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As a veteran with PTSD, cannabis helps me fight for myself in ways other treatments fail to

Society’s current approach is to treat the symptoms, not the patient. Healing the entire person takes a whole lot more than that.

Adam Smith Winter 2019

Post-traumatic stress is not permanent. I know that statement probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable, with arguments of “you don’t know me or what I’ve been through” often ringing out.

You’re right, I don’t know you or your experiences. However, I am aware of my own, and I know the physiology of the brain doesn’t always stay the same – our habits are formed and reformed as we live our lives.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, does not have to be a permanent condition. In reality, it should be called “post-traumatic stress injury”.

Here’s how I look at it: a traumatic experience happens and creates a sense of hopelessness or helplessness, immediately initiating the fight-or-flight response. This then hardwires the brain to immediately repeat those feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, triggering fight-or-flight as soon as any external stimulus reminds the brain of the trauma.

In so many ways it’s no different than tying your shoes without a thought. The habit becomes so ingrained in the physical make-up of our neuropathways that we almost have zero higher brain function to respond to the stimulus.

Again, I’m not a neuroscientist, doctor, or any other form of highly trained medical professional – these are just the words of a knuckle-dragger. A knuckle-dragger who, in 2016, got so lost in his own battles that he ended up on a couch in Lancaster, Kentucky, writing his suicide note after drinking every ounce of alcohol in the house.

And yet I am still here to write this to you.

My introduction to cannabis came in 2015. I found that using a little bit helped a lot. It helped me sleep, feel less anxious, and ultimately just feel better all round. So how did I go from finding something that helped to nearly taking my own life?

The answer is that when I decided to get out of the military, I moved to a state where cannabis and hemp were still illegal, cutting off my access to them. Now, I am fighting for other veterans and first responders to have access to these compounds through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The current method of treating PTSD is to medicate the symptoms, not to actually treat the patient. In fact, many of the medications prescribed do the opposite and suppress the brain’s natural healing functions.

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