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Wed Apr 30, 2014, 10:30 AM

Veterans with PTSD denied legal medical mj in CO

Veterans With PTSD Who Use Legal Marijuana in Colorado Can Lose VA Medical Care and Benefits

Legislation to Add PTSD As Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Rejected By Colorado Legislature


On Monday (4-28)...a bill failed to pass the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee that would have added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of ‘debilitating medical conditions’ that qualify for a medical marijuana recommendation. This timely bill (HB14-1364) would have addressed a major gap in access to medical marijuana in Colorado for veterans and all those suffering from PTSD. The bill sought to ensure that veterans won’t lose their VA benefits for following their physician’s recommendation to use medical marijuana.

On average a veteran commits suicide every hour in the United States – and medical marijuana has been proven to reduce suicide. But, Colorado veterans who use marijuana to manage their symptoms of PTSD risk losing their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. VA policy permits veterans in compliance with their state medical marijuana law to continue to receive all their benefits and remain eligible for care in the VA medical system.

“It’s insane that in a state with legal marijuana veterans don’t have the same right as anyone else over 21 – especially considering how many lives are at stake,” said Art Way, senior Colorado policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “No veteran should have to risk benefits or feel stigmatized when they use medical marijuana.”
Iraq war Veteran Sean Azzariti of Denver, a Marine who testified in support of the legislation yesterday, said "It saved my life and I truly believe that every veteran should have that choice of medication."

Presently 10 medical marijuana states include PTSD as a qualifying condition for eligibility -- including 4 states that have added PTSD to their programs in the last 6 months alone. And a survey published last month in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reports that people with PTSD in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program show a greater than 75% reduction in severity of their symptoms when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.

http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/04/colorado-veterans-suffering-ptsd-denied-legal-marijuana-colorado


The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn, with the help of American researchers such as Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado's Department of Economics, recently published their findings in a paper called High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide (PDF):

Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males.


...For veterans, who disproportionately suffer from PTSD, medical marijuana is not an option under the federal Veterans Affairs program. In fact, it used to be the case that any veteran using medical marijuana could lose their VA benefits. In 2010, the department released new guidance stating that veterans receiving medical marijuana under a state program would not lose their benefits. So long as PTSD is not a qualifying medical condition, Colorado veterans do not appear to have that protection, and will be particularly wary to discuss the treatment with a doctor.

Twenty-two veterans a day are killing themselves,” said Sue Sisley, the University of Arizona psychiatry professor leading the PTSD study who specializes in treating veterans. “They’re not benefiting from conventional medicine. And while many are using marijuana to help them with this debilitating disorder, they want it to be legitimized. They want data. They want to know what doses to take. They want to be able to discuss this with their doctors.”

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/04/29/3431993/colorado-declines-medical-pot-access-for-veterans-with-ptsd/


One vet's story: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/out-options-veterans-ptsd-hit-pot-underground-n64026

“The first time I used it, I wanted to cry. Because it took away my anxiety. Because it did everything for me that the Oxycontin, benzodiazepines and anti-depressants the VA prescribed me for three years did not do,” said Edwards, 26, a resident of Davenport, Iowa. His symptoms -– an unrelenting “hyper-vigilance,” insomnia and nightmares -– emerged “the moment we walked off the plane” in 2008.

“I can function completely fine all day just by using cannabis. I’m back in school. My attendance is good. My grades are good. My relationships have healed,” added the former Marine. “It allowed me to get my life back.”

In a March 12 letter, federal health officials approved a long-delayed study to explore if pot relieves PTSD. But doctors employed by the VA are banned from prescribing medical marijuana – and from completing forms that allow veterans to enroll in medical-marijuana programs. While medical weed is legal in 20 states, only eight states recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition for which physicians can write cannabis prescriptions.

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Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply Veterans with PTSD denied legal medical mj in CO (Original post)
RainDog Apr 2014 OP
Mnemosyne Apr 2014 #1
RainDog Apr 2014 #3
Mnemosyne Apr 2014 #6
RainDog Apr 2014 #8
Mnemosyne Apr 2014 #13
RainDog Apr 2014 #14
Scuba Apr 2014 #2
RainDog Apr 2014 #4
fredamae Apr 2014 #5
RainDog Apr 2014 #10
fredamae Apr 2014 #15
pipoman Apr 2014 #7
RainDog Apr 2014 #9
RainDog Apr 2014 #11
RainDog Apr 2014 #12
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2014 #16
RainDog Apr 2014 #17
Ruby the Liberal May 2014 #20
RainDog May 2014 #21
Eleanors38 May 2014 #22
RainDog May 2014 #18
RainDog May 2014 #19

Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 10:44 AM

1. SOB's. nt

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Response to Mnemosyne (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 10:54 AM

3. We've still got a long way to go

I'm so sorry that Vets are not included for PTSD in CO - the first real misstep that I've seen so far in CO's treatment mj use.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 11:00 AM

6. Hopefully someone will rectify this quickly. Many that I know with PTSD, vets and others,

find their only relief in cannabis. MDA was used before and helped many, so of course that was taken away.

