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Oregon Medical Marijuana Doctor on PTSD: Part 4Bonnie King & Dr. Phil Leveque Salem-News.com
Providing veterans who suffer from PTSD a natural, sleep inducing herb has the power in some cases, to bring a person's stress level down to tolerable levels.
(SALEM, Ore.) - In our continuing look at medical marijuana with Salem-News.com's Bonnie King and Dr. Phillip Leveque, we turn our attention toward a problem that is sweeping the nation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Phillip Leveque spent his early years fighting the Nazi Army in Europe and he has a keen understanding of combat fatigue and the associated problems.
While he says marijuana is an excellent treatment for PTSD, the doctor discusses many of the surrounding points, such as a broken veteran's care system, increasing numbers of veteran suicides, and the constant prescription of morphine-based hard drugs in the VA system which ironically are legal.
Dr. Leveque says the nation's healthcare community needs to wake up and realize the personal and societal benefits of providing veterans with PTSD a natural, sleep inducing herb that has the power in some cases, to bring a person's stress level down to tolerable levels.
While PTSD patients continue to be denied the use of legal marijuana, Dr. Leveque is one of the few American doctors willing to do on the record in favor of the legal medical use of cannabis, and he knows a few things as a person who began his adult life on the battlefields of WWII.
This is the transcript from this Salem-News.com video segment with Bonnie King and Dr. Phillip Leveque:
Bonnie King: "Today we're going to talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the leading expert in the fields of toxicology and pharmacology, Dr. Phillip Leveque. Doctor, what is PTSD and what are the causes of it?"
Dr. Leveque: "We,, in WWI it was called shellshock. Now a person can get a concussion from an artillery barrage and that will scramble your brains, but my definition is terror fatigue instead of battle fatigue. I give lectures about my war experiences to high schools and so forth and many times I have students ask, 'what is battle like?' Well, I tell say ok, have you ever been in a severe thunder or lightning storm? A few hands go up. Have you ever been in a moderately severe earthquake? I say ok, so at the same time that is going on, you know that someone is shooting at you the whole time and you are just a micro second away from getting killed, and perhaps the two guys on either side of you have already been killed, now that's terror fatigue, that's what it amounts to, and if you go through a lot of terror fatigue it is going to stick with you, and that is probably my best description of post traumatic stress disorder."
Bonnie King: “Today we’re going to talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the leading expert in the field of pharmacology and toxicology Doctor Phillip Leveque. Doctor, Leveque, what is PTSD and what are the causes of it?”
Dr. Leveque: “Well in WWI it was called shellshock, now a person can get severe concussion n from an artillery barrage, and that will really scramble your brain, but my definition is terror fatigue, instead of battle fatigue, and I give lectures about my war experiences to high schools and so forth and I have many times had students as me, ‘What is battle like?’ Well, I say ok, have you ever been in a severe thunder and lightning storm? A few hands go up, have you ever been in a moderately severe earthquake, I say ok and at the same time that those two are going on you know that somebody is shooting at you all the time and you’re just a microsecond away from getting killed, and perhaps even the guys on both sides of you have already been killed, now that’s terror fatigue and that’s what it amounts to. And if you go through a lot of terror fatigue it is going to stick with you and that is probably my best definition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Bonnie King: "We've received numerous emails about PTSD and apparently there are a lot of other things that cause it instead of war but they’re on a different scale, now how are these people treated for PTSD?"
Dr. Leveque: “In WWII one of the, I don’t know whether I could call this the best treatment or whatever it was, but a person would be give a triple dose of barbiturate (barbiturate) usually Anatol I believe, and these were known by the troops as blue 88’s because they were a blue capsule with medicine and the 88 was the German artillery piece that was the most feared by everybody that got shot at so blue 88’s, and what this did was knock people out for a minimum of 24-hours and sometimes up to 36 and maybe even longer than that. Now, the weird part about all that was that once you woke up the doctors decided that you were ready to go back to the front lines and that was bad news, so they use morphine like drugs sometimes, they use anti-depressants, they use very strong sleeping pills, all sorts of stuff, but I think the strangest thing I have heard from the Vietnam veterans whom I have interviewed for medical marijuana, they tell me, ‘Dr. Leveque, medical marijuana works better than any prescription I have been given.”
Bonnie King: “So, they started using this in Vietnam, this is when we started hearing about soldiers using marijuana now at that time nobody considered it being something they were giving to themselves medicinally, if they have been using it all these years, what is your take on their self medication, so to speak?”
