Coping with Cannabis: A Soldier’s Experience with PTSD

“One of the difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder is that the readiness or need for treatment may emerge years after the trauma. Therefore, veterans and their families need long-term treatment options and long-term access to treatment, even if symptoms are not present at their time of discharge.” -William H. Braun, from Veteran’s for Medical Marijuana

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) wreaks misery on soldiers and families. Military training, combat experience and traumatic events like sexual abuse often radically change cognitive functioning. Unable to process peacetime situations without infusing combat conditioned responses, PTSD sufferers live chaotic, often isolated lives. Approximately 6500 veterans and 349 active service members committed suicide in 2012. The United States Veterans’ Administration (VA) is tasked with providing medical care for all honorably discharged veterans. This includes some psychological care.

A veteran with PTSD faces life and career altering choices. The VA does not dissuade this notion, advising on their website. “You may think that avoiding your PTSD is critical to keeping your job. But if your PTSD symptoms are getting in the way of doing your duties, it is better to deal with them before they hurt your military career. Getting help for PTSD is problem solving.”

The VA outlines several treatments, “cognitive processing, prolonged exposure treatment, mindfulness practice” to name a few, but provides more extensive information for psychiatrists prescribing Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants and other prescription drugs. “The only two FDA approved medications for the treatment of PTSD are sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil). All other medication uses are off label, though there are differing levels of evidence supporting their use…” In a series of videos linked to the site, Psychiatrist Matthew J. Friedman of the VA National Center for PTSD explains that his patients “usually use these medications indefinitely.”

“David” is a former Army Corporal 1st Cavalry who served two terms in Iraq as a chaplain’s assistant in a 900 troop infantry unit. He started suffering from night terrors during basic training after performing sleep deprivation exercises. “I’m dead asleep, having a nightmare. They call me back. I try to explain to them that my time is done. Then I’m in Iraq and it’s hitting the fan and I can’t find my weapon! I don’t remember the rest, but if someone comes into my room or makes the slightest noise, I jump up in the fighting position, screaming, cursing, telling them that I am going to rip them in half. I’ve punched people, thrown stuff. My brother has kicked my ass my entire life, whenever it happens he’s terrified.”

Before enlisting, David was a teetotaling Protestant and devout believer in “George Bush, the War in Iraq, all of it.” Responsible for protecting unarmed rabbis, priests, imams and monks as they performed their duties, he screened soldiers seeking spiritual advice to make sure they weren’t a threat. “They told me all the stories, so I know how every one of their buddies died in detail. Then I would prepare their memorial services.” With the clergy’s help, David implemented a system to make sure those close to a fallen comrade didn’t sleep where they could see their friend’s empty bunk, a common trigger for night terrors. Many soldiers were simply “too far gone,” and referred to psychiatrists.

“More often than not, that’s the route that ends up happening. These people cannot handle it. They were not right for the situation. They thought they wanted to kill people without having any idea what that means. And then the reality bomb hit them so hard that they just couldn’t recover from it.”

For David, healing from the trauma of seeing friends grotesquely killed, sexual harassment from a senior officer, a broken engagement during his first tour, and the shock that George Bush was “just a spokesman for the oil industry” was found primarily through frequent sessions “talking for hours with a Rabbinical scholar while smoking joints.” After a few months processing the theological, political and personal ramifications of the war this way, he realized his night terrors were becoming less frequent. “I wasn’t smoking every night, so I didn’t see a correlation that it was stopping the night terrors.”

Four years back in the US and still waking violently to the slightest sound, David “just couldn’t take it anymore” and sought help from the VA. He told a physician’s assistant that he suspected marijuana might be helping, but worried about side effects. “All the research I had done said it was safe. The guy was very casual, but he recommended that I stop using it because they had stuff that would do the trick.”

The assistant prescribed diphenhydramine (Benadryl), an allergy and sleep aid, and “some blood pressure pills to make my heart slow down and stop the nightmares.” The treatment didn’t stop the problem and left him groggy and dysfunctional in the morning. “Benadryl hazes you, whereas weed, especially Sativa, makes me think clearer.”

David worries that he might “start liking marijuana too much and abuse it,” but prefers to take that risk over a lifetime experimenting with prescription medications. “I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. I am completely 100 percent sure that marijuana cured my night terrors. My brain operates at a higher level than normal about my surroundings and I think about things in a much more peaceful way. My roommates can walk into my room now when I’m asleep and I’m like, “Hey, Dude.”

