Veterans call on legislature to allow medical marijuana for treatment of post traumatic stress disorder

07/10/2014 08:58 PM

With more veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan since the conflicts started more than a decade ago rates of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have risen significantly, and it’s a currently illegal remedy to the anxiety disorder that brought veterans to Frankfort on Thursday.

One-in-five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report suffering from PTSD, but experts expect the rates could be much higher, because of the stigma attached to the mental illness.

Clinical psychologists told members of the interim joint Veteran’s Affairs Committee on Thursday that nationwide there are more than 350,000 veterans diagnosed with PTSD — and 20,000 of them are seeking treatment in Louisville’s VA Hospital.

Veterans undergo varying levels of treatment through VA hospitals such as psychotherapy and anti-depressant medications, but they’ve recently found not all anti-depressant medications work safely as a treatment for the anxiety disorder.

Danny Belcher, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from PTSD and a chronic back condition, said he was prescribed anti-depressants which caused him to feel overly medicated and lose touch.

Belcher said he was an alcoholic and he used drinking to numb his pain, but he was able to give up alcohol and anti-depressants with the occasional use of marijuana for his PTSD.

While it currently makes him a criminal under the law, Belcher said, his marijuana use has given him his life back.

Lawmakers on the committee asked Mary Sweeney, a staff psychologist, and PTSD/Substance Use Disorder Specialist, about marijuana as an effective treatment for PTSD, but she said no evidence exists for the benefits of the drug which is currently classified as illegal under federal law, and in Kentucky.

There are 24 states which have allowed some form of marijuana as use to treat medical ailments.


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