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Jul-10-2009 23:52printcomments

PTSD Therapy and Cannabis: Fantasy, Fiction & Fact

Many Vietnam PTSD Vets told me that cannabis/marijuana worked better than any pharmaceutical they were given. I have been given several of these medications and while taking them I would NOT be able to write articles like this.

HMWVV in Iraq
Iraq image by Tim King

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - As many of my readers know, I have PTSD myself some 64 years after battle exposure in WWII. I am also a retired Medical School Professor of Physiology, Pharmacology and Toxicology.

Both backgrounds give me an avid interest in effective PTSD Therapy. I have also successfully treated maybe as many as 1000 PTSD Victim Veterans.

I was somewhat surprised when Vietnam Vets in my care told me that they found marijuana to be very effective against battle terrors and PTSD. Most were Infantry Veterans and they went through Hell before they got sent home.

I knew that very many of my WWII Vets had become alcoholics and many died of this. Back then it was considered sissified to complain about “battle fatigue” but it was OK to get drunk and pass out every night. The only Vets who had VA care were those in VA Psychiatric Hospitals and they were over medicated with barbiturates and powerful tranquilizers. Both turned them into mindless vegetables.

The Nam Vets seem to be the first to get presumed real PTSD treatment in large numbers. The powerful Chlorpromazines such as Thorazine were soon found to be unsatisfactory but the Valium-like anti-anxiety Benzodiazapine drugs were tried. They calmed and put patients to sleep but caused bad addictions.

This called for some new type of therapy. Some PTSD patients exhibit severe depression but this didn’t call for stimulating amphetamines which were also addictive. A new class of anti-depressants were presumed to work. The leading ones were Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil followed by many others. I haven’t found or heard of anyone who felt they were satisfactory. The Tricyclics such as Elavil were tried. They also have bad adverse effects. Then came other newer anti-depressants and they were no better.

The anti-convulsants came next. Neurontin seems to be the most prominent. I took it myself for a few days. It was the WORST mind scrambling and stupefying event of my life.

Some thought anti-adrenaline drugs might work. They didn’t. Finally atypical anti-psychotics showed up. Who said PTSD victims were psychotic?

In the face of unsatisfactory pharmaceutical treatment several new therapies were dreamed up.

It seems that psychologists counseling and group therapy might work (not psychiatrists – they were too expensive). That didn’t work well either. PTSD Vets CANNOT talk about their demons. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy seems to be an offshoot of the above. It doesn’t seem to work either. Then came Virtual Reality Therapy exposing PTSD Victims to battle sounds, artillery, mortars, and heavy machine gun noises. Most of us PTSD Vets CANNOT tolerate that. Then came Art Therapy, Sculpture Therapy, Ecstasy Drug Therapy and Horse Riding Therapy – there are probably more.

As I said in the beginning my Nam PTSD Vets told me that cannabis/marijuana worked better than any pharmaceutical they were given. I have been given several of these medications myself and while taking themm I would NOT be able to write articles like this.

The Marijuana Clinic where I worked now has 65 thousand clients. I’ll bet at least 6 thousand, or 10%, are PTSD Battle Vets. I believe this because about one thousand of my 4 thousand patients were PTSD Vets.



Do you have a a question, comment, or story to share with Dr. Leveque?
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More information on the history of Dr. Leveque can be found in his book, General Patton's Dogface Soldier of WWII about his own experiences "from a foxhole".
Order the book by mail by following this link: Dogface Soldier

If you are a World War II history buff, you don't want to miss it.

Watch for more streaming video question and answer segments about medical marijuana with Bonnie King and Dr. Phil Leveque.

Click on this link for other articles and video segments about PTSD and medical marijuana on


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Thomas M Kettler January 17, 2010 6:22 pm (Pacific time)

I agree mj has been the only thing that Has stopped PTSD nightmares and extreme nausea from an epigastric hernia. But I don't know if my VA provider can approve it. I have been reluctant to explore this further but, I will try on my next appointment. Thank you, tmk

G/2-3; July 14, 2009 5:25 am (Pacific time)

I didn't say it was allowed,we had to be resourceful.

