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Grace Under Fire: the Cannabis Journey of a US Vet

Proud to be able to share Grace’s story with the world in the August 2016 issue of SKUNK.

One of the best benefits of being a dispensary owner is knowing we are helping people of all ages and backgrounds. A good percentage of our members are US Vets and a common trend we see with this demographic is that many come to us with either a recreational mentality because it’s all they have experienced or they have never tried cannabis in their life.

Those who have been in the industry for awhile know that the lines of recreational and medical use in California are quite blurred, but it usually isn’t long before our members realize how beneficial cannabis can be for their unique circumstances and they begin to take a different approach to their use and consumption. We are especially grateful to have met Grace and to be part of her cannabis journey. This is her story.

Grace first came to see us in 2014, not long after her resignation from a nearly 15 year career with the United States Marine Corps, which included five combat deployments.

In 2011, she began to suffer from insomnia and night terrors which led to elevated anxiety and migraines, which led to lots of drinking to numb it all, which led to depression and extreme states of pain or agitation. She was prescribed a barrage of pharmaceuticals from Zoloft to Prozac to Ambien, among others. For her ever recurring migraines, she was prescribed Topamax and Imitrex; Grace became just another person whose doctors were only addressing the symptoms but not the underlying reason for the conditions, which in this case all stemmed from severe PTSD.

Like many toughened military personnel, Grace believed that PTSD was a sham; just a way to get out of working. She admits she couldn’t have been more wrong. She also knew that all the pharmaceuticals were making her feel worse. Needless to say, by her return to civilian life, she was pretty doped up, addicted to several of the prescription drugs, had lost a dangerous amount of weight and was only realizing sporadic relief. Her PTSD became more severe and the side effects made her feel like she was losing herself.

A friend suggested she try an edible and one night, she did. Grace made the mistake of drinking a bottle of wine with it and became very physically ill. She realized that wasn’t the right approach, so she went to see a doctor to get an MMJ recommendation and it wasn’t long after that she came to us. When we first met, Grace was like a kid in a candy store. After more than 15 years of not using cannabis, suddenly this whole new world opened up to her and she was eager to try it all, but it took until early this year for her to discover the full value of cannabis as medicine.

Two events triggered her motivation to look at cannabis from an entirely different perspective: 1. The suicide of a military friend in August 2015 and 2. A VA checkup in early 2016.

At the VA checkup, the Prozac did not show up in her lab work and they questioned why. When Grace told them she was using medicinal marijuana and was feeling even better than she was with the prescriptions their response was a bit shocking. She was informed that she would need to continue to take the prescribed drugs, and in fact in an even higher dose or risk losing her disability benefits.

Between that checkup and an impending hysterectomy, she decided that her mental state and physiology was more important than the money. In addition, unlike the VA, she can get her medical cannabis the same day instead of waiting three to five business days for prescriptions arriving in the mail.

She came to us to take advantage of our full consult program. In that hour session, we took a deeper look and taught Grace about her Endocannabinoid System to help her understand why and how the cannabis was working in her body. We discussed her unique response to cannabis what worked and what didn’t and together we created a therapy program to help her manage her anticipated post-surgery pain while continuing to mitigate migraine onset, managing her PTSD, depression and anxiety, as well as inducing restful sleep.

Grace had quickly realized that sativa strains gave her the same anti-depressive boost that her Prozac did, but without all the negative physiological effects of the drug. Mr. Nice, a favorite indica in our shop, became her go-to strain for managing her migraines and she found she was able to wean from the Topamax and the migraines began to lessen in frequency. Through our education programs, she began to learn to titrate and adjust her cannabis therapy as she slowly weaned off the pharmaceuticals. Gorilla Glue is what she calls her 4 in 1: delivering relief for 1)Sleep, 2)Depression, 3)Anxiety and 4)Appetite. She was even able to stop taking the Prozac.

Grace has a lower tolerance to THC, but enjoys the euphoric effects it delivers. While her lower tolerance gives her the advantage of being able to stretch her budget, the challenge was finding the right balance for her body to find relief and just the right amount of elevation while staying focused and clear during the day and still being able to sleep through the night.

A combination of the following cannabis products is the non-prescribed regime she now follows: 18:1 (CBD/THC) tincture once in the morning, and again around 1pm. She vapes a CBD rich hash oil or other sativa strains such as Grapefruit Haze or Sour Diesel as needed throughout the day, and traditional inhalation of her most effective strain, Gorilla Glue when she is done for the day. In addition, she also uses a 4:1 (CBD/THC) tincture for sleep as needed.

It’s been a long road of experimenting, understanding and enlightenment, but thanks to cannabis, Grace is in a better place physically and emotionally and while she continues to heal her PTSD, we’ll be there for her every step of the way. In her own words “Cannabis is the answer and the truth”.

