Veteran says treating PTSD with marijuana is a double-edged sword

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Illinois residents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could soon legally use medical marijuana.

During Monday's Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board meeting, advisory members, made up of medical professionals, patients and a caregiver, recommended PTSD be added to the list of conditions which may be treated with medical marijuana.

Recommendations still need approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Veteran Mike Malmstrom, a U.S. Marine who served from 1972-1980, said the recommendation is a positive step towards helping people who suffer from PTSD.

"A lot of these guys with PTSD can flip in a moment," Mike explained, whose been involved with several veteran groups. "A sound, a noise, something to remind them of something and they can go from Mr. Joe Blow nice on the streets to killing mode."

Mike's son, Paul, was diagnosed with PTSD after he served in the Army and saw combat during his tour in Iraq. Mike said when his son came home, he struggled with sleeping. He was prescribed medication from his doctor, but Mike says his son decided to stop taking his medication.

"He came home one Christmas and said, 'Dad, I got off the pills. I'm tired of them,'" Mike said.

"I could hear him get up at two or three in the morning and just pace the floors," Mike added. "He couldn't sleep when he went to bed. He was just constantly on the go."

Because he has seen his son and other veterans struggle with PTSD, Mike said he could see medical marijuana help ease the symptoms. However, he said marijuana is a double-edged sword, referencing drug testing for jobs and the fact that marijuana is a "downer."

"I think it needs to be researched more," Mike said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states on its website that there is "no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD."

According to other studies, smoking marijuana reduced PTSD symptoms in some patients.

Mike said if the state's department of public health approved medical marijuana treatment for PTSD, it would be a tough sell to the VA.

"Until it is equally passed in all 50 states, I can't see the VA prescribing medical marijuana for use on anything," he said.

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