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Response to Mnemosyne (Reply #6)


Response to RainDog (Reply #8)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 01:20 PM

13. I am not a vet either, but have PTSD, as does my daughter and was married to a vet with it at one

time. I also suffer from severe bi-polar disorder. What a fun freaking ride, NOT.

I hear you, RainDog, wanting help that actually works and being denied it is a shame on this country. Meds almost killed me, the doctors had me on so much with horrid side-effects, I'm actually the queen of side effects!

Now I just try to survive each day, and it's one hour at a time some days. I do smoke, if the chance arises, and it helps sooo much.

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Response to Mnemosyne (Reply #13)


Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 10:53 AM

2. “Twenty-two veterans a day are killing themselves,” but pot is too dangerous!!!

 

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Response to Scuba (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 11:00 AM

4. Another Vet's story

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/medical-marijuana-can-be-much-needed-miracle-vets-ptsd

After Staff Sargent Mike Whiter returned home from serving his country, he tried to kill himself three times.

“They put me on 36 different medications in 6 years,” recalls Whiter. “I was on methadone and morphine, benzos, klonopin, xanax, SSRIs…You name a drug, I’ve been on it. I couldn’t sleep, I was having nightmares, I couldn’t leave my house – I was afraid to leave my house.”

...Since he started using marijuana, Whiter has been able to stop taking all of his prescription medications. No more sleepless nights, no more flashbacks, no more isolation in his home – in fact, Whiter is now the co-director of Philadelphia NORML and the founder of Pennsylvania Veterans for Medical Marijuana. He has been a featured speaker at numerous public events and rallies, unimaginable during the time he suffered from crippling social anxiety due to his PTSD.

In addition to relieving his PTSD symptoms, Whiter credits marijuana for enabling him to survive the trauma of withdrawal from numerous medications. “Marijuana got me through opiate withdrawal, it got me through benzo withdrawal, and it got me through SSRI withdrawal,” he recalls. “It’s my medicine.”

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 11:00 AM

5. Hopefully,

at least in the minds of the electorate in CO they will see these lawmakers Wholly responsible for the suffering of our Vets post this vote and hold them accountable at the ballot box.
I also hope they tell them NOW that this "f'd" up decision is gonna cost them their jobs--as well it should. They Deserve the Same treatment "they dished out" when they recalled those two lawmakers for their votes For reasonable gun safety regs.

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Response to fredamae (Reply #5)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 12:02 PM

10. Vets who use marijuana for PTSD are considered criminals in 43 states

The states that allow medical mj for vets (or others) with PTSD include: Connecticut, Delaware, Oregon, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan.

It's not just a matter of using mj anyway, even if it's not covered as an illness because doctor's monitor vets with drug tests and the use of mj would mean vets are denied other benefit and medications, even.

This is the third time veteran's advocates have tried to get PTSD included for medical mj in CO.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #10)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 03:06 PM

15. It took Oregon YEARS

and it was horrible when those "powers at be" including the legislature here- told Veterans at public hearing, after public hearing that their horrible experiences of using prescribed meds - that often made things Worse; that these horrible drugs with horrible side effects was the best they could Hope for ever, even as our veterans reported great successes with cannabis.

BigPharma? I dunno--but at the fed level they've relaxed - there is NO logical reason (excuse really) to deny them safe and legal access to at least try it to see if it helps them.

Medical Cannabis needs to be considered as part of the greater health care debate going on--And covered under health care insurance for all and Certainly ought to be covered and considered the same as all other medicines by Vet Orgs in states, imo.

Send them over there to serve our country--they come back broken and our elected officials toss them under the corporate bus, imo.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 11:09 AM

7. All the more reason to decriminalize/legalize

 

For any use. Registering as a medical mj patient can easily be used against people now or later. I'm not sure why anyone in Colorado would bother with registering now...The lower medication cost isn't worth the risk imho.

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Response to pipoman (Reply #7)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 11:42 AM

9. I don't know what I would do in such a situation

But I'm hopeful that, however slowly, attitudes are changing - esp. when parents see how marijuana can help their children survive something like Dravet's epilepsy or the side effects of chemo.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 12:06 PM

11. Another Vet's story

http://www.stripes.com/news/former-platoon-sergeant-says-marijuana-was-the-only-thing-that-controlled-his-ptsd-1.153876

Former platoon sergeant says marijuana was 'the only thing' that controlled his PTSD

Jamey Raines tried marijuana once or twice in high school, but he said he had no interest in it after he joined the Army in 2000. He served in heavy combat in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 and rose through the ranks from private to platoon sergeant. Along the way he drank and smoked cigarettes like many infantrymen do, but he said he was “100 percent against” using any drug in any form.