Steve July 13, 2009 1:45 pm (Pacific time)

G 2/3, I don't know where the faked rubber ears were made, but I saw many of them around when I ever got back to the rear, which was only for R and R during my two tours. Later I was medi-vaced to Japan during TET 68. The point I was making was that these fake ear necklaces supposedly from dead nva/vc were used as an example of war crimes by our people. Just recently a columnist in Portland referred to an ear necklace from a deceased from of mine who I knew going back to 2nd grade. It was a fake necklace and was ackowledged as such on the photo the columnist referenced. He treated the ear necklace as the real McCoy, misrepresenting the facts. This happens less frequently now, but it still rankles me. When in fact it was some boozed personnel doing gag pictures. If you were in a unit that allowed pot smoking in a forward area, then that would be a very rare situation. Where was the leadership? I knew many "rear people" who would talk about their pot smoking, but very few in forward areas, though we could smell it on occasion as could the NVA or Charlie. It was SOP to come down hard on any of our people who engaged in any type of bad behavior. We had high enough casualties as it was, so peer pressure kept our "troopers" in line. Sook mau do yami.

Steve July 13, 2009 9:25 am (Pacific time)

This attached story is what not just Vietnam veterans deal with, but all combat veterans. There is so much war story telling fraud out there it is hard to keep up with. Unfortunately these fraudulent people are often used by groups who push an agenda that is usually not favorable to veterans. Please note it is a criminal offense to claim military awards you have not received, and there have been successful prosecutions, and we need more: Alan Erickson the medic story is very interesting, have never heard that method before. I'm a big believer in stopping pain whereever possible.

G/2-3; July 13, 2009 4:18 am (Pacific time)

fake ear necklaces?,where'd the fake ears come from? We did not collect body parts unless they belonged to wounded or dead Marines. Most of the grunts in my platoon smoked it whenever they could lay hands on it,and no we didn't light up under fire. We knew when the best chances of getting away with it were,as it was strictly non-regulation, and smoked accordingly.I still do forty years after.So chuk mai mung!,caw mun,caw mun!

Allan Erickson July 12, 2009 8:07 am (Pacific time)

From the article: The drug problem in Herrick's company was so intense that when Herrick tried to treat wounded soldiers in the wake of a firefight, he frequently found himself short of morphine. "The junkies in my company would raid my morphine whenever they couldn't get their heroin," Herrick explained. "No matter where I put itin my aid bag or in the front pocket of my fatigues or even if I tried to bury it in the bottom of the rucksackit'd always end up gone." Without morphine, Herrick says, he turned to marijuana to medicate the wounded. About a month after he arrived in Vietnam, Herrick's company was patrolling a rubber plantation outside Tay Ninh when it took small-arms fire from what turned out to be a band of Viet Cong. As the crackle of gunfire sounded in the distance, a soldier who had been in-country for only four days fell to the ground, shot through the shoulder. "This kid was 18 years old and scared shitless," said Herrick. "He was sobbing like a banshee. I had no morphine. So I went over to a guy I knew who had just scored and grabbed two joints and gave them to the kid. He fired one up." Herrick moved on to treat the other more badly wounded. Five minutes later, he returned to the kid, "and he was lying against a tree, joking like it was no big thing." Herrick said the firefight at Tay Ninh convinced him of marijuana's value as a painkiller and anxiety-suppressantat least in post-combat situations in which morphine was not available. "I made it a habit from that point on to always dispense marijuana," Herrick said. "I bought it with my own money. Whenever someone got shot, came out of shock and started to feel the pain, he'd usually start screaming. I would hand him a joint. Usually, he'd smoke it. If you got shot and weren't a smoker, you either became one or just shined it and lived with the pain."