Dr. Leveque: “I think this shows a great degree of intelligence, the name of the game for treatment with medicine is what works, and if something works the word gets out very quickly, what the people think about this is, ‘you just want to get high,’ well, the people that arte using medical marijuana in Oregon which is 15,000 some people, using it legally, they consider getting high, or the euphoriant state, as a bad side effect, so they don’t want to get high, and I have experienced that myself accidentally a couple of times and it’s very unpleasant.”
Bonnie King: “Some of the symptoms that people have written in and described include night terrors, insomnia, how does medical marijuana help treat these things?”
Dr. Leveque: “Marijuana is a very good sedative, and a lot of my patients that I had, over 4,000, used it only the evening after supper so they could go to sleep. And they, like I say, they think it is the best sleeping pill, it’s not a pill, but it’s the best medicine that they have every used to promote sleep”
Bonnie King: “And the side effects are not catatonic- like side effects?”
Dr. Leveque: “That would be a very extreme condition and I really can’t imagine catatonia, which means you’re stiff as a board and that in my experience and in my information from literature review, I don’t think that happens with marijuana, a person would have to be, heavily stoned would be the right word to describe something like that. And I think my own self, when I accidentally overdosed on an oral ingestion of marijuana, I had something like that, I had hallucinations, but I certainly wasn’t catatonic, and I had a bad reaction.”
Bonnie King: “A lot of people are worried about the heavy medications that are give to PTSD sufferers that do actually cause them to be sort of catatonic or not be able to function on a daily basis just to be able to get through their day and of course we’re worried about the veterans returning home, so in terms of treatment, what kind of suggestions can you give to some of the returning vets who are experiencing PTSD”
Dr. Leveque: “Well, first of all the use of the morphine like drugs, the heavy tranquilizers, the anti-depressants, don’t work and the veteran who has been given those and he finds out for himself that they make him so groggy that he can’t function, they know that thy can get a hold of alcohol very easily and we end up with an awful lot of veteran alcoholics, and this is a tragedy. And it is a worse tragedy because if they were permitted to used marijuana, and not the prescription Marinol, but marijuana itself, this would solve most of their problems and this business about becoming addicted to marijuana is totally ridiculous, it’s about as addicting as Starbucks Coffee but this isn’t an advertisement for Starbucks Coffee.”
Bonnie King: “Because of the situations that are going on in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the IED’s and things they’re having to fact over there, we have more amputees coming home than ever before, we’ve got several people commenting and asking questions about phantom pain and beyond phantom pain, is there more help these folks get from using marijuana medicinally versus some of the other barbiturates or whatever they may be using,”
Dr. Leveque: “I believe so, but t he whole thing of it is, the physicians who work for the Veterans Administration, they’re not permitted to even suggest the use of marijuana and the fact of the matter is if they suggest it, I believe they would probably be fired from their jobs.”
Bonnie King: “And how is that, that’s the tip of the iceberg because of the experience that you’ve had with previous wars. How does this relate?”
Dr. Leveque: “Very similar, and the fact for the matter is, I have hear, I have not read any official documents, that from the Vietnam War, more Vietnam veterans committed suicide than were killed battle. I don’t know the truth of this but I don’t believe the truth is available anyplace. And certainly I do know that a lot of them became alcoholics and a lot of them are illegally using marijuana because they know they get some benefit from it.”
Bonnie King: “It’s important to note that Doctor Leveque is a WWII combat veteran, and so he has special inside experience as far as this goes and he can look at it from that perspective, so doctor, what kind of suggestions can you give to people that are coming back, should they be reaching out to therapists, to their doctors? How should they take care of PTSD before it takes care of them? What should they do, who should they reach out to?”
Dr. Leveque: “That is probably the most difficult question that you have asked me today, I think the worst feature of it is that the Veterans Administration is supposed to be taking care of the veterans, I was in the vet’s hospital for four or five months with a broken neck, and they told my mother on three occasions, ‘We don’t think that your son is going to live’ That was forty plus years ago, I think that the same situation is present today, and whatever they’re doing right now, it’s been really publicized int eh newspapers, it isn’t helping at all and the statement that the VA hospitals are broken is absolutely correct. They’ve got to change completely what they are =doing or what they are trying to do, and they don’t have the personnel available to do that, so this, we’re in bad shape. It’s like I say, the suicides, this is just the tip of the iceberg and we’re got about a million, a million troops that have even in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Veteran’s Administration itself says that over 300,000 of them are suffering from PTSD. There is no help available for these 300, 000 people, and we’re going to get an awful lot more.”
Bonnie King: “Well I wish we had a better answer than that, you know we’ll keep working on it. If you have any questions for Dr. Leveque, that is what we are here for, so send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get some answers for you and we will be back with Dr. Leveque. In Salem, this is Bonnie King for Salem-News.com”
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