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Tarah Camarillo

Devin Patten
21 April 2014
Final Essay
The positive effects of THC on patients suffering from a range of diseases from Parkinsons
disease, Alzheimers disease, cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, diabetes (to name a few) is
changing the way we look at cannabis. Although there is a mountain of evidence that shows that
marijuana helps Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there has not been a controlled trial to
test how marijuana suppresses the symptoms including flashbacks from combat, stress, suicidal
thoughts, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. A researcher at the University of Arizona, Suzanne
Sisley, has received approval from the FDA to study the effects of cannabis on veterans who
suffer from PTSD in a controlled trial but still needs approval from the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA). If the DEA approves of a controlled study, and there is enough positive
feedback from the study, The Veterans Affairs (VA) may be able to offer additional help to
veterans who are suffering by prescribing cannabis. This could greatly improve many issues
among veterans who are not able to find relief from symptoms of PTSD and could possibly open
a door for people who are suffering from other medical issues.
My particular interest in this is that I am a disabled veteran diagnosed with PTSD and I believe
that medical marijuana could help veterans and eventually everyone who suffers from PTSD. I
think that the medication that the VA prescribes is dangerous and has too many side effects.
Marijuana as far as I know does not do nearly the damage that prescription pills do. I believe that
marijuana is great for anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD, and many other issues. I feel that it is
about time that we start helping people with PTSD by making it legal for veterans to use. The
specific issue that I will focus on is the benefits of the plant on the Veteran and the overall
difference it has on their lives while using medical marijuana. I believe that I could narrow down
the issue but I think that it would be less interesting to write about and harder to research since
there has not been a lot of research done on marijuana.
There is a lot of negative feedback about the health of marijuana users and their overall quality
of life. Here are a few claims that I found interesting about the possible negative effects of
cannabis. Some people say that marijuana should not be legalized. There is a lot of propaganda
and fear over this plant. But a lot of people do not know enough about cannabis. There has never
been any documented deaths from the use of marijuana alone and violence caused by marijuana
use is not something that I even think is possible. A landmark, Congressionally-mandated
Institute of Medicine study found that fewer than 10 percent of those who try marijuana ever
meet the clinical criteria for dependence, while 32 percent of tobacco users and 15 percent of
alcohol users do. There was a study conducted under President Reagan in 1982 that was used to
support his war on drugs. They claimed that marijuana caused the monkeys in the study to have
brain damage when really the moneys were being pumped with marijuana smoke for long hours
without oxygen. One issue that comes up is the problem of marijuana being trafficked by drug
cartels from Mexico and how it will get worse if we legalize the plant. There is a heavy demand
for marijuana in the United States and I feel that if we were to legalize the use of medical
cannabis not only for veterans, anyone who is in medical need, that drug cartels would not have
the influence or power that they have now over marijuana. Also, there would be fewer people
serving time for marijuana charges. It is estimated that 750,000 Americans are arrested for
marijuana each year. Marijuana has been called a gateway drug. I find it silly that people actually
believe this to be true. To say that marijuana is a gateway drug is to commit the slippery slope
fallacy. There are no reasons given for why they think marijuana is a gateway drug but that
simply because someone uses cannabis, that they will eventually spiral out of control and move
to using hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, and/or methamphetamines. A recent Northwestern
University study found that marijuana users have abnormal brain structure and poor memory and
that chronic marijuana abuse may lead to brain changes that resembled schizophrenia. The study
also reported that the younger the person starts using marijuana, the worse the effects become.
In its own report arguing against marijuana legalization, the American Medical Association said
that heavy cannabis use in people ages 19-25 causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive
performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic
thought disorders. Some claim that marijuana is more dangerous than cigarette smoke, saying
that regular users of cannabis are hit with devastating lung problems as much as 20 years earlier
than cigarette smokers. An article from The Harvard Family Health Guide says that chronic
marijuana use leads to psychiatric problems and that women that used marijuana daily were five
times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those who did not use cannabis and
that cannabis is linked to causing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, suicidal
thoughts and personality disturbances.
Research shows marijuana may cause problems in daily life or make a person's existing
problems worse. Heavy marijuana users generally report lower life satisfaction, poorer
mental and physical health, more relationship problems, and less academic and career
success compared to non-marijuana-using peers. For example, marijuana use is
associated with a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. Several studies also
associate workers' marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents,
workers' compensation claims, and job turnover. [1]
One article claimed that cannabis could prolong PTSD symptoms:
The researchers evaluated 260 male veterans that were receiving inpatient treatment for
PTSD. They assessed the veterans at two different times over eight years, using the PTSD
Checklist-Military Version. They found that the veterans who had cannabis use issues
(CUD), realized less change in symptom severity than those without. Specifically,
individuals with a CUD diagnosis who discontinued use, compared with those without a
CUD diagnosis, had lower levels of change in total PTSD symptoms, PTSD
avoidance/numbing symptoms, and PTSD hyper arousal symptoms, said Bonn-Miller.