Allan Erickson July 12, 2009 8:04 am (Pacific time)

Thanks to Dr. Phil, Tim and Bonnie and all those who stand firm on support of cannabis. For veterans... whatever help they can get, from any source, should be embraced. Particularly when THEY testify something works. I'm a vet (not a combat vet, praise the luck) and know many vets. And because of the work I have done in drug policy over the last 10 -12 years I know a lot of vets who smoke/consume the good herb. If any part of the cannabis debate relies on falsehoods, it comes from those who wish to see it remain illegal. And for a different perspective on Vietnam and cannabis see this article on VN medic Dave Herrick, it is a great read and a must-have article for veterans with an interest in pot - in Vietnam War days and today: US CA: Dave Herrick's Strange Odyssey Through The U.S. War On Drugs, .

Steve July 12, 2009 7:34 am (Pacific time)

Editor thanks for your response and I agree with a large percentage of your comments. I have been involved with Vietnam veterans since the 1960's, both on a personal level as well as clinical. Each individual brings with them their unique set of circumstances. From my many converstions with my brothers (and a few sisters, mostly RN's, who have an incredibly high level of PTSD) was the stereotypes that have been continually put on us. This is based on gross misinformation, often perpetuated by the Hollywood mythmakers, and no doubt by many people who seem to just enjoy lying about us, and even well intentioned folks who just don't have correct information or do not expand their information base. My goal is to see that all veterans are treated with respect and that they get the most comprehensive treatments available. Too often, as the above article illustrates, we have been test subjects for some clowns doing research. The latter of course goes back many generations, for example exposing us to atomic blasts, new drugs, whatever. My point is that the false stereotyping has been a significant obstacle in the healing process. Quite often information on Vietnam veterans has been done by unscientifically constructed survey questionaires. For example one of these was done in the nations correctional system and it innitially showed a huge percentage of Nam vets incarcerated. When they did a more formal study they found just the opposite was true, but that never got the same coverage to help dispell that falsehood. That is just one of many falsehoods and continues to perpetuate the stereotypes of combat veterans. Fake ear necklaces were quite common in Nam and I have seen many people in photos wearing them, but they have all been fake from my experience.

Tacoma Hemp Company July 11, 2009 8:31 pm (Pacific time)

i also help a lot of vets, young and old treat their PTSD with medical cannabis. it's funny how they all say the same thing, that it's the first thing that ever REALLY worked to help out..

Storm Crow July 11, 2009 5:47 pm (Pacific time)

These are titles from studies and articles from my "Granny Storm Crow's list". Please run a search on my list and read the studies. "Israel to soothe soldiers with marijuana", "Study: Marijuana Eases Traumatic Memories", "Medical Marijuana: PTSD Medical Malpractice", "Cannabis for the Wounded - Another Walter Reed Scandal", "PTSD and Cannabis: A Clinician Ponders Mechanism of Action", "Cannabis Eases Post Traumatic Stress", "Natural high helps banish bad memories", "The use of a synthetic cannabinoid in the management of treatment-resistant nightmares in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)." From the titles alone you should be able to tell that cannabis is an effective medicine for PTSD.

Steve July 11, 2009 1:27 pm (Pacific time)

I've known Vietnam vets who have smoked pot for 40+ years. Most were rear eschelon people who never got into the bush and most likely smoked pot and did other drugs while in Nam. I know of no frontline combatant who did pot or any other drugs while in the field. I know many who said they did, then after a few questions regarding their actual combat status we can usually tell they're BSing. You would have to have a complete breakdown in leadership and everyone would have to be suicidal to allow drug use of any kind while on a S and D, S and C, or any other type of combat mission. Those who smoke pot regularly that I know who served in combat while in Vietnam have not done very well in their lives compared to those who remained pot free. Of course alcohol has taken it's toll, but the most successful Nam combat vets simply found other ways to focus in dealing with their PTSD (which comes in many levels). I would like to see the above author provide some clinical studies that show how pot has helped in comparison to other therapies. There were millions of us who served in Vietnam, but only about 10% were combatants, so there are a lot of BSer's out there from my experience. Still the Vietnam vet has a far more stable life than his same age civilian cohort. Ditto for the Iraqi/Afghanistan veterans.

