Medical Marijuana Can be a Much-Needed Miracle for Vets With PTSD
Staff Sargent Mike Whiter says prescription drugs are contributing to veteran suicides—and marijuana saves lives.
November 12, 2013 |
After Staff Sargent Mike Whiter returned home from serving his country, he tried to kill himself three times.
Whiter served in the US Marines for 11 years, including combat tours in Kosovo and Iraq. After his medical discharge, Whiter sought help from the Veterans Administration for his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as his physical injuries.
“They put me on 36 different medications in 6 years,” recalls Whiter. “I was on methadone and morphine, benzos, klonopin, xanax, SSRIs…You name a drug, I’ve been on it. I couldn’t sleep, I was having nightmares, I couldn’t leave my house – I was afraid to leave my house.”
Whiter believes that prescription drugs, particularly SSRIs, are contributing to veteran suicides. “SSRIs have suicide listed as a side effect,” Whiter explains. “And they’re giving these pills to people who are already suicidal.”
According to a study released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February of 2013, 22 veterans take their own lives every day – one suicide every 65 minutes. A 2013 survey by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America showed that 30 percent of service members have considered or attempted suicide, and 45 percent reported that they know an Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide. In recent years, there have been significantly more US veteran and military deaths by suicide than in combat.
Hope for Veterans
Mike Whiter’s life today is very different than it was a few years ago. After learning about medical marijuana and PTSD on the Discovery Channel, Whiter believed it might help him.
Since he started using marijuana, Whiter has been able to stop taking all of his prescription medications. No more sleepless nights, no more flashbacks, no more isolation in his home – in fact, Whiter is now the co-director of Philadelphia NORML and the founder of Pennsylvania Veterans for Medical Marijuana. He has been a featured speaker at numerous public events and rallies, unimaginable during the time he suffered from crippling social anxiety due to his PTSD.
“Marijuana saved my life,” Whiter says. “And when I say that, I’m not exaggerating at all. Those medications would have killed me if I hadn’t taken my own life first. The medications that the VA prescribes are killing veterans.”
In addition to relieving his PTSD symptoms, Whiter credits marijuana for enabling him to survive the trauma of withdrawal from numerous medications. “Marijuana got me through opiate withdrawal, it got me through benzo withdrawal, and it got me through SSRI withdrawal,” he recalls. “It’s my medicine.”
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