Five years out of the military as of next month, however, Raines has changed his mind.

Using marijuana, he said, was the only way he could control his intense anger and anxiety as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. The drug was a crutch, but a necessary one, he said, and it enabled him to go to college, earn his degree and land a decent job.

“This illness needs to be treated in a multidisciplinary way,” Dr. Sue Sisley, an assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at Arizona, told The New York Times in a recent article. “Drugs like Zoloft and Paxil have proven entirely inadequate. And there’s anecdotal evidence from vets that cannabis can provide systematic relief.”

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 01:15 PM

12. Michael Krawitz, a U.S. Air Force veteran, sued the govt to reschedule marijuana

Via Americans for Safe Access. The hearing was in Oct. 2012... it took NINE YEARS for the DEA to respond to the petition. When faced with a lawsuit for "unreasonable delay" the DEA denied the petition to reschedule based upon lack of medical proof - which they create by colluding with the NIDA to refuse studies that would indicate medical benefit. Law enforcement agencies should have no say in medical studies - but in the US, regarding marijuana - it's the DEA that is hurting people who could benefit from medical marijuana - especially veterans.

ASA filed its lawsuit in January 2012, challenging the July 2011 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denial of the CRC petition, which was filed in 2002. The DEA is the final arbiter on petitions to reclassify controlled substances, but other agencies are also involved in the review process. Patient advocates claim that marijuana is treated unlike any other controlled substance in that rescheduling petitions are encumbered by politics and therapeutic research is subjected to a unique and overly rigorous approval process.

The announcement of oral arguments comes just weeks after a study was published in The Open Neurology Journal by Dr. Igor Grant one of the leading U.S. medical marijuana researchers, claiming that marijuana's Schedule I classification is "not tenable." Dr. Grant and his fellow researchers concluded it was "not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking." The study urged additional research, and stated that marijuana's federal classification and its political controversy are "obstacles to medical progress in this area." Marijuana's classification as a Schedule I substance (along with heroin) is based on the federal government's position that it has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

http://www.safeaccessnow.org/medical_marijuana_patients_get_their_day_in_federal_court_with_the_obama_administration


Kravitz, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, suffered an auto accident in 1984 which left him totally and permanently disabled. Veterans Affairs put him on a regimen of potent pain pills with terrible side effects, and when he began using cannabis to help manage his pain and reduce his pill intake, the VA punished him by pulling him from the pain management program. ASA alleges that a rescheduling of cannabis out of Schedule I would open the door for the VA to reform its policies, so that Kravitz will no longer have to choose between legal treatments and tolerable ones.

The petition to reschedule was denied.

The silver lining in the government's refusal to recognize marijuana's medical value was that for the first time in 20 years, the issue of marijuana's classification was again brought into federal court. The D.C. Circuit, where ASA v. DEA was heard, granted the plaintiffs standing to bring such an appeal but unfortunately denied the case on its merits. In so doing, the D.C. Circuit established a brand new precedent, requiring petitioners to obtain evidence from Phase II and III clinical trials to prove medical efficacy, a ruling that conflicts with the First Circuit in Grinspoon v. DEA, 828 F.2d 881 (1st Cir. 1987). The First Circuit held that the DEA cannot treat a lack of FDA marketing approval as conclusive evidence that a substance has no "currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." The Grinspoon Court also held that for some drugs (like smoked marijuana):

(T)here is no economic or other incentive to seek interstate marketing approval...because (they) cannot be patented and exploited commercially.

This week's refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on marijuana's federal reclassification comes less than three months after a writ of certiorari was filed with the High Court seeking review. The appeal was not only based on a clear conflict with Grinspoon, but also a failure by the D.C. Circuit to review marijuana's abuse potential, which is currently considered as harmful as heroin and PCP and even more harmful than methamphetamine, cocaine and opium.


The problem with marijuana in this nation is really a problem with the DEA. They are the problem. They are not representing the best interests of Americans.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 07:22 PM

16. Riddle me this

Is the VA now drug testing for benefits in CO, or did these Vets just become the only people over 21 in CO who can't use pot?

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #16)

Wed Apr 30, 2014, 09:09 PM

17. If Vets choose to use marijuana

they can't do so via medical marijuana (which means they pay more).

More importantly, since CO does not recognize PTSD as a condition that falls under medical mj prescriptions, vets risk losing their medical treatment benefits from the VA.

For vets with injuries, etc., if they need opiods for treatment, they have to choose between marijuana and those opiods - or any other medicines.

Many vets have reported the use of mmj helps them to reduce the amt of opiods they use - and mmj helps to alleviate depression in some people - while opiods do not - and are also central nervous system depressants - which mj is not.

