Editor’s note: This commentary is provided by the Medical Marijuana Education and Research Initiative (MMERI) of Florida A&M University.
Under Florida’s medical marijuana law, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a qualifying condition for treatment as recommended by a qualified medical marijuana physician. But the law gives doctors some flexibility on treating ailments “of the same kind or class as or comparable to the others listed.” So, people struggling with, say, chronic bouts of anxiety, depression, or insomnia — symptoms of PTSD — may be eligible to receive a Medical Marijuana Use Registry identification card.
“There’s no one pharmacological agent or medication that has been deemed the gold standard treatment of PTSD because PTSD is just a combination of so many different symptoms,” explains Dr. Delvena Thomas, a board-certified psychiatrist and neurologist. Her private practice in Fort Lauderdale focuses on psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and alternative health, which includes CBD products and medicinal cannabis certifications.
But, she adds, “medicinal cannabis has proven effective in treating PTSD, a very specific type of anxiety. We classify it as an anxiety disorder, it’s very specific. Patients do well with medicinal cannabis in treating their PTSD.”
A lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, Dr. Thomas has served on three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, giving her a unique perspective of the invisible wounds war inflicts on the mental health of returning veterans. PTSD, however, can affect all kinds of people who have been exposed to traumatic situations, even “vicariously just from seeing things on television and hearing about traumatic things; 9/11 is a good example,” she says.
She and Dr. Alexys Hillman, who practices osteopathic medicine and is a qualified medical marijuana physician in Pensacola, agree that mental health problems may arise during holiday seasons, like the one many Americans just observed. What should be an occasion for joyous celebrations among family and friends may instead trigger feelings of loneliness and suicidal thoughts, they say.
Drs. Hillman and Thomas are adamant that illegal marijuana is too dangerous to use for any reason, as it likely contains impurities and could be laced with a deadly amount of fentanyl. Dr. Thomas says people who use weed frequently beginning at an early age “can actually increase their risk of developing schizophrenia.”
Medical marijuana carries some risks, too.
According to Dr. Hillman: “When we talk about bad side effects, say for instance, you have anxiety, there are certain strains [of cannabis] that can make anxiety worse. People think about the paranoia, but it’s not just paranoia. It can be people who are very sensitive to sensations within their body and what’s going on with their bodies. Certain strains, specifically sativas, can accentuate that sensation, and it can actually provoke panic attacks in certain people.
The route of administration is another concern medical marijuana patients should consider, says Dr. Thomas. Edibles are slow acting and may lose some of their efficacy because they must “go through your stomach, and you have to break it down, and then whatever active chemicals are remaining, those things go out to the blood. Whereas when you’re smoking something, you get the direct effects from what you’re smoking, or if you’re taking something sublingual, that’s going under the tongue, it goes directly into the blood. So, the mode of administration can matter.”
But people with respiratory problems should never smoke or vape cannabis, she adds.
Visit https://bit.ly/Cannabis_MentalHealth to watch MMERI’s Conversations on
Cannabis Virtual Forum featuring Dr.Delvena Thomas, a board-certified
psychiatrist and neurologist & Dr. Alexys Hillman, qualified medical marijuana
physician discussing the pros and cons of using cannabis as a mental health
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