Medical pot works in the battle against PTSD, vets say
Veteran Trev Bungay began looking for a wellness plan better than a fistful of pill. “I felt that if I didn’t actually make a change right now I was dead.”
Darryl Hudson, a researcher who operates a lab at Lethbridge University in Alberta and is president of DOC Solutions Cannabis Consulting, said cannabis is “the most effective medication that we have to battle the first stages of PTSD.
By JIM COYLE Sun., April 23, 2017
Trev Bungay says the horror began in 1998 when he was among Canadian soldiers scouring the beaches of Nova Scotia in cleanup operations after the crash of a Swissair jet just off the Atlantic coast.
“That was really my look at trauma for the very first time,” Bungay told a panel discussion on Sunday at the inaugural O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo.
Then came international missions in Africa, Bosnia, Haiti and four combat tours in Afghanistan.
Little did the 39-year-old infantry veteran and medical cannabis activist know, however, that the worst was yet to come.
For five years starting in 2007, he began to know something “was seriously wrong,” he said. “And I collapsed.”
He began seeking mental-health assistance on his base. “I was issued 20 pills a day and sent home.”
It is by just such means, the conference was told, that many veterans are introduced to drugs such as Percocets and OxyContin, he said. Along with it comes addiction and life lived in a cycle of rage, emotional estrangement from loved ones and thoughts of self-harm.
“As a regular Newfoundlander, the happy-go-lucky kid, I can tell you right now suicide has never, ever crossed my mind,” Bungay said. Until he took those pills.
“Within three months was my first attempt. Those pills completely rewired my brain. I had no clue where I was anymore.”
Three months later, “I attempted suicide for the second time,” he said.
Over those nightmarish years, Bungay had 15 personal friends who committed suicide, he said. “That number is staggering when you think of it. Every one of those guys was on prescription drugs. And every one of them served in Afghanistan.”
He began looking for a wellness plan better than a fistful of pills and a promise to see a psychologist when one had time to see him.
“I felt that if I didn’t actually make a change right now I was dead. I was a dead man. There was no coming out of it.”
Bungay said he had heard about the medical benefits of cannabis. He tried it. And it “really started to change my life.”
He soon felt better. In short order he began helping other veterans with post-traumatic stress to “get rid of the pills, get on something natural.” In 2015, he founded Trauma Healing Centres Inc., for men and women like him.
Darryl Hudson, a researcher who operates a lab at Lethbridge University in Alberta and is president of DOC Solutions Cannabis Consulting, said cannabis is “the most effective medication that we have to battle the first stages of PTSD, especially with vets coming home trying to get acclimatized to life at home after the experience of combat.”
It’s a significant problem among veterans , Hudson said.
“In the United States, we lose 22 to 25 vets a day to suicide. It’s far greater than anything lost in the war. If you start to include prescription drug overdoses — which are not considered suicides — you’re looking at over 30 deaths a day in the United States directly related to the ineffectiveness of treating PTSD.”
His research has identified a rewiring of the brain with PTSD and that cannabis is effective in alleviating symptoms, he said.
“We are getting close to providing the scientific evidence that corroborates all of this, but we definitely know one thing and that is, cannabis works. And it definitely works better than all the other drugs that are out there.”
Michael Blais, 60, a Canadian veteran of Cyprus and founder of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, told the conference “it’s important to know we’re not potheads.
“I get that a lot. Oh, you just like the pot. You sit there getting high all day. That’s not true.
“For people who are mentally or physically traumatized, this is a viable — not cure, by any means — but part of a treatment plan.”
Blais said he had pain, episodes of rage, chronic frustration and had become a Jekyll-and-Hyde who, his wife said, was not the same man.
“Medical cannabis changed all of that.”
The session was one of many at the weekend trade show aimed, among other things, at highlighting the pharmaceutical benefits of cannabis in advance of federal promises to legalize marijuana by Canada Day 2018.
Organizer Neill Dixon said that whereas the cannabis business once took place “in the shady underworld,” the prospect of legalization, diminishing stigma and blossoming entrepreneurial opportunities produced a “very corporate” event.
“It wasn’t a sampling product show, that’s for sure,” he said, noting that marijuana is not legal yet. “It was business.
“The feedback from most of our guests and exhibitors is, ‘When’s the next one? We’ll be back.’ ”
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