Recently, President Obama announced that all United States troops would by pulled out of Iraq by the end of the year, marking a major milestone in the years-long conflict that has sent thousands of military service members into active combat in the region. However, the battle will likely be far from over for the Iraq veterans, who must now re-acclimate themselves into their lives and society while dealing with the physical and mental effects of active combat.

One common mental ailment that afflicts war veterans is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The disorder commonly causes panic attacks, flashbacks to the traumatizing event, debilitating fear that the event will recur, avoidant behavior, and restlessness. Despite the fact that many military veterans suffer from the disorder, doctors and researchers have struggled to find an effective method of treatment.

Previously, prescription antipsychotic medications such as Risperdal were believed to help with effective management of PTSD symptoms. However, recent studies indicate that Risperdal is no more effective in treating PTSD than placebo drugs. This has led medical professionals to seek out a new method of treatment to alleviate the debilitating effects of PTSD on veterans.

Some researchers believe that medical marijuana may be the one of the most effective treatments for PTSD. In the September issue of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, a noted Army sergeant who suffered from PTSD reported that medical marijuana was not only helpful in treating the disorder, but that it was the only substance that effectively treated his disease. In addition, preliminary research has indicated that marijuana works better than antipsychotics to treat PTSD, without the common side effects of the powerful drugs.

However, that is where the research has stalled. While California and 15 other states have medical marijuana laws, there are still major roadblocks to widespread acceptance of the drug for medical treatment. We will explore those roadblocks in a blog post later this week.

Source: Washington Post, “Marijuana may help PTSD. Why won’t the government find out for sure?” Steve Fox, Oct. 14, 2011