In addition to these results being statistically significant, they are clinically meaningful.
In particular, those with CUD saw treatment gains similar to veterans who received no
treatment at all. Additionally, with more states legalizing cannabis for medicinal
purposes, veterans with PTSD who use cannabis may be unknowingly negatively
impacting their recovery. This study also demonstrates the relationship between PTSD
and cannabis use, underscoring the importance of further research in this area. Bonn-
Miller added that clinicians should provide their clients with adaptive coping techniques
before they recommend cannabis cessation for the purpose of treating PTSD. [2]
In contrast, some are saying that marijuana is addictive and that its use significantly impairs
bodily and mental functions. Others believe that legalizing it will bring about violence, crime,
social disorder, brain damage and even death. Many of the claims I found go completely against
everything I have studied online about the scientific research that has been conducted. I found it
interesting that so many of the institutes or people making the above claims say that more
research is needed in order to confirm their claims. On the other side of the argument, people
claiming that marijuana actually helps mental issues have done extensive studies on people and
animals. I find most of the above claims to be completely ridiculous because many claims are
either fallacious or there is not enough evidence to back up their claims but for some reason
people still hold on to these views.
One of the most promising benefits of marijuana use from PTSD veterans is that it has been
linked to memory loss and since some vets with PTSD have memories that can be crippling and
cannot be unlearned, this could be extremely beneficial. Research has shown that people
sometimes keep too many memories that are either not important or are harmful. People function
better when they keep the information that they need to function properly and remove those
memories that keep them from moving on and healing. Forgetting everything but what is
important can be as adaptive and beneficial as remembering something that you need to know.
Like the survival benefits of remembering that something could harm you and so you stay away
from it.
If people look at the science behind what THC actually does to the human brain and body, they
might not fear legalization of the plant and might come to see the benefits. Scientists have found
that THC is strikingly similar to one of the first endocannabinoids discovered in humans,
anandamide. Some scientists believe that because the receptor proteins link up perfectly to THC
strands that we were meant to have cannabis or the THC-like protein (anandamide) that our
bodies naturally make. The way it works is that THC molecules activate a previously unknown
network of specialized chemical receptors (a protein in the brain that combine to the THC like a
key in a lock). Scientists found the receptors in the hippocampus (forms memories), the
cerebellum (controls movement), and the frontal cortex (where we think), it also controls
appetite, and pain.
The most recent news about medical marijuana and PTSD, Colorado recently voted against
legalizing medical marijuana for PTSD veterans. The Veterans & Military Affairs Committee
rejected the bill 5-6, claiming that there is not enough research on PTSD and marijuana.
An FDA-approved, triple-blind University of Arizona study on marijuanas effects on
veterans with PTSD was thwarted by a federal committees unwillingness to give the
researchers access to a legal supply of marijuana. [3]
Although this may seem bad, there is still hope for the legalization of marijuana for PTSD
In the meantime, 10 other states with medical marijuana laws have already listed PTSD
as a qualifying medical condition, including four in just the past six months, according to
the Drug Policy Alliance. For veterans, who disproportionately suffer from PTSD,
medical marijuana is not an option under the federal Veterans Affairs program.[4]
Finally, keeping cannabis illegal will not stop people from using it. If we dont legalize medical
marijuana, some veterans will most likely do what they have to do to get it and buy it illegally.
This could be dangerous for veterans who make this decision because there are the obvious
issues of getting caught and going to prison, as well as losing their federal benefits, and causing
hardships related to incarceration on their families. Many veterans suffering from PTSD, who are
not being treated, have sadly taken extreme measures to relieve their pain by committing suicide.
This does not have to happen. If medical marijuana was legalized I feel that the suicide rate
would greatly decrease among vets and their overall happiness would increase because they
would have a more healthy, effective and positive way of dealing with their pain.

[1]Drug Facts: Marijuana,, National Institute on Drug Abuse
[2] Bonn-Miller, M. O., Boden, M. T., Vujanovic, A. A., & Drescher, K. D. (2011, December
[3],[4] Nicole Flatlow Colorado Declines Medical Pot Access For Veterans With PTSD,, April 29, 2014