The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a manual used by psychiatrists and other health care professionals to assess a person’s mental health. Specific criteria must be present in order for any kind of mental illness diagnosis to be given to a patient.
The DSM-5 identifies the trigger to PTSD as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.
The exposure must result from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual:
• Directly experiences the traumatic event
• Witnesses the traumatic event in person
• Learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental)
• Experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related)
The disturbance, regardless of its trigger, causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual’s social interactions, capacity to work or other important areas of functioning.
It is not the physiological result of another medical condition, medication, drugs or alcohol.
A federal government task force is looking at how to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana. This fall we should hear what their findings are, and by 2017 the federal government will unveil its legalization plans for Canada.
30 per cent of veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD. Patients who smoked cannabis saw a 75 per cent reduction in PTSD symptoms.
At a recent study at the University of Halifax, researchers treated rats with cannabinoids (active compounds in marijuana) and found that they were able to prevent rats from developing PTSD. There have never been any human studies done on the effects humans and marijuana for treating PTSD. Despite this, it is a fact that there is higher cannabis use among those with PTSD than there is in the general population.
Dr. Sue Sisley, a psychiatrist who practices in Arizona, where marijuana is legal, has seen patients stop using their psychiatric medication and opioids, and treat PTSD symptoms with just one drug, marijuana.
Doug has severe PTSD.
He was physically and verbally abused as a child. By his late teens he was an alcoholic and smoked pot on a regular basis. This led to hanging around the wrong people and getting into trouble with the law.
By the age of 20 he found himself in jail. While doing jail time he saw a sign posted for an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting. He only went to the meeting because there was the offer of free coffee and donuts and it was something different to do.
He recognized at the first meeting that he was an alcoholic and faithfully attended meetings while serving his jail sentence. Since the age of 21 he hasn’t had a drink, and is now 53.
After getting out of jail he continued to attend AA meetings. His sponsors told him if he started smoking pot again it would lead to drinking so for 10 years he stayed clean and sober, but life was still difficult for him.
He knew he never wanted to drink again because it was the drinking that led to breaking the law and landing himself in jail so he stayed away from marijuana too.
By his early 30s he was still dwelling on the past and couldn’t seem to move forward in his life. He was restless and had a general feeling of discontentment about his life. Over the years he did a lot of research about the effects of marijuana for PTSD and anxiety. His social anxiety was so severe at times that he was afraid to leave home and participate in life. He found nothing negative in his research about using marijuana as a possible way to manage PTSD.
At age 33 Doug decided to start smoking marijuana again.
He says it helped immediately with his social anxiety, he did not start drinking again as a result of smoking pot and he doesn’t reflect on the past any more. Today, at 53, he holds down a full time job, has friends, hobbies and dreams.
He smokes three grams per day which costs him about $200 per week. He believes it is a small price to pay for the good life he enjoys now. His doctor supports him in his decision to use marijuana to suppress his symptoms of PTSD. Doug is a strong advocate for the legalization of marijuana.
Doug believes that health care costs will decline with the legalization of marijuana. Many people will stop smoking and use marijuana instead. Prescription costs will decline because people will deal with mental illnesses such as anxiety and PTSD through the use of marijuana, rather than taking prescription drugs.
Marijuana is legal in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, although at the federal level in the United States it is still illegal.
It has been estimated that the Federal Government will earn $5-billion every year from taxes when it becomes legal to sell marijuana. If our government is smart, they will use this revenue to pay off Canada’s debt.