Reefer madness

Women suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of sexual assaults are being prescribed psychiatric medicines, even though there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that medical cannabis is another potential solution
By Ariela Bankier
D., a 26-year-old woman from the north of Israel, says she began to suffer from nightmares about seven years ago, after her partner raped her. After undergoing various forms of therapy, she thought she had largely put the trauma behind her. Then, two years ago, she chanced to see the rapist not far from her home. The nightmares came swarming back.

“I fell into a depression that went on until not long ago, during which I hardly slept or ate,” she says in a quiet voice. “My whole life turned upside down. I left my job. Everything came to a stop. I went back to taking antidepressants and tranquilizers – Cipralex, Lustral and Prozac; sleeping pills that made me addicted. It was a nightmare. There was no way I could get through the day without those pills. Then I discovered cannabis.”
Of approximately 6,000 Israelis currently being treated with medical cannabis (aka medical marijuana ), most suffer from chronic pain and terminal illnesses. The therapeutic potential of cannabis has been known for many years and is recognized by the Health Ministry. But many patients – for example, victims of sexual assault who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) and have a psychiatric recommendation for treatment with medical cannabis – encounter bureaucratic obstacles.

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A year and a half ago, Dr. Yehuda Baruch – the chair of the Health Ministry’s advisory board for medical cannabis – recognized the effectiveness of the substance for PTSD sufferers. Within a year, 142 requests by such patients for treatment were approved. Dozens of soldiers who suffer from PTSD as a result of their army service were, and continue to be, treated with medical cannabis, with the authorization and support of the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Defense. However, victims of sexual assault have been left out in the cold.
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