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Friday, August 1, 2014

PTSD & the MMMP by Chelsea Shaker

    By now, most people are well aware of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and acknowledge it as one of the most debilitating conditions someone can have. Whether the PTSD comes from warfare, domestic violence, a freak accident, or traumatic incident, it is all relative to a condition that over 5.2 million adults suffer with at any given time. Many personal situations can result in PTSD, from gun and sexual violence, a sudden and unexpected death, a traumatic accident, but most recently our society has noticed a massive increase in patients with PTSD from not only our own members of the community, but especially our wounded warriors, whose scars are not visible. 

     Over the last 70+ years, our military veterans have been hit with severe forms of PTSD due to combat and loss of life. The U.S. Department for Veterans Affairs states that roughly 30% of Vietnam Vets, 10% of Gulf War Vets, and upwards of 20% of Iraq/Afghanistan Vets suffer from PTSD. Veterans throughout the United States have been pressing the issue of stronger rights for these military vets, especially to the right of choice to use medical marijuana to relieve their crippling symptoms.  

     A CNN report from November 2013 brought a bone-chilling realization of the seriousness of the issues, citing: “Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s a suicide every 65 minutes. As shocking as the number is, it may actually be higher.

     The figure, released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February, is based on the agency’s own data and numbers reported by 21 states from 1999 through 2011. Those states represent about 40% of the U.S. population. The other states, including the two largest (California and Texas) and the fifth-largest (Illinois), did not make data available.”

     The CNN article also reported on a recent analysis by News21, an investigative multimedia program for journalism students, which found that the annual suicide rate among U.S. veterans to be about 30 for every 100,000 of the population. This was compared to the civilian rate of 14 per 100,000. The analysis of records from 48 states found that the suicide rate for vets more than doubled the rate of civilian suicide. 

     In August 2012, President Obama signed an executive order calling for stronger suicide prevention for veterans. In 2013, he announced $107 Million in new funding for better mental health treatment for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. With the current VA scandals and the federal government, veterans are rightfully looking for other options to treat their condition in a timely manner. 

     This past year, Michigan joined in support to those veterans and others who have encountered life-changing circumstances and recommended Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as an acceptable condition for the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program. Since then, not much has been done to facilitate those patients with a proper treatment plan to include medical marijuana. The Director of LARA, Steve Arwood, has expressed his concerns with a lack of research on medical marijuana for PTSD, also that there could be conflicting situations for veterans using VA services. Director Arwood luckily approved the recommendation. Now where does that leave the patient? Can they walk into any doctor certification office and then be recommended for a medical marijuana patient card? What steps are to be taken to ensure a proper plan for those suffering with such a serious condition?  


     Many media outlets direct the symptoms of PTSD to focus on Veterans, rightfully so. Although they are hit very hard with PTSD, they are not alone in the fight .Opposite of those suffering from a war zone experience are others throughout the country suffering from the same symptoms of PTSD. As mentioned, traumatic accidents and personal losses, experiencing gun violence, sexual offenses, and many other situations can result in PTSD in many different stages. Millions of every day citizens suffer and are unclear on how to seek treatment. Although the media directs the attention on our wounded warriors in hopes they receive the help they need, many patients in general are unaware if they “qualify” for treatment since their encounters with events have left them unsure of many things, especially how to properly seek treatment. 

     Of course, the reason behind this article is not to say “to prevent suicide, medicate with marijuana”. The point is to simply help shed some light on the epidemic felt in every state in this country, also to acknowledge that medical marijuana most certainly can help with the palliative care for these sufferers who need follow up care and relief of their symptoms.

     Michigan Organic Solutions Certifications in Flint, MI is now scheduling patients to be seen for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and receive their Medical Marijuana recommendation. MOS Certifications has a counselor on-site who will assist any patient with PTSD symptoms or previous diagnosis. Positive end-results are the number one priority at MOS Certifications. Their goal is to ensure a proper support system. Once the patient is seen by the counselor, the consultation is then forwarded to the certifying physician. Based on the consultation, the physician, counselor, and patient will work together to construct a plan best suitable for the individual’s needs. On-site consultations are available, with other resources for the patient to help them work through their PTSD symptoms after a recommendation is given for their medical marijuana patient card. 

