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Don't Treat PTSD With 'Medical Marijuana'

The haunting anxiety of post-traumatic stress disorder often causes veterans and soldiers to turn to alcohol and other drugs as a means of escape. That’s understandable, because at first some drugs can seem to solve problems by numbing unpleasant feelings such as anxiety, anger and depression. Such attempts to “self-medicate,” as this behavior is called, can be dangerous, however. Secretive use of drugs that are illegal, or illicit abuse of prescription medication, is an unhealthy path for PTSD sufferers to take. Any perceived “benefits” are bound to be temporary, and can easily lead to dependence and addiction. Besides, use of any drug – even a prescribed one – is no substitute for the multi-pronged approach that seems to work best for effective PTSD treatment.

For many military men and women, the recent surge in popularity of so-called “medical marijuana” has no doubt clouded the issue (no pun intended) of what constitutes appropriate, effective PTSD treatment. So far, 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws legalizing marijuana for medical use. In the last election, voters in Colorado and Washington passed measures legalizing even recreational marijuana use. (It’s worth noting that these laws conflict with federal laws banning the production, distribution and use of marijuana – a conflict that hasn’t even begun to be resolved, so recent are these state actions.)

In some people’s minds, these political developments have unfortunately lent an air of medical and psychiatric legitimacy to the use of marijuana. For some, smoking pot to combat the frightening anxiety of PTSD may have seemed to be “just what the doctor ordered” all along. Under these laws, however, marijuana might be literally what some doctors order. In the states that have sanctioned medical marijuana, experience has already shown that there a certain number of physicians whose main concern is to profit from the new laws. These irresponsible practitioners are willing to write a prescription for cannabis to just about anyone who asks and who can pay their fee. They often know little or nothing of their “patients’” medical history, and thus can’t possibly make in informed professional decision to prescribe marijuana or anything else.

Dr. Timothy R. Jennings, a psychiatrist and president-elect of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association, recently wrote a “Call to Action” to the American Psychiatric Association, asking that the APA come out in opposition to the use of marijuana to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. In his paper, Dr. Jennings referred to studies showing that marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of psychosis and that it causes structural changes to the “thinking” part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex, or “white matter.” Dr. Jennings also pointed out that chemical analyses have shown that marijuana smoke is more physically toxic than cigarette smoke.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a complex problem, one that doesn’t have a simple “silver-bullet” solution in marijuana or any other drug, even legitimate pharmaceuticals. At The Center for Counseling and Health Resources our treatment for PTSD and other life challenges always takes a “whole-person” approach. That means that our doctors and counselors look at all aspects of each of our clients’ lives, including the emotional, physical, nutritional, social and spiritual factors that play a part in who they are and in the difficulties they’re struggling against. We’ve achieved positive results for PTSD sufferers and others through a comprehensive treatment program that includes talk therapies and peer group discussions – the antithesis of solitary drug use and its all-too-temporary consolation.

If you’re a veteran struggling with PTSD, call The Center for a free initial consultation today at 1-888-771-5166. Located in beautiful Edmonds, Washington, The Center is “A Place of Hope” for PTSD sufferers.