Marine veteran Logan Edwards worried he could become one of the 22 former members of the armed services who, on average, commit suicide every day.
Then, he says, he tried marijuana.
Edwards, who served eight months in Iraq, is one of an unknown number of veterans who have turned to marijuana to manage Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which may afflict as much as 20 percent of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to experts. The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t let its doctors prescribe weed, so the former service members buy it illegally, fib to their doctors, accept it as a gift, or grow it themselves.
In Edwards’ case, he says the drug may have saved his life.
“The first time I used it, I wanted to cry. Because it took away my anxiety. Because it did everything for me that the Oxycontin, benzodiazepines and anti-depressants the VA prescribed me for three years did not do,” said Edwards, 26, a resident of Davenport, Iowa. His symptoms -– an unrelenting “hyper-vigilance,” insomnia and nightmares -– emerged “the moment we walked off the plane” in 2008.
“I can function completely fine all day just by using cannabis. I’m back in school. My attendance is good. My grades are good. My relationships have healed,” added the former Marine. “It allowed me to get my life back.”
In a March 12 letter, federal health officials approved a long-delayed study to explore if pot relieves PTSD. But doctors employed by the VA are banned from prescribing medical marijuana – and from completing forms that allow veterans to enroll in medical-marijuana programs. While medical weed is legal in 20 states, only eight states recognize PTSD as a qualifying condition for which physicians can write cannabis prescriptions.