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PTSD Gaining Momentum in Medical Marijuana Battle

PTSD Gaining Momentum in Medical Marijuana Battle

Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 09/06/2013 in Medical Marijuana Research

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, he describes a theory that works to explain the memorable nature of repetition present in every day consumer life. The idea behind the theory is that an event, product, speech or television show has the capacity to stay, or stick in one’s mind depending on the specific variables and certain qualities which, when properly utilized, can work to embed a memory in someone’s head. Subjectively, this definition can work to interpret the reason Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stays with its victims.

The stickiness factor does not necessarily implicate a positive memory, but rather, one that remains with its targeted individual. Often Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder does not occur from one minor incident, but rather from the repetitious and utterly horrifying nature of a life changing event, or series of them. In many cases, the traumatic event does not have to happen to the trauma stricken victim. Unexpected harm or loss of close friends and family can act as a stimulus triggering the manifestation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The key component in discerning the inherent nature of PTSD is the severity of the incident’s impact on dictating its stickiness factor. Like this, 7.7 million American citizens are plagued by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The disease’s prevalence within those affected is principally based on a system of risk and resilience factors which work to either facilitate or inhibit its presence. For example, an individual with a history of mental illness, additional external stressors or extended exposure to the death or injury of a friend is more vulnerable to bearing the brunt of PTSD, than individuals with various coping strategies, support groups and confidence in the face of danger. Researchers are hoping that with further studies of these risk and resilience factors, potential may exist to predict who is likely to suffer from PTSD and how to prevent it.

However its crippling nature is first beginning to emerge at the forefront of national recognition. Though risk of exposure to trauma has been embedded in the human condition since we first evolved as people, the effect it can have on mankind wasn’t recognized until the early 1900’s, during World War I. And while it was then referred to as “shell shock,” it was radically ill-defined. It was believed that the condition could arise as a physical or psychological injury, or lack of moral fiber. Some doctors believed that it was brought upon by physical brain damage from burst shells creating cerebral lesions. Others felt it was a cerebral poisoning from the existing carbon monoxide present from explosions. However it was widely accepted that shell shock syndrome was a sign of emotional cowardice and fragility.

And while the reasons behind its occurrence have been widely studied and its been given a new name – now, nearly 100 years later, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is still attributed to emotional weakness. The disease itself has had to be revised in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) four times since 1987 due to the tough-to-decipher implications and triggers of the condition. Where it was originally conceptualized as a condition that could only occur from catastrophic stressors outside of the realm of human experience, it is now known full well that that is not the case. The truth of the disease is rooted in reality, and that is perhaps the most crippling fact.

Current approved existing forms of treatment for PTSD include the prescription medications Paxil and Zoloft and cognitive and psychotherapy. On not one, but both drug websites, inquiring minds are drawn to black bolded boxed off words which read, “Suicidality and Antidepressant Drugs,” followed by various warnings of increased suicide rates linked directly to these medications. These pills which explicitly state the risks of life-threatening dangers associated with them have been approved by the FDA for widespread usage – and marijuana hasn’t.

Yale professor of psychology, R. Andrew Sewell, was given a government grant to conduct a multi-year lab test on veterans with PTSD. He described the existing antidepressant treatments as having “limited efficacy.” “It helps a bit with emotional numbing, but it doesn’t really do much for the other things,” he said. In his studies, Sewell is seeking to find the beneficial correlations between marijuana and PTSD. During his ongoing studies, he is working to prove his theory that veterans, when administered pure THC, will have the calmness and control over their nerves to restart extinction learning. In other words, comprehending that electric shocks which have ceased to be administered during the trials, will not come back. Sewell believes vaporized THC should be coupled with exposure therapy in treating PTSD. When presented at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychadelic Studies (MAPS) conference, scientists and doctors alike found his approach to be compelling. Dr. Sue Sisley recognized that thousands of veterans have already been using marijuana to manage their PTSD symptoms.

And while the department of Veterans Affairs only just recognized marijuana’s medicinal value for PTSD last month; legal states like Michigan have yet to add it to their list of qualifying conditions. Thursday afternoon around 20 medical marijuana patients and advocates testified at a public meeting for the Michigan Marijhuana Review Panel, which is considering drafting a citizen petition, adding PTSD to the list. One Michigan citizen living with PTSD explained her condition as constantly living in fight or flight mode. During a scene in a movie earlier this week, she had a PTSD-induced panic attack. She is certified for medical marijuana because of her chronic pain, though she has said its been especially effective for treating her PTSD and insomnia. “It gives me a moment between the event – the trigger – and what my brain does. It lets me take that minute and realize, ‘Hey, this is just a movie. I’m not under attack.'”

In a 7-2 vote last month, the state review panel gave preliminary approval to a citizen petition hoping to add PTSD to the state law. The official vote will be taken once public testimonies have finished. Dr. David Crocker told Michigan-based newspaper MLive, “In my opinion, marijuana is one of the best medications for people with PTSD. We have a lot of veterans with PTSD in our clinics. Many of them will tell you they think marijuana saved their lives, and many of their families will tell you the same thing.”

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