Veteran Administration’s Position Hurts Veterans Suffering From PTSD

At Once A Soldier, our dedicated team understands the detrimental and debilitating impact that PTSD can have on soldiers, veterans, and their families. This is why we support a variety of local and federal initiatives that aim to support veterans and their families as they cope with the crippling effects of PTSD. Among the initiatives supported by Once A Soldier are those related to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, despite the fact that marijuana has been proven to have positive effects on soldiers and veterans suffering from PTSD, legislation that allows marijuana to have a role at the VA will not be supported.

At Once A Soldier, we believe that anything clearly proven to help soldiers and veterans cope with their trauma should be supported by the VA. As our CEO and Chairman, Dave Barbush states, “The Veterans Administration was right in deferring to US law, but needed to go the extra step for Veterans, something they’ve proven they’re incapable of.”

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This recent announcement by the VA is disappointing to our team at Once A Soldier, as there have been numerous studies proving marijuana’s effectiveness in alleviating PTSD symptoms. As local governments across the nation deem marijuana fit for medical and recreational use, researchers have been able to study its effects in more detail than ever before. Much of this research has found that, by balancing the various chemical compounds found in marijuana, the plant can be used to effectively treat common ailments such as anxiety, insomnia and pain. Because of this, medical marijuana has been proven to be highly effective when treating those diagnosed with PTSD, many of whom are soldiers and veterans.

Typically, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, develops after an individual experiences a traumatic or life-altering event, such as serving in combat or being on active duty. PTSD can lead to chronic nightmares, flashbacks, and cause difficulty sleeping and functioning normally in daily life. PTSD can often be so severe that an individual’s overall emotional state and perception of the world around them can be damaged forever.

Marijuana is capable of alleviating some of these harmful symptoms because of two main components found in the plant: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for binding to specific receptors in the brain that regulate mood, sleep patterns, and perceptions of pain. Many scientists also believe that THC interacts with the amygdala and hippocampus (the brain’s main emotional centers) to help reduce anxiety.

CBD, on the other hand, is not as widely understood due to its complexity, however researchers do understand it’s influence on the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining the body’s emotional homeostasis, as well as regulating memory consolidation, retrieval and extension. CBD improves the endocannabinoid system’s mediation of essential functions, including memory consolidation and retrieval. When CB1 and CB2 receptors located throughout this core system are activated, cannabinoids can prompt the system to produce neurotransmitters that promote happiness, pleasure, and memory. These specific cannabinoids play an important role in assisting veterans suffering from PTSD by preventing the brain from retrieving the underlying trauma, effectively preventing traumatic memories and nightmares, while also helping the individual attain an overall state of emotional wellbeing.

There are currently three bills in front of the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee that relate to medical marijuana access for veterans. One, the Veterans Equal Access Act, H.R. 1647, sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, would allow VA health providers to recommend medical marijuana to their veteran patients and fill out the necessary paperwork for them to enroll in state marijuana programs. However, the VA responded to these efforts with the following statement:

“[The House Veterans Affairs Committee] can make strong proposals for us to move forward with recommendations of filling out forms and such but, in the end, we need to go back to the [Drug Enforcement Agency] and [Justice Department] for their opinion,” – Larry Mole, chief consultant for population health at the VA.

If you are interested in supporting Once A Soldier’s mission to provide financial assistance to families of veterans who have committed suicide due to the unfortunate effects of PTSD, please donate to our cause today.

Once a Soldier Mission: Become the preferred channel for donors, advocates and volunteers who care about veteran families left behind after a soldier suicide. Financial and emotional support are offered to those families that demonstrate the need. Our Veterans are killing themselves in record numbers mostly due to PTSD. An overmatched VA can’t take care of them or their families. We will. Soldier suicide leaves Veteran families with thousands of dollars of bills unpaid, mostly bank loans. Learn more about our impact here.