assessment forms. However, only one-third of these, or 5% of the Soldiers, reported an injury in which they were knocked unconscious, usually for just a few seconds or minutes. The rest had injuries that only involved being briefly “dazed or confused” without loss of consciousness, and it was not clear how many of these were true concussions. We found that this type of injury did not confer much excess risk of adverse health effects after redeployment.

The second important finding was that having a concussion was strongly associated with PTSD. 44% of Soldiers who lost consciousness met the criteria for PTSD, compared with 16% of those who had other types of injuries and 9% who had no injury.

Third, and the most important finding, was that the symptoms that we thought were due to the concussions were actually attributed to PTSD or depression. If a concussion was the cause of the post-concussive symptoms we should have been able to confirm an association of these symptoms with a concussion, both in those Soldiers who had PTSD and in the larger group of Soldiers who did not. We did not see this in either group. Instead, all the physical health outcomes and symptoms were associated with PTSD or depression. Both PTSD and depression are biological disorders that are associated with a host of chemical changes in the body’s hormonal system, immune system, and autonomic nervous system. Many studies have shown that PTSD and depression are linked to physical health symptoms, including all of the symptoms in the “post-concussion” category, to include cognitive and memory problems.

This study allowed us to refine our knowledge about what distinguishes concussions in combat from concussions in other settings. Concussions on the football field, for example, are not known to be associated with PTSD. It is possible that there is an additive effect in the brain when a Soldier who is already seriously stressed in combat sustains a blow to the head, or there may be something unique about blast exposure, as many people are speculating. However, a hypothesis that is better supported by our data as well as other medical literature is the life threatening context in which the concussion occurs. Being knocked unconscious from a blast during combat is about as close a call as one can get to losing one’s life. There are frequently other traumatic events that occur at the same time, such as a team member being seriously injured or killed, all of which can precipitate PTSD or depression.

The most important implication of this study is that current post-deployment TBI screening efforts may lead to a large number of service members being mislabeled as “brain injured” when there are other reasons for their symptoms that require different treatment. The optimal time to evaluate and treat concussion is at the time of injury, and it is my opinion that post-deployment screening efforts months after injury may actually lead to unintended harmful effects. As a result, my research group has provided recommendations to medical leaders at Army and DoD to refine the post-deployment screening efforts to assure that all health concerns are addressed in a way that minimizes potential risks. These recommendations are now under consideration. In addition to screening and treatment, our study has important implications for educating Soldiers and Families about mild TBI (i.e. concussion).

Thank you so much for your attention and I look forward to your questions.
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Veterans for Medical Marijuana

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:35 am

The Kalamazoo Gazette wrote:Suffering veterans are caught between science and lack of political courage

by Martin H. Chilcutt, Thomas M. Walsh and Jeffery Chilcutt
The Kalamazoo Gazette | Friday June 19, 2009, 8:00 AM

The citizens of Kalamazoo voted 3 to 1 for the legalization of medical marijuana last November. Most disabled veterans supported this vote because medical marijuana has a very personal effect on our lives, our well being and our health.

Thousands of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are now diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and medical doctors report the medical use of marijuana is very therapeutic for veterans suffering the painful symptoms of PTSD. (Google Phillip Leveque, combat veteran, physician, pharmacologist, and forensic toxicologist, authority on PTSD and cannabis treatment.) The suicide rate of returning veterans has skyrocketed into shocking numbers from the adverse effects military service has had on their lives.

Veterans deserve nothing less than being allowed the liberty and freedom to do what helps them survive their newfound physical and psychological conditions. They also deserve the support of everyone, including effective advocacy by their local politicians.

As veterans we do not need more fear in our lives, we do not need our suffering compounded by the ignorance, irrational fears, lack of support and inaction of many politicians. Their "silence" speaks for itself. They all know who they are, and where they choose to stand, which is far behind the caring citizens in this so-called war on drugs, which, by the way, now includes a war on disabled veteran patients all over our country.

About four years ago we began meeting with, and writing to, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, asking him for his support on this issue. At the same time we began meeting with Kalamazoo's mayor and city commissioners asking for their support. At first, they all said "no." Not one of them had the courage to speak out on the medical and economic waste of the failed war on drugs, or the total ignorance of prohibition and its negative effects. (Google Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.)

However, this past January, we finally received a letter from Upton saying he would support our view. He had the courage to change his mind. He agreed to vote "yes" this year on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment in Congress, which would prohibit the Drug Enforcement Administration from using federal funds to raid medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal.

We veterans are still waiting to hear from our local mayor and city commissioners, waiting for their support to follow the courage of Rep. Upton.

We say enough of the "shock and awe" tactics used by police and sheriffs on disabled veterans and other patients. Get your priorities right, focus on protecting us from the real criminals in our city. When will our city stop wasting our scarce tax dollars in this economy to swat veterans?

