- D.H. Reilly
Veterans in Tennessee Campaign in Support of Medical Marijuana Treatment for PTSD
When the day comes that we can finally get a Tennessee Marijuana Card, countless residents of the Volunteer State will receive much needed relief, but it may benefit one group of Tennesseans more than any other: our veterans.
We’ve mentioned before the many conditions from which veterans often suffer and how medical marijuana can help treat them. Now the activism of one veteran has put this issue back in the spotlight in Tennessee. And as he fights for his own relief, he is fighting for all veterans here at the same time.
Veteran Tells Tennessee News Station That He Needs Medical Marijuana
Careers in the military and in law enforcement have left George Burns with debilitating PTSD, he told WTVC, Chattanooga's ABC and Fox affiliate. Burns said the accident scenes, homicides, suicides, fires, and other deaths he witnessed led to his PTSD diagnosis decades ago, and he has found little relief in the meantime.
Only Effective Treatment for Veteran’s PTSD Is a Dangerous, Unregulated Drug
Like millions of pain sufferers who have turned to legal opioids when medical marijuana was unavailable to them, Burns has been treating his PTSD with what works and what he can get: Delta 8. Unfortunately, Delta 8 is almost completely unregulated and therefore often dangerous, and it’s also less potent and effective than medical marijuana. Burns and other veterans in his situation are getting some of the relief of marijuana but not the safety.
Burns told WTVC that nothing else brought him any relief at all from his symptoms, including irritability and night terrors. “I don't do the flailing of legs and arms like I used to, it's more of a peaceful acknowledgment of the nightmare,” he said. Still, Burns told the news station, he is sure that medical marijuana would be a more effective treatment.
Burns Is Correct - Medical Marijuana Can Effectively Treat PTSD
While Burns isn’t a doctor or a research scientist, he is correct in saying that evidence indicates that medical marijuana can be a safe and effective treatment for PTSD, a form of anxiety initially triggered by a traumatic event. For years after the initial event, PTSD sufferers may experience symptoms that are wide-ranging and individualized. No two PTSD sufferers will have the exact same symptoms or experience them in the exact same way.
The most commonly experienced symptoms include intense phobias, blackouts, insomnia, hallucinations, and difficulty focusing and concentrating. In the most extreme cases, patients may even experience violent or suicidal urges.
PTSD Prevalence Disproportionately High Among Veterans
While it can strike anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, PTSD rates are especially high among veterans, a demographic that is likely to experience a number of traumatic events.
According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 6% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. That’s approximately 21 million Americans who will suffer from a potentially debilitating condition. If Tennessee’s rates match up to the national estimates, there are more than 400,000 Volunteer State residents who will experience PTSD at some point and who could therefore benefit from legalizing medical marijuana.
Fortunately, most of those Americans live in states where medical marijuana is an option, because it has been shown to be the best treatment option in most cases.
Can’t Veterans Use Other PTSD Medications?
Yes, there are several traditional pharmaceutical treatment options for PTSD patients, but they aren’t consistently effective and are associated with a number of negative side effects.
PTSD is a mental health problem, but it can also result in physical issues, and no traditional PTSD treatments address both the psychological and physical symptoms of the condition. Consequently, patients must often adhere to a cocktail of prescription medications, and those medications often cause significant and intolerable side effects such as diminished sex drive and liver complications.
And as traditional PTSD medications are often ineffective, patients commonly endure these negative side effects while getting little benefit in return.
Is There Evidence That Medical Marijuana Can Treat PTSD More Effectively?
Unlike traditional pharmaceuticals, medical marijuana has been shown to treat both kinds of PTSD symptoms. Doctors believe this is because there are receptors throughout the brain and body that interact with cannabis, allowing it to treat patients both mentally and physically.
PTSD symptoms that medical marijuana has been shown to treat include anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, difficulty focusing, hallucinations and more.
Consequently, patients who treat their PTSD with medical marijuana usually need to take fewer pharmaceutical medications. And not only is taking fewer medications more convenient for PTSD patients but it means less reliance on dangerous drugs such as opioids and less abusing of narcotics and alcohol.
Two Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Tennessee This Session Fail to Pass
Unfortunately for Burns, other PTSD patients, and Tennessee as a whole, two medical marijuana bills introduced in the General Assembly this session both failed.
SB 2532 failed in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee in early April, and its counterpart, HB 2641, died in the House’s Criminal Justice Committee just a week later.
While imperfect, these bills would have created a medical marijuana market here, allowing Tennesseans with qualifying conditions and their doctors’ blessings to try to find relief with cannabis. But now, barring a miraculous turn of events, it will be at least 2023 before Tennessee joins the thirty-seven other states where medical marijuana has been legalized and where our brave veterans can find relief from the conditions they incurred while protecting us and our freedoms.
For now, Burns, other veterans, and suffering Tennesseans will have to settle for the same old same old from their politicians: half-truths and excuses.
Politicians Offer No Relief But Plenty of Excuses
Senator Mike Lee explained his opposition to SB 2532 by saying that although the legislation was narrowly crafted, he was sure from previous sessions that efforts would be made to expand the bill, laying the groundwork for recreational marijuana in Tennessee. "And now we're here, expanding it again. And we're gonna be here next year, expanding it again," the senator said according to WTVC.
So patients have to suffer, according to Lee, because if they don’t then some other adults might decide to ingest something for fun. It’s a point that makes about as much sense as continuing to adhere to outdated stigmas about marijuana’s influence on the coherence of society. But don’t worry; one of Lee’s colleagues from the other chamber provided that old canard on our bingo card of anti-cannabis excuses.
“We want to help those with medical illnesses,” Representative Sabi Kumar said, “but the introduction of a psychoactive substance into our society does damage the social fabric of our society.” Kumar also expressed concern that legalized medical marijuana would negatively impact drug addiction rates.
So Representative Kumar says that suffering patients can’t access a safe and effective medicine, because some people are addicted to other substances. Never mind that medical marijuana has been shown to ease opioid and alcohol abuse, as we said earlier; Kumar doesn’t need to let facts get in the way of his stigmas and biases.
As for George Burns, the veteran whose story has put this issue back in the spotlight, he is taking a philosophical approach to the obstinance of his elected officials: “It's gonna take time,” Burns said of medical marijuana’s arrival in Tennessee.
It’s Going to Take Time, but Don’t Let It Take More Time Than It Has To
Burns is right that it’s going to take time to get medical marijuana here in Tennessee, but that doesn't mean you have to let it take any more time than is absolutely necessary.
Start getting ready for medical marijuana by reserving an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable cannabis doctors.
You’ll meet with your doctor virtually, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. Together you’ll discuss your conditions, what medical marijuana might be able to do for you, and whether you qualify for a Tennessee Marijuana Card, all without even leaving your home. You’ll even save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
At Tennessee Marijuana Card, our mission is to help everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (833) 781-5611, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out Tennessee Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information!