Years of persistent lobbying by the advocacy group Veterans for Medical Marijuana goaded the US Veteran’s Administration to clarify its stance in a January 2011 memo. “VHA policy does not administratively prohibit Veterans who participate in state marijuana programs from also participating in clinical programs where the use of marijuana may be considered inconsistent with treatment goals. Patients participating in state marijuana programs must not be denied VHA services. If a patient reports participation in a state marijuana program to a member of the clinical staff, that information is entered into the ‘non-VA medication section’ of the patient’s electronic medical record.”

Currently, the medical establishment waits to see if specific molecules can be isolated from cannabis and used to treat specific symptoms. With new strains bred daily across a multi-billion dollar global industry, testing with scientific certainty is an elusive goal. Several small studies are currently being funded and undertaken by federal and private researchers. For veterans and those close to them experiencing PTSD, research into treatment opportunities is crucial to finding a path to recovery.

Experimenting with treatment for mental disorders is extremely dangerous. Cannabis Now does not advocate or repudiate any particular course of treatment, but all available studies have shown that talking to friends, loved ones and professionals about PTSD triggers is vital to recovery. Veterans for Medical Marijuana urges those seeking treatment to, “Be assertive, every veteran deserves any, and all, medical and/or psychological help.”

Looking for more resources?

United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs National Center for PTSD
Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Medical Marijuana Research Page
PTSD Forum – Chat rooms, information, videos and music
American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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‘Breakthrough Therapy’: How the FDA is Pushing for Legal Psychedelics

The psychedelics boom is underway, that’s for sure, and its moving full steam ahead. Perhaps pushed on by the success of the cannabis industry, which has been lighting the way, psychedelics have much more quickly come into the spotlight and gained acceptance. While they are still mainly federally illegal, recent breakthrough therapy designations given by the FDA indicate that at least one government body is pushing for legal psychedelics.

The FDA might not have explicitly stated it, but its breakthrough therapy designations given to companies studying psilocybin and MDMA make a pretty big statement, and it seems the FDA wants legal psychedelic medications. We cover everything important in the growing field of psychedelics, so subscribe to The Cannadelics Newsletter for more stories like this, and to stay on top of the big news items coming out of the industry.

What is a breakthrough therapy?

The FDA – Food & Drug Administration, is the US federal agency that governs and regulates all medicines that can be marketed and sold in the US. The FDA sits under the Department of Health and Human Services, and is responsible for more than drugs, also regulating the food industry, tobacco products, dietary supplements, over-the-counter medications, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, vaccines, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting products, animal food, veterinary products, and cosmetics.

In order to get a medication approved, a compound must go through different rounds of testing through clinical trials. After it has passed this part, a company must submit a new drug application to the FDA, and then the FDA decides whether the medicine should be approved or not. The FDA is the sole body to do this, so if it does not approve, a medication cannot legally be sold.

When a drug is in the testing phase, the company that created it and is having it go through trials, can submit it to the FDA for a ‘breakthrough therapy’ designation. This goes for whether the drug is specifically illegal according to the Controlled Substances list, or not. The term ‘breakthrough therapy’ is defined this way by the FDA, as a:

“…drug that treats a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement on a clinically significant endpoint(s) over available therapies.”

What is this designation meant to do? According to the FDA, the “Breakthrough therapy designation is intended to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions.” Let’s say a new drug is going through testing that could be used in place of chemotherapy, and which shows promise as a better option in preliminary testing for treating cancer. Then the company that made the drug can apply for a ‘breakthrough therapy’ designation to quicken its product to market, with the hope that this could in turn save lives.

So the point of it is essentially to speed things up. If the FDA gives this designation, it wants to get the drug through trials, and get it on pharmacy shelves. This, of course, becomes all the more interesting when the drugs in question are Schedule I drugs, deemed by the federal government to be dangerous, and with no medical value. Having said that, we all know the government can get it wrong, as it also has cannabis in Schedule I.

How does the breakthrough therapy designation apply to psychedelics?

The FDA has now officially given out three breakthrough therapy designations to three different companies studying either psilocybin or MDMA. All of which has occurred within the last few years. Which companies got it? And what are they studying?

One company to get such a designation is Compass Pathways which received the designation in 2018 for research into psilocybin for use with treatment resistant major depression. The following year, the company Usona Institute also applied for, and received, this designation for its research into psilocybin for treatment resistant depression.

It doesn’t stop at psilocybin though. In fact, before Compass or Usona got their designations, a 2017 breakthrough therapy title was given to the organization MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) for its research into MDMA for PTSD. And in this case, the FDA went a step further than simply giving it the title to speed things along.


