Marijuana Study Findings Could Hold Promise for Veterans With PTSD
Ocean Malandra ∙ February 22, 2019, | Updated 3 days ago
Patrick Fox, a 69-year-old Vietnam War veteran from Eureka, California, tried prescription medication to treat his pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He found that cannabis, in the form of edibles, was better able to reduce his symptoms and had no side effects.
But Fox is not buying his marijuana medication from one of the newly legal adult-use dispensaries, where an eighth of bud, or 3 1/2 grams, costs between $50 and $65 on average. Edibles are equally costly. He said the prices are simply way too high for his budget and his needs.
“When I used to go to the medical clinics, they had cookies for like $5 apiece,” Fox told WeedMaps News. “Now its jumped up to 20 bucks or so and it’s not really much bigger.”
Instead, he gets his medication from a friend who grows his own plants and makes a simple homemade canna-butter from fresh bud, then trades with Fox or sells it to him at a low price.
“Thank God for my buddy,” Fox said. “Without him, I would be going broke buying weed to make butter or be stuck buying those expensive edibles.”
Fox, who eats one-half of a cookie in the morning and the other half in the afternoon to stay medicated all day long, embodies a situation many seriously ill marijuana patients, including veterans struggling with pain and PTSD, are facing across the country: They find massive relief from cannabis but are unable to afford dispensary products.
PTSD is listed as a condition treatable by cannabis in California and Fox has much of his medical costs covered through the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) and its system of hospitals and clinics. But cannabis is still an illegal substance at the national level, meaning the federally run Veterans Affairs Department cannot recommend cannabis for any condition.
“I don’t understand the government, they know it works,” Fox said.
Recently, however, bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress to require the VA to study medical marijuana as a recommended medicine. But a solution may be on its way. Researchers are currently analyzing the results of the first FDA-approved pilot study on cannabis for PTSD treatment.
“The goal of this dream is to have the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approval for the prescription use of cannabis flower for PTSD, and having high-quality, low-cost buds covered by insurance,” said Merete Christianson, managing director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies(MAPS), speaking at the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa, California, in December 2018.
More than 75 veterans who have been suffering for years from chronic treatment-resistant PTSD volunteered for the placebo-controlled, triple-blind, randomized crossover study. The results of the study could definitively demonstrate the efficacy of marijuana in treating PTSD and could pave the way toward an FDA-approved prescription medicine becoming legally available on a national level and covered by health insurance.
If that happens, many of the other conditions for which cannabis has shown therapeutic efficacy could also potentially become eligible for coverage by insurance and a low-cost market for medical marijuana could be created outside of the commercial one.
“It could be generic in about three years post-approval, helping to ensure that there is an inexpensive alternative to expensive extracts and other patented delivery methods that developed by for-profit companies,” Christianson said.
For Fox and many more like him, access to low-cost but high-quality medical marijuana would allow them to continue healing without worrying about running out of medicine due to financial concerns.
“You can’t sleep. I deal with a lot of nightmares and the opioids just brought it out more,” Fox said, describing the devastating symptoms of PTSD that only got worse on the medications the VA prescribed to him. “The cannabis edibles help me a with a lot of things: the PTSD, the pain, my every day. … Getting a cheap and regular supply would sure make life a lot easier.”
This post was updated to clarify the title of Merete Christianson, managing director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).