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Jun-02-2007 02:02printcomments

PTSD: Life-Long Challenge For Growing Number of Veterans

According to this WWII veteran and leading expert in the fields of pharmacology and toxicology, medical marijuana is a good treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD soldiers

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - The Merck Manual is one of the handiest medical encyclopedias around. I was pleasantly surprised that it did have a section on PTSD in the general section of Phobic Disorders including fear of open spaces (Agoraphobia), anxiety attacks (social phobias- fear of people), obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, and Acute stress disorder. There are a few more but I hope you get the idea. My observation is that most, if not all combat vets get it.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

James Jones, a prize-winning author of the World War II book From Here To Eternity served three and a half years in the U.S. Army during that time. He said it best, “The soldier (Combat Infantryman) must make a pact with himself that he cannot survive but that every day is a gift. He will be wet, filthy, tired beyond measure but will keep moving almost zombie-like till he is either killed, gets a million dollar wound to go home, or the war will be over!!” Most usually, the first two happened.

I was impressed by The Manual’s introductory paragraphs. They sounded as if the writer had been there (doubtful); “PTSD is a disorder in which an overwhelming traumatic event is re-experienced, causing intense fear, helplessness, horror and avoidance of stimuli associated with the (psychic) trauma.”

Fifty-eight percent of combat veterans may experience this, usually through nightmares and/or flashbacks. If these occur for more than three months it is considered chronic. In my own case, I consider myself very lucky, if a Combat Infantry veteran can consider himself lucky.

After we landed in France during the coldest winter on record, our officers ordered us to play football next to a minefield. Whether the ground was so frozen we didn’t trigger the mines, I discovered a sign MINEN right next to where I found myself at the football game. I got out of there as soon as possible.

The first day we went into the front lines, we had a German artillery barrage. The next day we had a mortar barrage. A few days later, approaching the Rhine River, a German artillery barrage. Kept with us for miles as we were approaching our jump-off point, they even barraged our chow tent.

The next day, we crossed the Rhine under fire. We lost 150 men. I was behind German lines for a while and was thought Missing In Action. I was strafed by both German and American planes that day. I was beginning to get spacey.

A few days later, a buddy and I were ordered to check out a house. We discovered it had 26 German officers. I felt I was running out of luck. A day later, some of us were sent on an ammunition supply detail attaching to a platoon which was practically wiped out, at least 20 dead. A few days later, I was in a forward observation post and a German vehicle had his artillery pointed right at me. Why I am able to write this, I don’t know. But the above are days in the life of a Combat Infantryman.

My three sons asked their mother, “Does Dad ever talk about his war experiences?” She cornered me and said, “I know you can’t talk about it, but write it down.” Because I was in the front, or behind German lines most of the time, I was forbidden by a Courts Martial to keep a diary.

I did get my memoirs written, it took me 10 years. All 50 chapters of General Patton’s Dogface Soldier are written from flashbacks, and I still have them 60 years later.

I was in an Intelligence Section (nothing to do with intellect) with five other guys. I would send them copies of my chapters as I wrote them. They would write back, “How can you remember that stuff, I’m trying to forget it!”

My comrades were 18 or 19, and I was 22, and the old man of the group. Even when I talked with them after the war, they had blocked out, or said they blocked out, all of our miserable horrifying experiences. For 4 out of 5 Combat Infantryman that is very significant.

I took a war history writing class with about 12, mostly Vietnam guys. They could write about the fun stuff, but they were surprised that I could write about the blood & guts. They were suffering from PTSD every day of their lives.

Many symptoms of PTSD such as insomnia and night terrors are resolved for patients through the use of medical marijuana. Those patients have chronic pain, or some other official ailment that qualifies them for a permit in the state of Oregon. Unfortunately PTSD is not yet included on that list.

All in my class had used marijuana in Nam. Some never quit. Some chose marijuana over alcohol to help subside the PTSD symptoms. That means less alcoholics. Many chose it over heavy drugs prescribed by well-meaning doctors. Less addicts. And no side effects.

As I have written in other articles, it probably helped them keep a lid on. I know it did with the 500 Nam vets I helped get Medical Marijuana permits.

Continue this discussion with Dr. Leveque! The next interview in our ongoing series with Dr. Leveque focuses on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. EMAIL your PTSD stories, questions and comments to:
Other articles and video segments with Dr. Phillip Leveque on
Oregon Medical Marijuana Doctor Tells All: Q&A Part 3 (VIDEO)
Medical Marijuana: The Replacement for Very Dangerous Drugs
Oregon Toxicologist Says Treatment for PTSD Should Include Cannabis
Medical Marijuana Doctor Responds to Written Comments (VIDEO) (Originally titled Oregon Medical Marijuana Doctor Tells All: Q&A Part 3)

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SPC. Smoker December 2, 2009 1:53 pm (Pacific time)

Iraq 05-06 and Afghanistan 07-09 vet. I have suffered with PTSD since my first tour. I have been out for five months now and have been smoking marijuana since i separated. I can tell you first hand it helps with the PTSD. I have been told even that recently I'm alot better to be around.

not alone: June 2, 2007 9:01 pm (Pacific time)

Aug.67', Quang Tri province,Vietnam: a nite time incursion from a sapper team inside our perimeter and it's aftermath was all it took for me. I was 18 and in country a week or so, it was our units second "operation" since my arrival. It's been 40 years and many events later, but I can trace it's beginnings to this one event. The thought that something was wrong with me after that plagued me from then on, and still does sometimes. Gaining a degeree in advanced alcoholism did not enhance the situation. So AA had another plan and over twenty years later has proven to be effective in marked quality of life progression. Having little in the way of covering it up anymore,(PTSD), I actually had to start doing something about it or I felt it would eventually take me under. So I went back to Quang Tri. I'm not saying it "cured" me, but I noticed immediately the noise of incoming automatic fire, mortars and artillery was quieter when nite came..,not gone, just "safer" somehow.,in another distant valley or hilltop. Marijuana hasn't hurt me and I hope the ones facing the prospect of PTSD or already in it, take a look around and see for themselves what can be done. Stop by sometime for a game of chess.,"we all got time enough to die", so let's be alive while we are!

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