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Treat PTSD With Medical Cannabis

State Department of Health

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a debilitating condition for many combat veterans in Hawai’i.  Now, these vets have options for treatment – including medical cannabis -- that could ease their PTSD symptoms.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

The Veterans Administration estimates between 20 and 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the U-S.  Many suffer from various degrees of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Patrick DeBusca, acting director, Honolulu Vet Center

“Of course it’s troubling.  I think one suicide a day is troubling.  There’s no good number there.”

Patrick DeBusca, Junior, is the acting director at the Honolulu Vet Center.  He says the center does not provide medical services…but veterans today have alternative treatment available outside the VA system. 

“The Veterans Choice Program was created for some time and so they do have the option to seek private providers in the community for medical care and a variety of treatments.”

The VA Pacific Islands Health Care System at Tripler Army Medical Center declined HPR’s request for an interview.  But cannabis or marijuana is a U-S Drug Enforcement Agency illegal schedule one substance and cannot be prescribed by federal agencies like the

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Dr. Thomas Cook, psychiatrist

VA.   Dr. Thomas Cook is a psychiatrist in private practice in Honolulu.  He treats a number of veterans under the Choice Program.

“I have a lot of veterans who will come see me and they’re on 5 medicines.  Usually, they’re prescribed Serotonin drugs, anti-psychotics, sedatives like Benzodiazepine, like Klonapin, Valium.  And we’ll transition them to medical marijuana and within 6 months time, they get off most of the meds.”

Dr. Cook says cannabis is a natural medicine and PTSD patients do not have to take it daily for treatment.  Paul Klink is the medical director and owner of the Honolulu Wellness Center.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Paul Klink, Honolulu Wellness Center

“This is the silver bullet for PTSD.  A lot of veterans, a  lot of people who’ve been through horrible experiences in their lives, they cannot sleep, they havenightmares, they have horrible anxiety, horrible stress, insufferable insomnia.  The first time they experience the medicine, they get the best night of sleep they can remember.  They don’t remember their dreams.  They wake up more normal than they have since whatever the event that triggered their PTSD.”

Klink is also a patient who says medical cannabis saved his life following a stroke in 2015.

“I was on 420 opiate pills a month.  When I started taking cannabis, I’m on none now.  The hardest thing I did in my life was stop taking a medicine prescribed to me.  Prescribed by doctors.”

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Brian Goldstein, Noa Botannicals

Brian Goldstein is the founder and CEO of Noa Botannicals which began selling medical cannabis earlier this month.  He says the company has highly qualified physicians on its medical advisory board, headed by a research leader.

“We have Dr. Sue Sisley.  She is the principle investigator and the only FDA approved clinical trials for whole plant smoked cannabis in the world that is looking at the efficacy of smoked cannabis in the treatment of PTSD in veterans And she is our medical director.”

In my next report, medical cannabis proponents take on the Opioid epidemic in the U-S.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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