CANNAHEALTH The Opioid Epidemic - Page 39

Sure enough, within a couple of minutes, the patient comes back to the present. Audibly exhausted, he calls for his wife. She leaves a dirty dish in the sink, shuts the water off, and opens a kitchen cabinet. She removes a small lock box from the cabinet and turns to move into the living room.

“You’re okay. You’re okay.” The patient’s wife repeats this mantra as she moves to the other side of the couch. Her husband is soaked with sweat and hoarse from this episode. Together, they plop down on the couch and take turns sighing deeply.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, an estimated 31% of male Vietnam War veterans suffer from PTSD. My patient in this story is a Vietnam veteran. He was drafted, plucked from his home in upstate New York when he was barely nineteen years old. He was shot at in the deep jungles of Vietnam. His young friends, mostly twenty-something's, were killed. He was one of five survivors in a platoon of over forty men. And he relived this nightmare nearly every day depending on his stress level. Beyond this, he didn’t sleep for more than a few hours every night if he slept at all.

His wife fiddled with the box and opened the lid as she handed it to her husband. He took out a small pipe and a medicine bottle. Out of the medicine bottle came a pinch of bright

green cannabis. The pungent aroma filled the room before my patient even started smoking it.

“We’ve decided that this is better than Ativan, and all those other drugs that he’s been prescribed I hope you don’t mind.” My patient’s wife explained to me as my patient lit his pipe. He took three puffs and exhaled the smoke away from where myself and his wife were sitting.

Within a few minutes, my much more relaxed patient explained some of the horrors that he had experienced while serving his country, “I can hear them screaming sometimes when I’m just going about my day. One of my brothers took four bullets in his back. He died in my arms, begging to go home. Some days, not an hour goes by when I don’t think about him.”

My patient continued to qualify his cannabis use to me as if I was just another healthcare professional about to pass judgment, “I’m supposed to be stopping this stuff. I have a substance abuse problem. I shouldn’t be doing this, but it’s the only thing that helps.”

“If it helps, then that’s what matters.” I said.