Editor: I have contact with a large number of people who used marijuana while in Vietnam.  I wasn't there so I can not speak directly to it.  I do know that this is a very common video showing troops smoking very openly and seemingly regularly, from a shotgun:  That video certainly gives the viewer a different version of Vietnam than you do. 

Also, I am personally acquainted with Nancy Steinbeck, the widow of John Steinbeck IV whose father wrote Cannery Row, Grapes of Wrath, etc.  When John returned from Vietnam he wrote an article for the Washintonian called "Why Everyone is Stoned in Vietnam".  Westmoreland came out immediately claiming "nobody is using marijuana in Vietnam".  Well, we know how much stock we should take in that, right?  In the end people who are straight that believe people around them are not stoned, are simply being led to believe that. 

I have spent time covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and there are plenty of combat troops using drugs.  For the record, I mean no disrespect to your point.  I think people baked to the gills on a S&D mission could be very poorly situated, but many vets have taught me that there was a popular saying over there that, "at least he died stoned"

As to clinical studies, I am very sure you know that the law structure thus far has prevented such things from taking place, or the government simply buries the information because once again, marijuana doesn't come out poorly on studies. 

Dr. Leveque says there are the standard scenarios that people go through; the VA wants to pile morphine-based drugs on vets, other vets turn to alcohol (Which is several, possibly a thousand times worse than any natural herb)  and some simply have the steel in their personalities to live a straight life.  I have a son who is a two tour Iraq vet that is on VA drugs for PTSD and is a highly functioning law enforcement officer at the top of his game.  I wish every veteran could have this type of success, but then my son's family understands a thing or two about PTSD and war and we are ever supportive.  That is probably, based on my interviews with soldiers and Marines in Iraq last summer about PTSD, the single most important thing: family support. 

Pot is an easy answer for some, in spite of the BS propaganda from the pharmaceutical companies and a few remaining mostly GOP politicians and drug war warriors who cling to the "Reefer Madness" notion.  The truth, played out over the course of thousands of years, is that it doesn't destroy a person's body or mind, and it allows them to actually find something that once had in their lives, before the horrors of war, and that is peace. 

In your words I see many things that Dr. Leveque says and reflects.  We interviewed him for two solid hours in our studios today for the PTSD documentary we are working on.  Please just try to look at cannabis with the attitide that no veterans should be denied anything that helps - that is the point. 

The Canadian and Israeli Veteran's Administration's are both administering marijuana today for PTSD.  We covered the one in Canada, Canada: Feds to Pay for Military Veterans Medical Marijuana .  Again, I respect your position and certainly your service, even if  I disagree with one or two of your points.  You suggest that veterans who used pot didn't turn out as well as those who did not.  Well, I have seen the dead opposite and so has Dr. Leveque.  Please remember that he treated over 400 Vietnam Vet PTSD sufferers, and they loved him.  Our goal in life is not to see all veterans using medical marijuana, but if it is truly the best answer as so many vets tell us. then we certainly think they should be able to do that. 

War is a rotten SOB and the biggest problem when it comes to ALL of this, is the number of psycologists and politicians who want to trash veterans over their psycological injuries.  They are mobilizing and on the move because they know taking care of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans has a high price tag and they are trying to get out from under it.  That makes me have thoughts that I shouldn't have, it causes me to feel genuine hatred and it isn't a good feeling.  I spent time last night studying Sally Satel, who is one of the right's leading PTSD combat veteran's enemies.  She comes right out and says things about veterans that would make your blood just boil.  Damn the non veterans who think they know about PTSD and how to treat combat veterans.  This country treats veterans like dirt.  Bigger fish to fry in my opinion than pot.

Thanks for your comment.    

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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