Last week a Michigan advisory panel voted to put post-traumatic stress disorder on the list of medical conditions that can legally be treated with marijuana. A final decision on the request could be made soon.
If approved, PTSD would be the first debilitating medical condition added to the list since 2008. But some people question whether or not using marijuana will help people with PTSD.
Hypervigilance, sleeplessness, irritability, anger, and recklessness, are just some of the things that people with PTSD deal with on a regular basis according to Linda Fletcher. Fletcher is the CEO for "A Matter of Honor," a new Traverse City organization that helps educate the community on PTSD.
"It creates a situation where it's difficult to reintegrate into society," said Fletcher. "When you are that uncomfortable with yourself it is difficult to become comfortable in regular social situation."
Fletcher says it's important not to close doors on options for people with PTSD, and that exploring the use of medical marijuana could be beneficial. But she also says that researchers need to focus on the cause of PTSD, and ways to eliminate the symptoms rather than covering them up.
"I think that medical marijuana may be instrumental in reducing the symptoms that are stress related in post-traumatic stress disorder but I don't believe that it's going to attack the cause," said Fletcher. "It's not designed to. The concept doesn't even target cause. But it's time for us as a society to begin to look at cause and not just symptom management."
Supporters of the change claim it can improve the lives of the thousands of people in Michigan who are suffering from PTSD.
"A lot of the drugs that can be prescribed are actually harmful and highly addicting and these would include antipsychotics, and antidepressants," said Chris Lindsey Legislative Analyst for Marijuana Policy Project. "It's not clear how helpful they actually are so we believe strongly that there should be an option available so that doctors and their patients can explore safer alternatives."
If approved, Michigan would become the eighth state to legalize marijuana use for PTSD. Current states include, California, Connecticut, Oregon, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine and New Mexico. Lindsey says that doctors in these states have seen improvements in their patients who use marijuana, but that U.S. restrictions prevent them from doing any extensive research to determine whether or not PTSD is actually improved with marijuana use.
"At this point we really don't have very many options but to listen to the veterans, the victims of domestic violence who say it helps them, to listen to their doctors who know that their conditions improve over time," said Lindsey.
Lindsey says the disorder can affect anyone who has suffered a traumatic event, not just war veterans.
The final decision is now in the hands of Steve Arwood, the director of a state agency that oversees the medical marijuana program.