I have posted many articles about why veterans need (and deserve!) safe access to medical marijuana. However, I am not a veteran, and I've always felt that this blog needed a veteran's perspective. Below is a guest article that was sent to me by a reader who is a veteran, and obviously feels very strongly about the issue. No one should be forced to use harmful pharmaceuticals or go without medicine, especially our military veterans who have served our country proudly. Below is the guest post:
After Congress' recent vote to deny Veterans the opportunity to speak to their VA doctors honestly and openly about their own medical treatment, it was necessary that we sit back, analyze, and now determine exactly what the consequences will be for America's Veterans. By voting No or Abstaining from the vote on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, Congress is literally telling Veterans, "...if you're caught with THC in your system, we'll have the VA stop treating you immediately." Now let me get this straight. They're going to quit treating you immediately? Not a very comforting and safe thought considering that many of the drugs that the VA prescribes should never be ceased "cold turkey." Discontinuing these medications cold turkey could even actually kill the patient! Nevertheless, they seem to be willing to take that chance if a Veteran has THC in his system during an appointment at the VA. Even those Veterans that live in Medical Marijuana states are unable to use it to their benefit. How asinine is that? Is marijuana really so bad that Government doctors tell their patients... "We're going to allow you to die when we cut you off of the R/x drugs we've given you, if you have THC in your system." Whatever happened to "First do no harm"? The medicines they're giving us come with 4 pages of serious side effects that may or may not happen to your body if you take them. Rectal bleeding from an Anti-depressant? No thanks, I'll save that thought and smoke a joint. At least, we've not yet found any strains of marijuana that can actually cause "Rectal Bleeding".
Nevertheless, as benign as cannabis has shown to be in studies all over the world, Congress would rather maintain the status quo. They do this, knowing how harmful these medications are to our bodies. Which mystifies us, how a Congressional member could ever vote against giving Veterans the same "Equal Access" to Medical Marijuana as their civilian counterparts. Most Civilians are able to at least speak to their Doctors about possibly safer, less harmful options available to them. It's pathetic and outright dangerous to not only the Veteran, but his family and community as well to deny them access to a safer alternative to treat PTSD.
Try to imagine what a Veterans family goes through, after a loved ones' attempt at suicide, and/or the successful completion of the task. What do we tell his family, when we knew all along that there were viable, safer, alternative medications that existed for him? Will the Congressional Reps who voted No or Abstained from this vote, be there to tell the Veteran's family they're sorry for assisting in killing them? No, they won't! They'll never even hear about the guy/gal who committed suicide. However, they'll stand in front of a microphone and declare how much they love and respect those of us who served in the military for this country.
We have 22 Veterans a day committing suicide in this country! Not all are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans either. We cannot forget about those Vets who served before 2001 and we as veterans believe we deserve at least, the same care that our neighbor is able to receive. All we're asking for, is equal access, which is unavailable to us since Congress decided to maintain the status quo, and oppose any kind of Marijuana law reform. Even for Veterans who are killing themselves at a rate of 1 Veteran every 66 minutes, daily. (soft numbers. 21 States did not respond to the study)
If you've ever known or seen anyone with PTSD you'd know that they need help, and generally pretty fast. They don't have the time for this meeting to take place and that hearing to happen. They're in dire straits and they need help now! In this mental state, many times the Veteran is very unpredictable, confused of their surroundings, anxious and afraid. Their brain is stuck on the same verse of whatever movie/clip is running through their mind at that particular moment. Just skipping and skipping and skipping. This is definitely not fair to the Veteran, his family, nor his community to have to put up with that.
Veterans and their families have basically 2 options.