The VA piss tests - and people can be denied, say, heart medication if they use mj for PTSD. A few vets here have mentioned they cannot use mj or else they'll be denied other medication.

If vets test positive for mj, they can be forced into treatment programs and labeled as someone with a substance abuse problem, as well.

Krawitz, noted above, established residency in two states - VA, where he has lived for a long time, and Oregon, where his doctor can prescribe mmj. He has to deal with multiple doctors (he says 3) in order to not lose his access to VA health care.

Things have improved, actually, since 2011. Before that, vets could be denied health care if they tested positive for mj metabolites. Now, if a vet lives in a state that lists MEDICAL marijuana as treatment for PTSD, they cannot be denied other medicines via the VA.

eta - but other adults may also be prohibited from mj use if they work for a business that piss tests and mj is part of that test.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #17)

Thu May 1, 2014, 06:44 PM

20. I can't wait for this insanity to end...

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #20)

Thu May 1, 2014, 11:50 PM

21. You and me both, sister. n/t

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #20)

Thu May 8, 2014, 11:26 PM

22. It's entrenched culture war, and it will take time to

 

uproot the bureaucratic and political elites which erected this corrupt, hateful edifice.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Thu May 1, 2014, 03:27 AM

18. Another veteran's story of cannabis relieving PTSD

This one was published before the VA changed its rules and allowed vets in states with mmj laws for PTSD to use it for their symptoms. Since this report, New Mexico has implemented mmj/ptsd law, where one-fourth of the state's then 1600 mmj patients were PTSD related.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126827410

...Paul Culkin of Rio Rancho, N.M., traces his PTSD back to 2004 when he was in Kosovo and part of an Army bomb squad. A car crashed into a business. The manager was inside trying to put out a fire. Culkin went in once to try to get him to leave, but he wouldn't go.

"The second time when I went in to get him out of there — that's when the car bomb exploded and the glass hit me," Culkin says.

..Culkin started avoiding social situations and was quick to anger. He says the treatment he's received from the VA — mostly counseling and antidepressant medication — has helped. But, he says, marijuana also works well to relieve his anxiety.

"He's a different person. He's a better person. He's more open. He's more communicative," (his wife) says. "At one point, we almost got a divorce, and I can honestly say that I think medical cannabis saved our marriage and our family."

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Thu May 1, 2014, 03:30 AM

19. How mmj can best be utilized for PTSD

http://veteransformedicalmarijuana.org/content/general-use-cannabis-ptsd-symptoms

Dr. Mechoulam is the Israeli scientist who identified THC as the psychoactive compound in marijuana, and decades later he discovered the brain's endocannabinoid system and the endogenous neurotransmitter anandamide. He is one of the most respected Israeli neuroscientists and has been a senior advisor to the Israeli government on marijuana policy and the ethics of research with human subjects. He discussed his experiments demonstrating the neuroprotective effects of the endocannabinoid system in mice that have had traumatic injuries to the brain. He believes the neuroprotective effects of marijuana may eventually have applications for other neurological and psychiatric conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Another fascinating discovery, one with implications for PTSD, is that the cannabinoid system is integrally related to memory, specifically to memory extinction. Memory extinction is the normal, healthy process of removing associations from stimuli. Dr. Mechoulam explained that an animal which has been administered an electric shock after a certain noise will eventually forget about the shock after the noise appears alone for a few days. Mice without cannabinoid systems simply never forget - they continue to cringe at the noise indefinitely.

This has implications for patients with PTSD, who respond to stimuli that remind them of their initial trauma even when it is no longer appropriate. By aiding in memory extinction, marijuana could help patients reduce their association between stimuli (perhaps loud noises or stress) and the traumatic situations in their past. Working with Army psychiatrists, Dr. Mechoulam has obtained the necessary approvals for a study on PTSD in Israeli veterans, and hopes to begin the study soon.


(the article spends some talk about pharmacological uses of cannabinoids and notes that the typical use may not offer the best route to actual extinction of PTSD, but serves more to treat symptoms.)

...If an individual were to want to get the most out of using therapeutic cannabis to improve a PTSD condition they should try to use low to moderate doses with as stable a blood level as possible for general anxiety and depression symptoms. Oral cannabis produces more stable blood levels. Since peak levels will produce the most soporific effect, administration of oral cannabis right before bed should produce the most benefits for improving sleep patterns. If the goal is to use cannabis to facilitate extinction of the response to PTSD triggers than small to moderate doses of cannabis vapors should be administered shortly before planned exposure to the trigger. A series of regular extinction sessions will produce better results than a single session. If cannabis appears to make aversion, fear, or aversive memories worse then the dosage should be lowered. If feelings of fear do not improve with lower dose then discontinue use of cannabis as fear-extinction aide.

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