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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day 2019

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Most of the injuries we are familiar with are physical in nature.  A cast, rows of stitches, and a wheelchair are the types of clues that can allude to a body in a deep suffering.  Injuries within the mind, however, leave little to detect. When a person experiences a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, crime or war, they can often be left with significant issues to deal with in the aftermath. While physical complications are often dealt with fastidiously, the mental component is left seldom attended.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition oftentimes triggered by a terrifying event that an individual can witness or experience directly. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts concerning the event. Around 90% of Americans endorse experiencing one or more traumas in their lives, and so there is the potential of effect in most people in the country. 

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June is PTSD Awareness Month and the challenge is creating genuine awareness to a condition that can’t be seen. This disorder has a very keen ability to camouflage and avoid detection affecting the military at double or more the civilian average. Between 11% and 15% percent of military personnel suffer from PTSD, and the average can peak as high as 30% for those deployed in Vietnam.  Many folks in military families have lived with veterans and the line between somewhat naturally odd or eccentric behaviours and PTSD symptoms can be majorly confusing. Though a person may be diagnosed with this disorder individually, the lives of those around them are often increasingly affected by it.

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We usually hear things like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD) and PTSD mentioned conversationally, and in a way that is significantly downplayed from a level of diagnosis that is accurate.  Some of that nonchalance is due to the stigma of mental disorders in our society and a lack of empathy and understanding.

Strength and independence are ideas set deep in our American values.  This can create an obstacle for those who suffer with PTSD, as it becomes less likely that they will be comfortable with admittance and that their symptoms are significant enough to seek treatment.  People may feel that PTSD is a mental weakness, or a sign of being unstable and out of control, but those notions are inaccurate and can unfairly dissuade people from looking into their mental health.  Like a physical injury, PTSD results from a person’s experience, not as a matter of their genetics or willpower. It is reported that between 7-8% of Americans will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives, but the number is likely much higher due to significant underreporting from the negative stigma. To put that percentage into perspective, that means approximately 30 million Americans may suffer from PTSD, ranging from children as young as 4 to those in their retirement years.  

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At this point, the mountain is daunting to climb, and the current playbook of treatment yields highly varied outcomes. Treatments using FDA approved pharmaceuticals such as Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors(SSRI) and Selective Norepinephrine Uptake Inhibitors(SNRI) along with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) may show the most promise, relapse may occur if any of the treatment factors is delayed or ended prematurely. The lower level of lasting efficacy is not wholly a demarcation of lacking scientific effort, but is a product of treating a disorder with high variability and waning controls.  Each individual’s PTSD is very unique. Without the ability to dissect, repeat, or manipulate variables from the trauma, the path to effective treatment can as camouflaged as the disorder. This is where Medical Marijuana may help.

      

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Whereas the many variations in PTSD make a standardized approach riddled with difficulty,  the variations in medicinal marijuana are its strength. With thousands of strain genetics and hybrids to its family, this holistic medicine may provide a unique formulation of its properties to match the unique formation of symptoms.  As an elective medical arena, the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program is structured with higher levels of individual choice than most medicine. If someone is suffering, they may decide to treat their malady based on their actual experience that day with respect to all the variables and values they maintain.  Depending on comfort, the medicine comes in several different forms so a patient can decide on what fits their lifestyle, whether that be by vaporization when needed for a quicker onset, or by ingestion for a prolonged effect. As the potency and combination of therapeutic molecules in marijuana known as Cannabinoids(THC/CBD, etc) and terpenes (essential oils) changes, a patient can explore a large array of treatments permutations until the best answer can be found. Often, there may be more than one effective product in medical marijuana, and thus the patient can continue to add different keys that open their door to recovery.  The compounds found in medical marijuana interacts with our Endocannabinoid system and may help our bodies maintain balance biologically, and in terms of mental states may help stabilize the mind from uncomfortable peaks and valleys. As certain elements of PTSD treatment will always be standard such as access to therapy, marijuana can be added in to potentially manage the symptoms and create a longer lasting impact. With this medicine as an option, one can hope to adapt treatment into their life, instead of adapting their life into treatment. PTSD can be healed, and with improved awareness and this medicine added into a treatment plan, the hope for recovery may have the ability to be enhanced.

References

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

  2. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_veterans.asp

  3. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126802/

Scott G.Comment