Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Medical Marijuana Use

When I get upset about something I usually write it out, that's how I deal with things. Well right now I am dealing with a family member who obviously needs more mental help that he is getting and is using "Medical Marijuana" as his crutch, which even by his own words and actions isn't helping him to live the life he wants.

He says he has PTSD, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and Anxiety disorder and is using marijuana as a way to deal with these things and the symptoms that go along with them.

I will tell you before anything else that I have been dealing with PTSD, depression and anxiety disorder since I was 12 years old. I had something happen to me when I was 12 where for a few minutes I thought someone with a gun was going to kill me, but instead he turned the gun on himself and shot himself in the head...right in front of me but not before telling me what he was about to do was all my fault.

I am telling you this not to shock you but so you see I have been dealing with a real PTSD issue for a very long time, I spent years in therapy and years on antidepressants and anxiety medications before things got even a little better. Things aren't going to get better as fast as you want them to but that doesn't mean you give up and start medicating yourself to numb the pain instead of dealing with the problem.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder with many symptoms including chronic pain, nausea, tremors, palpitations, mood swings, sleep problems, confusion, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome. Smoking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts all contribute to serious mental and physical health consequences for individuals with PTSD.  Common mental health symptoms include Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety disorders and can lead to substance abuse.

There's actually some research that suggests that marijuana exacerbates and heightens trauma symptoms making treatment even more difficult. Use of marijuana for PTSD would be like drinking to numb the symptoms. Marijuana is not a treatment because it does not result in improvement over time where the person using it could recover and stop using it like one would see with therapy and use of antidepressants and anxiety medicines.

Instead, the use of marijuana only delays or avoids all together the healing for the reason that the person has the mental problems to begin with. People with PTSD, anxiety and other mental problems need medical and psychological treatment that deals with the core of the problems. The feelings you get from marijuana, the high and the feeling of relaxation and distracted does nothing to correct the problem, it only prolongs it.  In my opinion instead of using marijuana to deal with their mental disorders, what a person would benefit from is extensive trauma therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Somatic Experience (Which is reliving and then resolving the the trauma that has caused the PTSD)

Anything else is just creating more addicts over time with their trauma problems still there for them to deal with.

I believe we should leave marijuana where it is..a Class l controlled narcotic as indicated and regulated by the DEA. The long term effects of chronic use are as follows: Chronic marijuana users remain impaired even after when they are not actually intoxicated. Some of the impairments include: attention deficits, memory and ability to process complex information and can last for months after someone stops using marijuana. Whether there is permanent cognitive impairment has not been documented but the withdrawal effects have been and is very similar to that of alcohol withdrawal, clearly demonstrated in controlled studies in both animal and human. Withdrawal symptoms include, body tremors, restlessness , insomnia, anxiety, increased aggression and anorexia.

The high after smoking comes on within minutes and can last for up to 2 hours. It's not surprising that the overwhelming reason given by marijuana users is 'pleasure' for their use of it. However, marijuana use can also produce other reactions like, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, panic, severe anxiety and is seen more in people suffering from mental health problems such as panic disorders and the psychologically vulnerable.

The person who uses this in my family says he forgets things and can't think clearly because of his TBI, but marijuana use can cause all the symptoms he is referring to including impairing cognitive functions from basic motor skill coordination to more complex executive function tasks such as the ability to plan, organize, solve problems, make decisions, remember, and control emotions and behavior. Understanding how marijuana use impairs executive function is important. People with marijuana related impairment in executive functions have been found to have difficulty learning and applying the skills required for successful recovery, putting them at increased risk for relapse to more marijuana use and never getting the help they need to deal with the core problems they have.

PTSD is a serious illness but being 'High' isn't a cure and never will be.

The reason I wrote this is because I have a family member who had a stroke and is in the hospital, my other family member-her husband... isn't able to go and see her in the hospital for days on end because he says he is having panic attacks, cannot drive because he is not in a good way (non specific) but he was fine enough to make a video on youtube about his marijuana smoking and even show himself smoking marijuana from a bong on youtube for everyone to see. He says in the video that the VA doctors wanted him on 13 different medications but with the marijuana he has dropped that number down to 5 and he smokes marijuana everyday.

My thoughts on this are, if he cannot pull it together long enough to go see his wife in the hospital after a stroke for several days at a time, he should have nothing to do with her rehab and after care. If he's having anxiety attacks and cannot drive and needs to think of himself first and is not in a good enough place mentally to help his wife by just being there in the hospital room with her a few hours each day...then how in the world is he going to care for her needs during rehabilitation therapy, going to and from doctors, having to deal with home health care people, and everything for the foreseeable future that is going to have to be dealt with for his wifes care? He cannot.

Maybe if he were taking the antidepressants, anxiety medications and other meds that the doctors want him to take he wouldn't be having so many anxiety problems. He says the marijuana is helping but how is it helping? He isn't even able to drive himself to the hospital to visit someone, let alone trust himself to care for that person when they get out. Obviously the marijuana isn't helping as much as he thinks it is. But that's an addict for you.

Like I said, I have PTSD, I have a severe anxiety disorder so much so that for months on end I don't go all. Before my mom passed away it had been a year since I had stepped outside my front door. But let me tell you something. When my mom fell and broke her hip...I went to the hospital. I was there with my younger brother when she woke up from surgery and I went every damn day after that. I took my anxiety medications and after the visit if I had too, I threw up in the parking lot before coming home. I had panic attacks, I had to vomit several times while visiting my mom in the hospital for those days, I had headaches and the shakes...but I did the right thing and went up there. You pull on your big girl panties and deal with it.

And I did the same the time before that when my mom fell down and broke her knee. I was at the hospital and afterwards when she went to a rehab place I went up there at least 4 times a week. I was taking care of her dog at her house, paying her bills, picking up her mail, cleaning her house, and stayed with her for 2 weeks after she got home. Yes, I was anxious, had problems but like I find a way to deal with it when you have to. I made myself go to my mom's funeral last year because it was the right thing to do even though I was shaky and anxious.

I don't go outside right now but if an emergency came up, I would find a way to deal with it until the emergency was over and then cry for an hour, have a massive headache, deal with the shakes after it was over, and probably have to vomit a few times while dealing with the emergency but I would deal with it because that's the right thing to do.

Oh and before you jump me for stating some of the things I have..I didn't pull all this information out of my ass, I actually looked it up on websites and stuff. You can find my sources down below.
You can also find an article I wrote here: How I Live With Clinical Depression

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine.

National Institute of Mental Health (2012)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Statistics. Retrieved from the National Institute of Mental Health Website:

Heather C. Ashton, FRCP, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psycho pharmacology

The British Journal of Psychiatiatry (2001) Actions of Cannabis in Humans