When it came time for MAPS’ phase III trials, they were designed with help by the FDA. The two organizations came up with a ‘Special Protocol Assessment’ to ensure that trial outcomes would be in line with regulation. So not only has the FDA basically said it’s cool with these drugs being studied for use as medications, but it actually helped one of the companies to make sure that should the study results be positive, that there will be no issue with them breaking regulation. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems to outwardly imply that the FDA wants the drugs approved.

Are all psychedelics illegal?

The recent moves by the FDA to give breakthrough therapy designations to psilocybin and MDMA, is just another part of a general trajectory when it comes to psychedelics. Back in 2019, the FDA very quietly (as in, under cover of night quietly) legalized a form of ketamine for use with treatment-resistant depression, called esketamine. This is odd when you consider just how much of a debate exists with legalizing cannabis, or when it comes to the legalization of pretty much any drug. Why was this done without discussion, or the public being aware at all?

The US government isn’t big on explaining its moves, but it seems the most probable reason for this change, was related to the quickly expanding gray market ketamine industry which relies on off-label prescribing. As ketamine is Schedule III, this is possible within general regulation, but makes for a market that is untaxed by the federal government, at least beyond standard taxing. Think about how many taxes are applied to the cannabis industry. It would be silly to think a psychedelics industry wouldn’t have the same, so ketamine proposes an issue to the US government.

If this burgeoning market was the reason for the esketamine legalization, the government failed on a couple levels. For one, it requires a regular antidepressant to be taken as well, and that defeats the purpose of using esketamine for treatment, while also making it more likely to have drug interactions. And second, it was only cleared for treatment resistant depression despite the large amount of evidence for it to be used for pain. This is odd considering the current opioid epidemic, and the ability for ketamine to not only deal with pain issues, but also possibly with the addictions that have grown around opioids. In fact, the US government has made no mention of using esketamine in this way at all, while 75,000+ people die a year from opioid overdoses.

Apart from esketamine, there’s another psychedelic that has been legal for quite some time: DXM – dextromethorphan. DXM is a dissociative psychedelic which is in the morphinan class, and not only has it been legal since 1958, but despite its known abuse, it’s been an over-the-counter drug the whole time. And one that can be accessed by anyone of any age. DXM can be found in tons of cold medicine products, and the US government has actually turned down initiatives to make it a prescription medication, though some states like California and Oregon have made their own regulation to stop the sale of DXM to minors.

State’s rights and psychedelics

Everything I just went through relates to federal guidelines, but there’s a caveat here, and it’s the same reason we have legal cannabis in 18 states: whatever isn’t covered explicitly by the constitution, falls under ‘states’ rights’, which are also ‘personal rights’. Because of this, psychedelics are not illegal everywhere.

magic mushrooms

Several locations throughout the US have instituted decriminalization measures, including: Denver, Colorado; Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Arcata in California; Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Detroit, Michigan; Washington, DC; Somerville, Cambridge, Northampton, and Easthampton in Massachusetts; and Seattle, Washington.

Not only that, but as of the 2020 elections, the entire state of Oregon decriminalized psychedelics, while legalizing them for medical use. Three more states are looking to up the ante with full state recreational legalization policies: California, Michigan, and Washington. Though they propose different measures in their respective bills, in all cases legalizations would be made for the recreational use of at least some psychedelics, generally in the form of entheogenic plants (plants with psychedelic compounds).


Right now psychedelics are on the cusp of a major growth spurt, aided in part by breakthrough therapy designations from the FDA, the momentum of the cannabis industry, and the lightening mood of the population toward these two drug classes. I tend to think, when there’s this much of a rally, it can be expected that change is coming. So even if the three current states don’t get their bills through this time, something will pass soon enough. The one thing for sure is, psychedelics are coming.

Welcome readers! Thanks for joining us at, the preeminent internet location reporting on the most relevant and thought-provoking cannabis and psychedelics-related news of today. Check us out daily to stay aware of what’s going on in the fast-paced world of cannabis and psychedelics, and subscribe to The Cannadelics Newsletterto ensure you’re always first to get the news.

DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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South Carolina Senate To Debate Medical Cannabis Bill

South Carolina senators will debate a bill to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis this week after an eight-year effort to bring the proposal to the floor of the state Senate. If passed, Senate Bill 150 would allow patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to use medical cannabis products. A companion measure, House Bill 3361, is also pending in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Last week, Senators unanimously agreed to assign special order status to the bill, which faces strong opposition in deeply conservative South Carolina. As a legislative priority, senators will be required to approve or reject the bill before moving on to other legislation. Debate on the bill is expected to begin Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, according to media reports.