     In Michigan, three VA Medical Center Directors have statements in regards to the use of medical marijuana for veterans. All three Directors, from Battle Creek, Saginaw, and Ann Arbor, collectively agree that although the VA will not be allowed to dispense, recommend, or store medical marijuana for sufferers of PTSD and will not make a recommendation for it, the active VA patient will not be held accountable for having marijuana in their urine screenings if recommended by another doctor outside of the VA system. It is still a federal level issue, as the VA is a federally granted program, as well as all physicians, nurses, and practitioners are not allowed per the federal DEA to deal in state-run medical marijuana patients at this time.  

     Michigan Organic Solutions Certifications is stepping up to the plate for veterans and other citizens suffering with PTSD: to ensure safe, effective, quality treatment options for the patient, as well as follow up care to maintain positive end results for the patient. The degree of suffering comes into play, as well. Some patients are suffering lots more than others and suffer from crippling conditions, whereas others use it for sleep purposes, etc. as mentioned previously. Physicians will be available for consultations and recommendations for patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at the upcoming 8th Michigan Medical Marijuana Conference in Traverse City, MI August 29, 30, and 31st. at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. 

     This is a chance for those who have yet to be seen by a physician to consult with the doctor, discuss their conditions and symptoms, and put a plan of action together to alleviate the suffering. No one deserves to live in debilitating fear. No longer should a veteran or any citizen suffer, be penalized, have their insurance reduced or removed, because they choose a natural, anti-prescription plan for their recovery.

      Although most know the basics of PTSD, they are unaware of what PTSD can do to a person physically. A major setback for most patients suffering is the lack of memory extinction: they can’t suppress their past traumatic memories and they are easily triggered. Simple, everyday activities can stimulate repressed memories: loud noises, large crowds, simply driving in the car, or even being under stress and lack of sleep. There is a phenomenon called memory extinction, which is where memories fade away as the older, traumatic memories get replaced with new experiences. PTSD sufferers have found that using cannabinoids can help assist with memory extinction, increase their appetites which many lose due to their overstimulation and stress, as well as reduce their anxiety and relieve nightmares. 

      A new study published in April 2014 in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that cannabis use can greatly decrease the negative side effects of PTSD. Researchers used a Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale to rate symptom scores of 80 patients with PTSD before and after they began cannabis therapy. From the study, cannabis was found to reduce a person’s symptoms by an average of 75%. New Mexico was the first state to include PTSD as an acceptable condition for medical marijuana. At the time, there were no published research reports on cannabis and PTSD, only case reports. Eventually, the research study was put together and was completed over a 2-year period, examining 80 psychiatric evaluations of patients applying for the NM Medical Cannabis Program.

     Similar studies are currently underway by Israeli physician Dr. Mechoulam, Ph.D., the same doctor who identified THC as the psychoactive element of cannabis, as well as discovering the human brain’s endo-cannabinoid system. His current study is researching 70 Israeli combat veterans and their use of cannabis to relieve said symptoms of PTSD. 


MMMR: Ms. Edwards, how long have you worked with PTSD patients?

TE: I’ve been working with PTSD patients and other mental illness issues since 2006. 

MMMR: How do you feel PTSD should be handled to ensure long term success for the individual patient?

TE: With ongoing counseling to assist him/her in mastering their coping skills, the patient will have help to return to their previous level of daily functioning, before the traumatic event. For some clients, prescription medication is necessary for insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, and depression. 

MMMR: What are your credentials to treat patients with these symptoms? How can a patient receive follow up care from you after their MMP recommendation?

TE: I am an MA and LLPC, which means I have a Master of Arts Licensed Professional Counselor obtained from Spring Arbor University. Currently I am in private practice; I serve on the board of directors of “Our Home Transitional” an organization that provides services to local veterans. Anyone interested in receiving follow up care for their PTSD in the form of counseling may do so at my office, which can work with your insurance. 

MMMR: Can you give us an example of a symptom of PTSD that you see the most?

TE: Living with vivid, recurring memories of trauma. PTSD clients attempt to handle experiencing the trauma over and over again on a daily basis. 

For more information on how those with PTSD can have a physician consultation and 
medical marijuana recommendation, please contact: 

MOS Certifications

 3553 S. Dort Hwy. Flint, MI 48507

(810) 820-8953

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