Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients are the largest group enrolled in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program. But the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Albuquerque — the only source of health care for many veterans — doesn’t allow its physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients, despite the fact that it’s legal in the state.
There are 1,249 patients enrolled in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program, reports Marjorie Childress of the New Mexico Independent
. PTSD patients hold 291 of those spots. The next two largest groups are cancer patients, at 198, and HIV/AIDS patients, at 130.
The VA policy that forbids doctors to recommend medical marijuana is due to the influence of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), according to Sonja Brown, chief of Voluntary Service & Public Affairs Operations of the New Mexico VA Health Care System.
Marijuana is still classified as an illegal, Schedule I drug at the federal level, which prohibits its use for any purpose. Fourteen states have nevertheless legalized marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s recommendation.
The VA policy allows physicians to tell patients they are free to seek advice from doctors outside the VA system. The policy also encourages VA physicians to steer patients toward treatments other than marijuana.
Returning veterans report that while VA-approved treatments for PTSD involve prescription drugs that induce a zombie-like state, marijuana on the other hand enables them to reduce the amount of prescription drugs they take and lead more normal lives.
“The medications were turning me into a zombie, I couldn’t relate to my daughter,” veteran Paul Culkin told a group at New Mexico’s capitol last week. “Medical cannabis made me a father and a husband again.”
Research supports the abundant anecdotal evidence that marijuana helps PTSD sufferers. A 2007 study
of marijuana use by PTSD patients found that the severity of symptoms was reduced among those using marijuana as a coping method.