The measure, known as the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, was first proposed in 2015 by Republican Sen. Tom Davis. In 2018, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee advanced the bill to the Senate floor but senators opposed to the measure blocked the legislation from coming up for debate. At the close of the 2021 legislative session, Republican leaders promised Davis that the bill would come up for a vote this year.

“If you pound at the door long enough. If you make your case. If the public is asking for something, the state Senate owes a debate,” Davis told The Post and Courier. “The people of South Carolina deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue.”

South Carolina Medical Cannabis Bill Contains Strict Limits

The Compassionate Care Act would allow patients with one or more qualifying health conditions to use cannabis medicinally. Qualifying debilitating medical conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy), sickle cell disease, glaucoma, PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cachexia, a condition causing a person to be home-bound that includes severe or persistent nausea, terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than one year, a chronic medical condition causing severe and persistent muscle spasms or a chronic medical condition for which an opioid is or could be prescribed based on accepted standards of care.

Smoking cannabis would not be allowed. Instead, patients would have access to medical marijuana products including vaporizers, topicals, and patches. Patients would be allowed to purchase up to a two-week supply of cannabis products at a time.

The bill also establishes rules for physicians to recommend medical cannabis and regulations for the production and sale of medical marijuana, including a requirement that cannabis dispensaries complete a licensing process every two years. Dispensaries would be required to contract with a state-licensed pharmacist, physician’s assistant or clinical practice nurse with training in the medicinal use of cannabis. Cannabis products would be subject to testing and labeling requirements and a seed-to-sale tracking system would be established to monitor transfers of medical marijuana products. Davis said the legislation would create the nation’s strictest medicinal cannabis program.

“I want to empower physicians. I want to help patients who could benefit from cannabis to alleviate their medical conditions,” Davis told reporters. “But I want it to be tightly regulated and controlled. I don’t want it to be a precursor to adult recreational use.”

Advocates Back Legislation

The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act is supported by medical cannabis advocates including Jill Swing, the founder and president of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance. She believes her daughter would benefit from medical cannabis.

“Mary Louise shouldn’t have to continue to suffer and other patients across the state shouldn’t continue to suffer when this medication is available in 36 other states,” said Swing.

“I genuinely hope that every single Senator that walks into that chamber opens their minds and their hearts,” she added.

But Davis’ bill is opposed by law enforcement leaders, who cite public safety issues and the fear that permitting medical marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational cannabis.

“If marijuana is medicine, it should be regulated as every other medicine is regulated. We are aware of no other medication that has to be approved by the General Assembly,” said Jarrod Bruder, executive director of the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association. “This (bill) includes a lot of other things — including vaping, including edibles. This is not going to your local pharmacy — it’s going to a dispensary. This is not being treated like every other medicine is.”

Kevin Tolson, the executive director of the law enforcement group, said in a statement that legalizing medical cannabis in South Carolina would lead to increased traffic accidents and financial crimes by cannabis businesses.

“I understand supporters of this bill are seeking to bring comfort and relief to friends and family members who are suffering from debilitating illnesses,” Tolson wrote. “But I can’t endorse or even ignore the attempt to provide relief through illegal methods, especially when those attempts will jeopardize public safety.”

Davis, however, believes that public opinion is on the side of reform. In December, a poll of 300 registered voters found that 54 percent favored legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis, with another 14 percent undecided on the issue.

The post South Carolina Senate To Debate Medical Cannabis Bill appeared first on High Times.

Could Cannabis Be The Best Cure for PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been around for generations as being the most researched mental illness. Psychiatrists in the late 1800s studied trauma victims from a psychological perspective to gain more knowledge of PTSD. Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we witnessed military combat soldiers returning from war experience symptoms of PTSD. But what exactly […]

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House Approves Bill Authorizing Cannabis Research for Veterans

A key congressional committee last week approved a bill that would authorize federal research into the therapeutic applications of cannabis for military veterans. Under the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would be required to conduct clinical trials into the potential of cannabis as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain among the nation’s veterans.

The bill was approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Nov. 4 by vote of 18 to 11, receiving support from all the panel’s Democratic members as well as one Republican. The committee approved previous versions of the bill last year and in 2018, but the legislation has yet to be passed by the full Congress and signed into law.

“Our veterans are no strangers to confronting challenges, and that’s why Congress needs to explore alternative treatment options,” Rep. Lou Correa, a California Democrat and sponsor of the bill, told Marijuana Moment. “The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2021 meets veterans where they already are and opens a new door for federal policy that supports treatment options preferred by veterans.”