About Grace’s military service:

  • Grace shipped out to bootcamp on September 11, 2001.
  • Less than a month after turning 19, she was deployed to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002/2003.
  • By 2009, she would have deployed 3 more times in a combat environment. Twice to Iraq and once to the Southern Philippines.
  • Last deployment before departing the service would be another trip to Afghanistan in 2013/2014, tracking over 700 insurgent, in her area of operation
  • She walked away from the military knowing she wouldn’t even have a pension because she knew it was a matter of time before she made a misstep in her otherwise flawless career.
  • Since departing the service she has had run-ins with law enforcement and financial irresponsibility due to untreated PTSD and depression. (That was until recognizing she had a problem).

pick up a copy of SKUNK August 2016 issue at Barnes and Noble

Combating PTSD with Cannabis

 

How CANNABIS Relieves PTSD

The endocannabinoid system has broad impact throughout the body and mind, and cannabis contains a large range of the specific compounds that impact this system. In varying ratios; therefore the effects of  cannabis on the body can be quite diverse depending on the strain and dosage ingested.

The endocannabinoid system is integrally related to memory, specifically memory extinction. Memory extinction is the normal, healthy process of removing associations from stimuli. The implications for people with PTSD is that cannabis can help reduce the association between stimuli that triggers the memories of the traumatic situations in their past.

Scientific study has revealed that normal CB-1 receptor signaling can deactivate traumatic memories, essentially giving the brain the capacity to “forget”. Skewed CB-1 signaling, which could be from endocannabinoid deficiency, can result in fear, chronic anxiety and aversive memory consolidation, primary symptoms of PTSD.

Current anecdotal evidence (including testimonials from our member base) is revealing that the use of therapeutic cannabis provides a significant improvement in the quality of life for those who suffer PTSD. In light of all evidence currently available, it is striking that the FDA refuses to investigate cannabinoids for the treatment of anxiety disorders like PTSD yet they have approved studies of MDMA, the club drug Ecstasy, for the treatment of PTSD (Doblin, 2002).

As more and more people with PTSD turn to natural remedies, time will tell just how effective cannabis can be as a therapy in alleviating what can become life debilitating symptoms.

Getting the most of Cannabis for PTSD

The latest findings by Dr. Mechoulam, the Israeli scientist who identified THC as the psychoactive compound in marijuana, and decades later discovered the brain’s endocannabinoid system and the endogenous neurotransmitter anandamide, suggests the following dosing guidelines to get the most relief.

“Use low to moderate doses with as stable a blood level as possible for general anxiety and depression symptoms. Taking cannabis products orally produces the most stable blood levels.

Since peak levels will produce the most soporific effect, administration of oral cannabis right before bed should produce the most benefits for improving sleep patterns.

  • A grain of rice sized dose of FECO Oil administered nightly is another option for those with PTSD. Simple to administer and inducing deep rest, many of our members find this their best defense and the best way to build up their endocannabinoid system.
  • For those with lower tolerances, we recommend the Bhang CBD Chocolate Bar, our number one product for sleep. A little goes a long way and this is fantastic way to maximize your cannabinoid intake on a daily basis.

If the goal is to use cannabis to facilitate extinction of the response to PTSD triggers then small to moderate doses of cannabis vapors should be administered shortly before planned exposure to a potential trigger. A series of regular extinction sessions will produce better results than a single session.

  • Smoking or vaporizing flowers is the easiest and fastest method to relief. We suggest starting with strains lower in THC (less than 15%). If flowers are not an option for you, this is where personal vaporizers are a perfect choice as they are easy to use, discreet and can be used virtually anywhere without detection. Remember to always take small sips as needed, rather than big inhales.

If cannabis appears to make aversion, fear, or aversive memories worse, then the dosage should be lowered. If feelings of fear do not improve with lower doses then discontinue use of cannabis as fear-extinction aide.”

  • This point made by Dr. Mechoulam  is exactly why we encourage members to keep a log of their experiences with various strains. When you find the right strain and calibrate the right dose that works best for your body, that is when the real magic of cannabis happens.

TIP: Those who suffer PTSD should always start slow and small when experimenting with new strains and products. When smoking or vaporizing, take sips instead of inhales, wait 10 minutes and assess how you feel. When using ingestibles such as edibles or tinctures, always take the smallest dose and titrate up as needed. You can always add more, but you can’t re move it once you’ve swallowed it.

 

At RX-C, our philosophy is simple. We are dedicated to elevating cannabis by educating our members to the value and benefits of the most natural medicine on the planet. Our Member Consultants are here to answer any questions to help you discover your optimal methods and dose.

Medical Marijuana After Traumatic Event ‘Prevents PTSD Symptoms’

All I can say is, “wow” We hear how much cannabis helps our members with PTSD every day. Here’s a nice piece that explains why it works. Read more here.