By Katie Drummond
By the time Sgt. Ryan Begin obtained his medical marijuana card last March, he’d already hit rock bottom.
During his second deployment to Iraq in 2004, Sgt. Begin was evacuated to Maryland’s Bethesda Naval Hospital after enduring an IED attack that left him with a stump for a right arm. The years that followed were a haze of prescription drugs, arrests, overdoses and stints in several mental institutions.
“My life went downhill from the moment I came back from Iraq,” Begin, now a 31-year-old veteran, tells Danger Room. “Doctors at Bethesda had me on so much, and on such high doses of everything, that I didn’t even know what was a symptom and what was a side effect.”
At one point, Begin, diagnosed with PTSD shortly after coming home, was taking more than 100 pills a day. So many that he would stuff dozens of bottles into a backpack to lug everywhere he went. Now, he’s cut his dependency on prescriptions to zero. Their replacement? Five joints a day.
“Using marijuana balances me out,” he says. “It takes those peaks and valleys of PTSD and it softens them. It makes my life manageable.”
Begin’s now launched an online petition asking the feds to change their course on marijuana as a treatment for PTSD. In September, the first-ever study proposed to evaluate marijuana as a potential treatment for PTSD was blocked by officials at the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA). With an estimated 37 percent of this generation’s vets afflicted with PTSD, and a dearth of effective treatment options available, Begin thinks pot deserves, at the very least, a single study.
Over 12,000 people in 40 states have signed his petition so far, most of them in the past three days. And Begin has been inundated with e-mails from vets who are both supportive and curious. “If I come out and admit ‘this works for me,’ they want to know whether it’ll work for them,” he says. “That’s why we need research.”
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By Katie Drummond