“How can we not try to gather the vast resources of Congress and the federal government to explore alternative treatment options like cannabis when veterans themselves are telling us that’s what they need,” Correa added. “To not support this legislation would be to defer once again of our obligation to care for those who have sacrificed so much to help protect our nation.”

The VA has acknowledged that PTSD and trauma experienced on the battlefield can contribute to a higher rate of suicidal ideation. Anecdotal evidence shows that cannabis can help ease the symptoms of PTSD, but clinical evidence has so far been inconclusive. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has advised Congress that there is “substantial evidence” that cannabis has medicinal value as a treatment for chronic pain and urged lawmakers to fund research into the potential risks and benefits of medical marijuana.

Officials with the VA opposed the legislation at last week’s hearing, citing difficulties conducting research under the terms of the bill. But committee chair Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from California, said the agency has so far failed to take meaningful action without direction from Congress.

“We simply must equip VA and its healthcare providers with scientific guidance about the potential impacts, benefits and/or dangers of cannabis used to treat chronic pain and PTSD,” Takano said ahead of the vote. “The VA tells us that it is monitoring smaller research projects on cannabis outside VA. This really is not sufficient.”

Many Veterans Turn to Cannabis for Relief

With scientific data lacking, many veterans affected by the continuing challenges of military service self-medicate with cannabis to help ease conditions including chronic pain, insomnia, and PTSD. But so far, the VA has resisted calls from veterans and their advocates to investigate the therapeutic potential of cannabis. Perhaps even worse, many veterans who have turned to medical cannabis have had prescription medications withheld by their VA physicians.

“The very populations who have the greatest need are often the ones who are the most understudied,” Staci Gruber, director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told Politico.

Andy Meiars, a founder of the Battle Brothers Foundation (BBF), tells Cannabis Now that the nonprofit organization is helping to fund cannabis research in partnership with the California licensed, veteran-owned brand Helmand Valley Growers Company, which donates 100% of all profits to support studies investigating the therapeutic possibilities of cannabis for veterans. Working with medical research and data company NiaMedic, BBF is funding a study that will determine if cannabis treatment can be beneficial in reducing symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress, with the University of California Irvine signed on as the participating research center.

Together, Helmand Valley Growers Company and BBF are committed to getting cannabis recognized as a legitimate medicine by the VA healthcare system. So far, the company has donated $60,000 to the cause, with plans to triple its contribution by the end of the year. Meiars says that the research team will soon be enrolling veterans for the study and sees Veterans Day as a fitting opportunity to explain the importance of access to cannabis for veterans.

“You’ve asked us vets to risk our lives in defense of our country. Many of our peers came back missing pieces of their minds and with broken bodies. Cannabis is a special plant, a real alternative to opioids that can make a difference healing veterans,” he wrote in an email. “We’re trying to make it possible for them to have access not only to cannabis, but for the better quality of life that they fought for. Sleep, a day without pain, everyone deserves that, especially veterans.”

Despite last week’s approval by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, before becoming law the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act must still be passed by the full House and Senate and gain the approval of President Joe Biden, whose administration has expressed opposition to the legislation.

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Veterans Speak Out for State Medical Marijuana Programs

Amid a national crisis of suicides and opioid abuse by those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more veterans are turning to cannabis for a more benign form of relief—and demanding legal recognition of their right to do so.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) largely remains intransigent on allowing access to cannabis. There have been efforts on Capitol Hill to address the dilemma. The most recent is the VA Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2021, which would at least mandate that the VA study use of cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other ailments that disproportionately pose challenges for veterans. It was approved on Nov. 5 by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. But the VA itself continues to oppose the measure.

The first crack in the VA’s anti-cannabis dogma came in December 2017, when the Department issued Directive 1315. This states: “Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.” Yet veterans are still being punished for cannabis use, denied benefits through loopholes in the Directive.

The most significant of these is that it only applies to veterans who are actually enrolled in state medical marijuana programs. So veterans not living in one of those 36 states that have established such programs still risk a cutoff of benefits if they use cannabis—even if for the exact same reasons as their card-holding brethren.

Not surprisingly, then, vets are getting vocal in support of pending state medical marijuana measures.

Retired Marine Calls for Medical Program in Tar Heel State 

In North Carolina, one of those remaining 14 hold-out states, Senate Bill 711, or the Compassionate Care Act, would legalize medical marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses. Retired US Marine Corps Sgt. George J. Papastrat in the town of Jacksonville is among those speaking out for its passage. 

Papastrat admits he was a reluctant believer in the medicinal value of cannabis. “You know…in 15 years in the Marine Corps, the thought really never even crossed my mindthat would necessarily be an option. Until, you know, the pain got real,” he told local WNCT last month.

