About 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to data compiled by the Department of Veterans Affairs. As PTSD becomes more common in veterans, many doctors have been looking for ways to improve life after service through various treatments and medications. A recent report from NPR found that medicinal marijuana might be one healing method for former servicemembers with PTSD symptoms.
According to the news source, veterans have been petitioning the federal government to grant them access to the drug. But while experiments done on animals have shown that tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical found in marijuana, affects circuits in the brain associated with fear and anxiety, the medical link between marijuana and PTSD remains unfounded. Andrew Holmes, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told the news outlet that testing on humans is still in its beginning stages, and there are several factors doctors are uncertain about, such as the possible side effects of marijuana usage. Some of these side effects include short-term memory loss and hindered motor skills.
However, the news source reported that one study out of the University of Michigan found that long-term usage of marijuana was effective when paired with extinction therapy, which stops the brain from responding to triggers of fear or anxiety.
"I think if there are medications including drugs like marijuana that can be used in the right way, there's an opportunity there, potentially," Dr. Kerry Ressler of Emory University told the news source.