Veteran grieves his mistake — using marijuana for PTSD

Visit our Join page to learn more about how you can be a part of the Parents Movement to #stoppot!

   

Disabled Marine Says Marijuana is Not Preferable to Pharma Drugs

By Andrew ,  a veteran’s testimony from Oregon

I wish there were better warnings and awareness on marijuana (there aren’t, currently, under Oregon regulations), especially in regards to mental health.

I am a 100% disabled combat veteran who served in the U.S. Marines during the Iraq War in 2003-2005. I never made any progress in my post-traumatic stress disorder when I was self-medicating under the elusive medical marijuana card.

When enlisted, I was 19-20 years old and had never used marijuana. I earned an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps so I had to be clean cut and sober from marijuana.  I finished my enlistment and only experimented with cannabis one time, getting the “munchies” which I thought a “cool experience.”

After my service, in 2006, I landed a bartender job and began to smoke marijuana with co-workers. Recreational use wasn’t legal at the time in Oregon, but I was discreet and avoided trouble with the law from it.  I also was a heavy drinker back then, being in my early twenties.

Struggling with health issues after the war, I went to a medical marijuana dispensary to meet with a doctor and got my medical marijuana card.  In Oregon this amounts to a discount card, since recreational marijuana is now legal for those 21 years of age and up.

Twenty -two veterans commit suicide a day. Marijuana is not safe for veterans with PTSD.

“Medical” marijuana doc failed to warn of side effects

I was never told the negative or possible side effects of it. My divorce from the mother of my children was a direct result of my marijuana-induced psychosis.  I feel good now that I’m taking prescriptions for my symptoms. While I self-medicated with marijuana, it was difficult to see how harmful marijuana can be. It took a doctor telling me some of the side effects to finally quit smoking it. I used to think it a good thing, but now I know better.

Even as someone who suffers post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I will not get on my high horse.  I won’t claim war trauma is the worst trauma out there. I understand people suffer rape or violence, and post-traumatic stress comes from many life experiences. Mine was a result of battle fatigue or shell shock similar to other military veterans throughout history.

I would regularly smoke marijuana to help with depression and anxiety, thinking “hey cool – it helps me to forget my traumatic experiences.”  In the beginning, I didn’t use very much, but I did consume a little daily. I hadn’t been given the full truth about marijuana even when I applied and received my “medical marijuana card.”

It is heartbreaking to me, because I believe my divorce is a direct result of my marijuana drug use. I can’t predict if marijuana will impact others like it impacted me.

I can confirm that without marijuana and taking the Veterans Affairs doctor’s prescriptions, I am doing well. These are the ones the marijuana culture claims they fight as “Big Pharmaceutical.”

Relationships suffer because of marijuana

It is embarrassing to admit, but while using marijuana, I was delusional and was a space case and didn’t know it.   I suffered a divorce and haven’t seen my kids in almost two years and got a ticket for driving under the influence. 

Once under the care of a new doctor, I was politely fully advised of how marijuana can trigger psychosis. Nobody wants to hear that and nobody wants to struggle with mental illness. If you are a habitual pot smoker maybe it is time to see if you can put the weed away for a few months and get back to what the doctor I trust refers to as “clear thinking.”

If you want to live alone the rest of your life or somehow can get by without family and friends, then by all means indulge in marijuana. For the rest of us, who want good relationships, I would say consider my story before you choose marijuana. I was out of touch with reality and also emotionally unavailable.  As I struggled with marijuana-related mental illness, I committed my biggest crime by not being there for my loved ones.

I now abstain from alcohol as well and know that it has social ills related to it. I never made any progress in my post-traumatic stress disorder when was self-medicating under the elusive medical marijuana card.

And yet, politicians debate legalization to help veterans, and they seem to be unaware of the risks.

Sounding the alarm for others

War is hell and I know 22 veterans a day, on average, commit suicide, and if psychosis had a description it could be voices that say “kill yourself.” A wise old doctor in psychiatric care told me, “it is about growth, post-traumatic growth. You can take your struggles and use them to make yourself a better person.”

These negative consequences are what finally made me realize how much harm the drug caused. Nobody wants to be isolated in a jail cell, people want their family and love, so please take caution when you think of self-medicating post-traumatic stress disorder with marijuana. 

States where it’s legal shouldn’t be allowed to give it out as “medical,” without warning of risks and side effects.  A recent article about medical marijuana users banned from buying firearms reinforces the mental health risks the drug creates.

Today I sound the alarm that we shouldn’t hurt ex-soldiers by making pot legal, instead of helping these veterans. I’m thankful to have realized marijuana isn’t exactly good medicine for post-traumatic stress. But I also know the wounds of war are real and hope my story can reach out to prevent future suicides during psychosis which is a real risk of treating the PTSD with marijuana.

Andrew’s story is the third testimony we recently received from Oregon, recently.   Two other families of veterans reveal marijuana’s wrote testimonies to reveal marijuana’s negative effects on PTSD, mental health.   Read Andy’s story and Help My Son.

Visit our Join page to learn more about how you can be a part of the Parents Movement to #stoppot!