Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Arizona Vets Ask to Allow Medical Marijuana for PTSD Treatment

Veterans in Arizona are calling to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for its medical marijuana program.

Emmanuel Herrera, an Army Veteran living in Phoenix, turned to medical marijuana for relief from PTSD symptoms.

Herrera had enlisted in the Arizona National Guard in the aftermath of 9/11, with a desire to be of service to his country. In 2006, while deployed to Iraq, his truck hit an improvised explosive device. It almost destroyed his neck and damaged the discs in his back. He also suffered from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.

When the Purple Heart recipient returned from war, he was addicted to painkillers, and was barely able to tolerate the voices of his own children.

Last year, he chose not to heed the warnings of medical staff at the local Veterans hospital, and turned to medical marijuana to cope with PTSD symptoms, under the medical marijuana program. He shared: “My doctors shunned me and didn’t approve of me doing it… One doctor said I could get some repercussions for doing it. But I did it legally. And I know for a fact — I’m a walking testimonial — that it works.”

Dr. Sue Sisley, an internist in private practice and assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the University of Arizona, agrees that medical pot is effective for Veterans, but said: “It’s really uncharted territory for veterans and the VA… The VA has taken a position where they’re not going to terminate patients if they have a card, but the truth is that a lot of doctors have a strong bias against it — they believe they are just drug addicts.”

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