Option 1; You can go the VA route and allow them to shove all those different Narcotics down your throat. Most of which make the patient an absolute zombie and many times unable to even perform basic daily tasks that people do just to survive. (bathe, eat, clean up after ourselves, etc...) These medications often times cause the Veteran to lose all drive, determination and many times, the ability to perform even a task, including sex, due to the side effects of these drugs. Many of them become unable to carry on a conversation with their friends or family members because they're so doped up. Literally, falling asleep in the middle of a conversation. Their friends eventually will all quit coming around, because they're tired of seeing you in the condition you are in. We become hermits, where our homes are our safe havens where no one can hurt us. Some of us have gone years without leaving home, or inviting anyone into our home from outside. That just doesn't seem like a path that someone would choose, knowing there's a possible safer alternative for their treatment.
There are at present only 2 drugs approved by the FDA to treat PTSD. One is Zoloft and the other is Paxil. Both Anti-depressants, which many times are found to be ineffective in treating the Veterans symptoms of PTSD. Next, the doctor, will write the patient an R/x off label, to control the Veterans behavior, from the side effects of another drug that will be prescribed off label as well. Drugs that make the Veteran even more of a zombie than they already were. While none of this actually solves the problem! These drugs are being shoved into patients, in order to keep them quiet! Period!
Option 2 for the Veteran is, you can go behind your doctor's back and use marijuana to control the symptoms you have from your PTSD. Use a natural plant that has already shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD in studies all over the world. This plant also has the added advantage that; no one has ever died directly from its use in 5000 years. Nevertheless, this option also comes with a positive Urine sample when you attend your next VA appointment. Therefore, starting the clock on all of the above described actions.
If we give Veterans "Equal Access," we may just be able to subtract a veteran or so from the 22 that kill themselves daily. Let's not pile on top of these people who wrote a blank check to this country, when they signed the dotted line, that covered up to and including their death, if it so be. These warriors are crying out for our help and this Congress decided once again to turn their backs on those who put their asses on the line for them! After all, those who voted No or Abstained from the vote don't have to live with this nightmare we call PTSD.
The list of those who voted No or Abstained from the vote, (which is just as bad) is attached at the following link. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2014/roll186.xml. We Veterans ask that you look at the list and see how your Congressman Voted. Then we ask that you contact your Federal Representatives and voice your pleasure or displeasure of their No vote or Non-vote as the case may be, on the Veterans Equal Access Amendment.
After that, please hang up and call your US Senator, and tell them they can redeem their Congressional colleagues' mistake by voting for S.683 aka The CARERS Act. It is our opportunity to reschedule marijuana to a Schedule II drug. (it's a start) It will remove the barriers in place for the research of Marijuana in this country. It will remove the 2 extra steps of approval that marijuana must obtain in order to research it in America. (Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, nor MDMA have these same restrictions placed upon them) This law will also respect States rights to have a medical marijuana program without any Federal intervention. This may be our last chance this year to influence the issue of whether Veterans can speak to their Doctors at the VA honestly and openly about Medical Marijuana.
At present time, the S. 683 aka The CARERS Act is in the Senate Judiciary Committee where the Judiciary committee Chairman is holding up the legislation. Chairman Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has vowed to not even give the Bill a hearing in his committee, therefore effectively killing the legislation at the committee level. The CARERS Act has broad bi-partisan support in the U.S. Senate and we believe the Bill will pass, if it ever gets to a floor vote. So please call not only your Senator (202) 224-3121 and voice your support for the S.683 aka The CARERS Act. But please don't stop there! Call Senator Charles Grassley's office; (202) 224-3744 and ask very nicely that he grant S.683 aka The CARERS Act at least a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
So that's where we stand after the Congressional Vote to deny the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, as told from a veterans point of view. We lost this fight, but it's not over! Now we do what we do best. We regroup, recover and recharge for our next battle. Let's take care of our wounded and go get 'em again from another angle. We still have another chance, hinging on not only the passage of the S.683 aka The CARERS Act, but the 1st hurdle in front of it as well, that we need your support on, which is a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. So please call your Senator and voice your support for the S.683 aka The CARERS Act. Thank you.
US Navy Veteran