Papastrat medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2016, suffering from back issues that led him to get a lumbar fusion. He told WNCT he had to take opioids for his pain just to be able to function.  

“I was taking opioids on active duty. And then for about three or four years after the fusion, I was taking opioid pain relievers, and that was just to make it so I could stand up, sit down…daily tasks with my children,” Papastrat said.

Papastrat is originally from New York, which has had a limited medical marijuana program since 2014, he it was there that he decided to try cannabis—and found that it worked for him. Since moving to North Carolina, he’s been in a state with no such program. So he’s been reaching out to lawmakers with his story.  

“We’re not talking about letting people run around and do drugs,” he assured WNCT. “I’m a local business owner veteran that stayed here and supports my community. And I’m just asking for a fair shake of something other than an opioid.”

The NC Compassionate Care Act would allow use of cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and PTSD. It would create a new body within the state Department of Health & Human Services empowered issue 10 licenses to companies that could operate up to four dispensaries each. It has already made it through several committees in the state house, but is not expected to go to a floor vote until 2022.

Iraq Experience Follows Vet Home to Texas

The voices of veterans played a role in the recent passage of a law expanding the existing but heretofore harshly limited medical program in Texas.

David Bass, a Desert Storm veteran living in the central Texas town of Killeen, Texas, credits cannabis as critical to his ongoing recovery from PTSD. He served 25 years in the Army and was did a tour of duty in Iraq starting in 2004. 

“It was heavy fighting the entire time that the First Cavalry Division was deployed to Iraq. We took some serious casualties,” he recalled to Spectrum News last month, adding that he got through it by focusing on his dream of a making good life back home in Texas. “This is what I dreamed about in Iraq: a place where I could just relax safely, everything’s quiet and peaceful and I don’t have to worry about a rocket falling out of the sky.”

But for those who have survived combat, the simple life is often not so simple. Even back in the safety of Texas, he was having nightmares, outbursts of anger, and vivid flashbacks—the classic symptoms of PTSD. He sought medical treatment—but found that it actually ended up doing more harm. 

“It’s ironic that a side effect of some psychotropic pills is suicidal ideation, and they’re supposed to be helping post-traumatic stress disorder,” Bass said.

Spectrum News reports that Bass became aware of cannabis as an alternative treatment after searching online and finding a community of vets going back to the Vietnam War who have been using the herb to treat PTSD.

“The choice was cannabis or the pill, and we chose cannabis,” he said, stressing that he chose to do so reluctantly, as this was before Texas passed its limited medical marijuana law in 2015. Since then, he’s been pushing for expansion of that program, by sharing his story with lawmakers. 
These efforts paid off on June 16 of this year, when Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1535, which adds PTSD to the list of ailments covered by the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP). The measure also raises the cap on THC from 0.5 to one percent. Until now, the TCUP had been a “CBD-only” program. Raising the THC cap to 1% brings it just barely into the range of a psychoactive effect. 

The new law took effect on Sept. 1. But Bass emphasized to Spectrum News that he remains hopeful further expansion of the program is on the way.

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Boris Johnson Open to Consider Legalizing Psilocybin Therapy in UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is open to the idea of legalizing psilocybin for therapeutic purposes in the UK, according to a recent conversation. By downgrading psilocybin’s classification to Schedule 2, the mushroom would be available for medical use and research.

BBC News reports that Tory MP (Member of Parliament) Crispin Blunt urged Johnson to review the country’s law to allow more research into the psilocybin’s potential as a therapeutic during Prime Minister’s Questions. Blunt said it has “exciting potential” for the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, trauma and addiction.

Under current law, psilocybin is currently listed under Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, sharing the category with drugs such as LSD, DMT, MDMA and mescaline—in a similar manner to the way it is classified in the United States. Most people in the UK cannot legally possess psilocybin, unless a Home Office license is used in research.

Advocates hope to move psilocybin to Schedule 2 with restrictions to prevent false prescriptions and to promote medical and scientific research.

Blunt pressed the prime minister to allow psilocybin to be reclassified. “I can say that we will consider the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recent advice on reducing barriers to research with controlled drugs such as the one he describes, and we will be getting back to him as soon as possible,” Johnson said in response to Blunt’s question.

“There is no record anywhere that a substance that has come out of ‘schedule two’ and gone into the criminal supply chain,” Johnson told BBC News.