When will these folks, elected to represent the Kalamazoo citizens, awaken to the scientific realities like the fact the Kalamazoo Apjohn Group is working on a marijuana/cannabis inhaler delivery system, and the value of this natural medicine? When will they stand up and be counted along with courageous Rep. Upton?

I get phone calls and e-mails every day from veterans all over the United States and they all thank us for speaking out for them. They all say, in essence, "We fought for your liberties and your freedoms in this country, while our elected representatives turn against us veterans over our medicine and our health care."

What is it our elected folks do not understand about the science? Face your ignorance (as in the American Heritage Dictionary definition of a lack of knowledge) and irrational fears. Get over it now.

Mind the cost of freedom we veterans have paid. We only want peace -- peace of mind and body. When do we get justice, when do we get our human rights?

Martin H. Chilcutt is the executive director for Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, Thomas M. Walsh, was a psychiatric nurse in the Vietnam War, and Jeffery Chilcutt is a U.S. Army veteran.
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U. of Haifa study shows 'pot' may help combat PTSD

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Nov 05, 2009 6:43 pm

The Jerusalem Post wrote:U. of Haifa study shows 'pot' may help combat PTSD

Nov. 4, 2009
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, THE JERUSALEM POST

A University of Haifa study on rats has found that giving medical marijuana to those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can provide significant relief. In addition, a pilot study on 20 Israel Defense Forces veterans and others with PTSD that was recently launched in various psychiatric hospitals is promising, but a full clinical trial has not yet been approved by the Health Ministry, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The use of cannabinoids (marijuana) could help PTSD patients, said the university's Dr. Irit Akirav of the psychology department learning and memory lab. "The results of our research should encourage psychiatric investigation into using cannabinoids" in such patients, she wrote in an article just published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience. The study was carried out by research student Eti Ganon-Elazar under Akirav's supervision.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may appear after exposure to one or more traumatic events in which the victim was threatened by or suffered significant physical harm. Symptoms include re-experiencing original trauma through flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; and increased arousal such as anger, difficulty falling or staying asleep and hypervigilance. PTSD researchers at the Hadassah University Medical Center have suggested in the past that there is a short "window of opportunity" to treat PTSD with talk therapy and/or drugs soon after the traumatic event and that if it is missed, success rates are significantly lower.

Dr. Yehuda Baruch, director of the state Abarbanel Mental Health Center and delegated by the Health Ministry to be in charge of approvals for medical marijuana, told the Post on Wednesday that so far, 50 PTSD victims over the age of 30 have been chosen for a clinical trial, but it has not yet received official approval. "While it is too early to know the verdict of the pilot study, I think medical marijuana treatment for PTSD is promising," said the psychiatrist.

Baruch added that demand for medical marijuana is increasing all the time. At present, there are 1,048 Israelis suffering from chronic pain from various neurological and oncological diseases who have been admitted to the program, and Baruch receives about 1,000 new requests annually.

Akirav said that between 10 percent to 30% of people who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD, and that if untreated, suffering can continue for months and even years. It is a relatively common condition in Israel due to terror attacks, wars and Holocaust survivors.

The University of Haifa study used a synthetic form of marijuana, which has similar properties to the natural plant, and a rat model, which presents similar physiological responses to stress to that of humans. The rats were exposed to a mild electric shock in a cage colored white on one side an black on the other. When they moved from the white side to the black, they got the shock. Subsequently, they refused to go to the black area voluntarily, but a few days later after not receiving further electric shocks in the black area, they learned that it is safe again and moved there without hesitation. Next, a second group of rats were placed on a small, elevated platform after receiving the electric shock, which added stress to the traumatic experience. These rats abstained from returning to the black area in the cell for much longer, which shows that the exposure to additional stress does indeed hinder the process of overcoming trauma, the researchers explained.

In the third stage of the research, yet another group of rats were studied when exposed to the traumatic and additional stress events. However, just before being elevated on the platform, they received an injection of synthetic marijuana in the amygdala area of the brain - a specific area known to be connected to emotive memory. These rats agreed to enter the black area after the same amount of time as the first group - showing that the synthetic marijuana cancelled out the symptoms of stress. Giving the shots over a period of time, they found that regardless of when exactly the injection was administered, it prevented the surfacing of stress symptoms. The team also found that synthetic marijuana prevents increased release of the hormone that the body produces in response to stress. Hebrew University Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, who discovered tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, told the Post that the University of Haifa research team's work was "outstanding. Patients using marijuana indeed report positive effects - mainly improvement of sleep, with no hallucinations in many cases."

He added that a German team has reported that in mice, marijuana is key in the process of forgetting unpleasant memories, while a Canadian group that tested Nabilone, a synthetic drug whose action is similar to that of THC, found excellent results when testing soldiers with PTSD.
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