An estimated 250,000 combat veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD. According to the Veterans Administration, 22 of them commit suicide every day. That’s more than 8,000 deaths from suicide a year; far more than the 6,850 Americans who have died in combat over the 14 years since 9-11.
Most veterans suffering from PTSD are treated with a pharmacopeia of drugs – as many as 15 to 20 or more a day: antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications, opiate narcotics, neuroleptic drugs and more.
The drugs are prescribed using a trial and error approach; if one cocktail of drugs doesn’t work after a time, the treating doctors remix the cocktail. This hit-or-miss approach doesn’t work; it leaves our hero veterans disoriented, unable to deal with day-to-day activities. Many report feeling like they’re living in a fog, living like zombies.
One drug that has helped dozens, if not hundreds or more vets deal with PTSD, is cannabis. PTSD sufferers report feeling immediate relief from their PTSD symptoms after taking cannabis the first time. And they say they’re able to eliminate all or all but a few of their prescription medications.
Iraq combat veteran Chris Whittenburg credits cannabis with saving his marriage and ending the PTSD-spawned anger and anxiety that were destroying his life.
This is his story:
Without cannabis, “I don’t think I’d be married now,” Whittenburg said during a recent interview. “My marriage would have fallen apart due to the severe anger and anxiety.”
“We knew I had PTSD,” Whittenburg said. “My family, they were starting to see me not in a good spot,” he added. “They knew something was off about me.”
Whittenburg didn’t turn to cannabis at first, relying instead on the medications prescribed by his doctor.
The result? “My functioning ability went down drastically,” he said. Some of the drugs left him sitting in a chair drooling on himself, he said. And his wife, a nurse who majored in biology and physiology in college, “helped me realize how dangerous those drugs were that I was taking.”
“I felt anxious any time I’d put on my shoes and walk out the door,” Whittenburg said. “Just driving down the road could send me spiraling into anger that was uncontrollable.”
Whittenburg said his PTSD left him unable to trust people, including his neighbors.
“I couldn’t go into a grocery store to get what I needed because there were too many people standing in lines,” Whittenburg said. “I feared for my life.” And he recounted walking into a bowling alley and having to leave immediately because of the noise and the crowd.
The turning point for Whittenburg came when the police were called to his house during one of his angry outbursts.
“Instead of taking me in, which they could have, they wrote me a ticket and said ‘you need help’,” Whittenburg said.
Whittenburg ran into one of the cops a few weeks later at the local VFW post and realized he was also a military veteran.
That was when “I realized man I gotta have it (cannabis),” Whittenburg said. “Since that time I’ve never had an issue.”
“Immediately I was relaxed,” he said of his experience using cannabis. “Immediately, I wasn’t fearing anything. I wasn’t suspecting people around me, say at a grocery store, were plotting against me.”
Whittenburg says he was never suicidal, but knows three people who, “I have served with and call my friends and brothers” who did commit suicide. Whittenburg doesn’t know why any of them ended their lives. But, he said, “they’re ones that I think if they had sat down and smoked a joint maybe they would have lived another day.”
Whittenburg grew up in Wisconsin and returned there after leaving the military. He quit a job with a Fortune 120 company and moved to Colorado with his wife and two daughters so he could buy cannabis legally instead of putting himself and his suppliers in legal jeopardy by buying it illegally in his home state.
Both he and his wife now use cannabis. He uses it for PTSD. She uses it for Crohn’s disease.
Although they can buy their cannabis legally from Colorado’s recreational dispensaries, they don’t have medical cards because neither PTSD nor Crohn’s are on the list of conditions that can be treated medically in the state. That means they pay about twice as much for their cannabis as they would if they had cards allowing them to buy medical cannabis.
“I think all veterans suffering from PTSD should absolutely have access to cannabis and cannabis edibles because they are just phenomenal for helping save lives,” he said.
This article and the video interview with Chris Whittenburg were prepared by Jerry Brown and Peter Kowalchuk of SativaCOMM, a public relations and consulting firm supporting the cannabis industry. They are producing this and other videos to help make people aware of the problems that our veterans have in obtaining medical marijuana, which is available in the higher dosages they need and at less cost than recreational marijuana, to help relieve the suffering they experience with PTSD.
The Ganja Gazette will introduce readers to a new veteran each month in upcoming issues in support of the SativaCOMM effort. We hope our readers will support it as well.
If you want to help, share this article and the video with friends, family and others. And go to http://bit.ly/1gx6fHK for more information about a pending study into the effectiveness and safety of using cannabis to treat military veterans suffering from PTSD.