It’s not the first time Blunt has called to reclassify psilocybin. Blunt is also the president of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group, a policy forum which promotes informed debate on drug policy reform.  Last month, Blunt said, “This delay is significant. In the 110 days since the prime minister gave his go-ahead, nearly 2,000 people have taken their own lives, most of them probably avoidable when this research is translated into treatment.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told MPs on October 18 that although he liked the idea of battling mental illness—the scheduling of psilocybin was a responsibility for the drug regulation agency.

“There are ongoing trials and research into psilocybin taking place in the UK and while the medicine has yet to be licenced by the medicines and healthcare products regulatory agency, if and when it is, we will consider rescheduling it,” he said.

Psilocybin as a Therapeutic Medicine

Ongoing clinical research shows that psilocybin, combined with conventional therapies, can help to treat people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The substance is also being explored as therapy for depression and end-of-life treatment, among other mental conditions.

City and statewide efforts to decriminalize psilocybin use have spread throughout the United States, including measures in Denver, Colorado and other cities. California cities such as Oakland and Santa Cruz took things further, decriminalizing other psychedelic substances. 

In November 2020, Oregon voters approved Measure 109, which will allow the use of the psilocybin in regulated facilities. However, the program won’t be operational until 2023, and there’s a lot to be sorted out. Oregon’s Psilocybin Advisory Board is currently learning about the safety and efficacy of psilocybin in treating a variety of mental health conditions. 

Last year, Canada announced that four patients who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer will receive therapy from psilocybin. It came as a response to a plea from patients with the government. Finally, the plea for medicine was approved by Patty Hajdu, who serves as minister of health in Canada. It was the first exception to the rule for psychedelic treatment since 1974. 

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MAPS Organization Granted $12.9 Million to Study Cannabis and PTSD

MAPS, The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Substances, was awarded a $12,979,050 million grant from the state of Michigan to fund a study on PTSD and cannabis on August 10.

According to Dr. Sue Sisley, President of the Scottsdale Research Institute and longtime cannabis researcher, this new study is sorely needed in the community. “Suicide among veterans is an urgent public health crisis, but it’s solvable if we invest in researching new treatments for pain, depression, and PTSD,” said Sisley in a press statement. “This grant enables more rigorous study, overseen by the FDA, which may lead to cannabis flower becoming prescribable medicine someday. Veterans are demanding objective cannabis drug development research, and the state of Michigan is fulfilling our collective obligation to our beloved Veteran community.”

The grant comes from Michigan’s 2021 Veteran Marijuana Research Grant Program, and is funded by the state’s recreational cannabis taxes. With a goal of determining the “the efficacy of marijuana in treating the medical conditions of United States armed services veterans and preventing veteran suicide.”

MAPS Makes History

This will be the second clinical trial to give cannabis medicine or placebos to participating military veterans, and according to the Chief Science Officer of the MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, Berra Yazar-Klosinki, PhD, the first trial was a great success. “We overcame significant regulatory obstacles obstructing cannabis research to conduct the first clinical trial of inhaled cannabis for PTSD,” said Yazar-Klosinki. 

“This grant funding provides the resources needed to leverage the results from the first trial, conduct a fully-powered clinical trial, and align the body of scientific evidence with cannabis that more closely mirrors what is available within state-regulated cannabis programs.” This trial will be the second of its kind to be conducted so far, and one that is an FDA- and DEA-regulated double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

The study will enlist 320 eligible veterans who have been diagnosed with either moderate or severe PTSD, and also includes those who suffer from major depressive disorder or substance abuse disorders. Four trial sites will be set up, two of which will be located in Michigan. Once participants pass a three-week enrollment period, they will be given five weeks for “self-administering inhaled, self-titrated doses of high-quality botanical cannabis.” This second trial will also use higher quality cannabis to better determine the effects of those who receive medicine versus a placebo.

The Founder and Director of MAPS, Rick Doblin, PhD, expresses the significance of this amount of money from cannabis taxes being used for research efforts. “Michiganders are granting non-profit researchers the opportunity to establish whether marijuana is helpful for Veterans with PTSD. If so, we will seek to return that generosity by developing a public-benefit cannabis pharmaceutical product that would be eligible for insurance coverage, just like any other pharmaceutical drug.”

The first trial was funded by MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (a MAPS subsidiary) which was also responsible for the only FDA-regulated controlled study for PTSD. The study was funded with $2.2 million from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and was led by the Scottsdale Research Institute. Results of this study showed evidence of the pros and cons to cannabis as a treatment for PTSD patients. According to the MAPS press release, all participating patients showed improvements in their symptoms after three weeks.

PTSD affects a large number of military veterans. According to data from the Veterans Association (VA), about 11-20 percent of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffer from PTSD. Twelve percent of veterans who participated in the Gulf War are diagnosed with PTSD every year. Finally, 15 percent of veterans who served in the Vietnam war are sufferers of PTSD (but the VA also estimates that 30 percent of all Vietnam veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetimes).

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Marijuana Is Good For Insomnia, Bad For Dreams

Sleep. It is the act of putting one’s mind out of its misery for a few hours each night so they can face the day ahead with hopefully fewer glimpses of darkness and despair than the day before. This is always the goal. But sadly, while catching 40 winks is one of the most natural aspects of existing on this planet as a living, breathing organism, it is not always as easy to achieve for some of the more restless of the breed.

Statistics from the American Sleep Association show that in upwards of 70 million adults in the United States alone suffer from some form of sleep disorder. The group goes on to say that 30 percent of the population is doomed to endure a vicious case of insomnia at some point before, ironically, drifting into the great unknown — the eternal sleep — death.

Sure, we will all sleep when we’re dead. But we are exhausted right now, and how many hours of Netflix can we possible binge watch — none of it is worth a d*mn anyway — and, sweet Jesus, what dog known to man is capable of barking all night long and, dear god, there’s only an hour left before its time to get up for work and there isn’t enough coffee in the world that can resurrect our half-dead shells in a way to make us as productive as the boss is counting on us to be. Have mercy on the poor souls that dare greet us with “good morning,” following a frustrating night like that.

So it is essential for humans to get substantial sack time. Cannabis is said to be the ticket to such slumber. But there are a lot of conflicting reports regarding this phenomenon. Some researchers claim that weed is good for sleep, while others say it is more likely to disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to further exhaustion. So, for the sake of this article, we are going to disregard 90 percent of the studies published on this topic.

We are, however, going to shine some light on a massive collective study conducted last year by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine — a group consisting of the leading scientific minds in the country. This research shows there is enough evidence to conclude that marijuana is an effective remedy for insomnia. Still, it is important to point out that the results are not absolute, as everyone is different.

The real science behind cannabis and sleep lies in the type of pot a person consumes and the dosage.

As a rule, indicas are recommended for people with insomnia, since these strains are designed to provide the user with a more relaxed, sleepy state than sativas, which are known to produce an uplifting, introspective buzz that can help solve all of the world’s problems. There is even some evidence that suggests older cannabis brings on sleepier effects than raw marijuana. This is because it has a higher level of cannabinol (CBN).

It is also recommended that insomniacs avoid high-THC strains before bed. These breeds have a tendency to invoke more anxiety, which can make it more difficult for the user to settle into the sack. But don’t avoid THC altogether, just find a delicate balance between the THC and CBD compounds. Not matter which strain ultimately becomes the go-to, maintaining a proper dose is critical. Too much weed before bed can lead to a bit of a hangover in the morning — an almost worse side effect than sleeplessness.

But for those dream warriors out there, those who relish in delusions and nightmares that come to them in their unconscious state, cannabis consumption may not be the best method for inducing sleep. Cannabis has been shown to disrupt the final stage of the sleep cycle known as REM (rapid eye movement). Incidentally, this is where dreams happen. This is the reason people suffering from PTSD often gravitate toward cannabis — fewer flashbacks and nightly haunts. But the good news is, cannabis users can always get their dreams back on track. The only caveat is that they must take a break for getting high.

“People who use marijuana, they tend to suppress REM sleep, they have less REM sleep,” Dr. Samoon Ahmad, a practicing psychopharmacologist and psychiatrist, told Business Insider. “And when they have less REM sleep you’re going to have fewer dreams because dreams only happen during REM sleep. So, for a long time people didn’t recognize this, but once people stop smoking, suddenly there’s a rebound phenomenon where people can have quite vivid dreams.”

So, while cannabis can literally crush your dreams, it is beneficial in helping insomniacs to rise above this dreadful condition. And don’t worry about missing those mental vagaries of the night. There is always plenty of time for fantasizing while you’re sitting in your cubicle, driving around on a fork truck or whatever it is you do for a living. Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck in a situation for which there is no escape. And we’re sorry to report, no amount of marijuana is going to help pull you out of mediocrity.

TELL US, do you use cannabis as a sleep aid?

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Vancouver Study on MDMA Therapy Approved by Health Canada

Vancouver-based company Numinus received federal approval for a study on MDMA. Sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the therapy study will involve twenty people with post-traumatic stress disorder. The goal is to learn more about MDMA-assisted therapy, specifically as a treatment for PTSD and eating disorders. In addition, researchers are hoping to […]

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