Medical marijuana a growing choice of PTSD victims

Time did not heal all of the wounds inflicted on Lance Cpl. David Counts during the Korean War.

“I shouldn’t be here, but I did make it back,” said the former Marine Corps truck driver.

“The things I’ve seen in my life, it’s not been good,” said Counts, who copes with post-traumatic stress disorder by smoking medical marijuana. “It stays with me every day.”

Veterans Affairs physicians prescribed 10 drugs, including those for anxiety and depression, for Counts. He recently started using medical marijuana after a VA nurse recommended it to him, even thought it’s an illegal drug under federal law, he said.

“I’m gonna try and get off some of these pills,” Counts said. “I wasn’t feeling right.”

The VA wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects and allows the optimum level of independence, Veterans Affairs spokesman Richard Beam said.

For a growing number of veterans, their choice is medical marijuana. “They like marijuana. It helps anxiety,” Beam said.

A fix is in the works. The Veterans Equal Access Act was introduced by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., on Nov. 20 to allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans. No hearings have been held on the bill yet.

Nevada’s medical marijuana law was approved by the Legislature in 2001, and medical marijuana dispensaries approved by the 2013 Legislature are expected to start opening for business early next year.

But because the drug’s use remains illegal under federal law, VA medical staff cannot prescribe, recommend or mention it as a possible alternative medication, despite the fact that some veterans cite adverse effects from the legal drugs they’re using, Beam said.

There are several instances of local veterans who have experienced life-threatening consequences from the side effects of their prescription medications.

Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson was shot and killed by Las Vegas police in December after he became disoriented while driving to his apartment complex during a gap in refilling his anxiety medication. The shooting happened after officers responded to a call about a suspicious person.

Former Army Reserve soldier Joseph Patrick Lamoureux, an Iraq War veteran, was on at least 14 drugs, including anxiety medication, steroids and antidepressants prescribed for combat stress and a respiratory problem, when he went on a shooting spree in 2008 in Pahrump. One Nye County deputy sheriff was wounded, but no one was killed.

Gulf War veteran Adam Kelley shot and killed himself while sitting in his truck behind a Las Vegas sandwich shop in 2004. He had been relying on pharmaceutical medication to treat PTSD. His mother said he was on several types of medication to treat both his mental illness and his physical problems. The medication made him sick, she said.

MORE PTSD SCREENING

Rigorous screening, awareness and education are responsible for a recent increase in the number of combat veterans who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is about 10 percent to 15 percent, Beam said.

“My father was a Korean War veteran. Nobody asked him questions,” Beam said. “My father never got help for PTSD. He was a heavy drinker for a number of years.”

Today things are “significantly better,” Beam said. All service members returning from combat are screened for PTSD.

They are asked a series of questions about their war experiences, sleeping habits, dreams, mood and temper at the VA’s transition center, whose purpose is to “ensure returning combat veterans experience a smooth transition from the warfront to the homefront,” according to VA Transition Center’s website.

“I get night sweats. Sometimes my pillowcase is soaking wet,” said Counts of his PTSD symptoms. “It gets you down.”

The new procedures are likely to catch early-onset PTSD but leave an extensive gap for veterans whose symptoms don’t manifest until later. Sometimes they will show up months or even years later, Beam said.

The VA diagnosed Counts with PTSD in 2002, 15 years after he stepped into a combat zone. The psychiatrist told him, “It don’t hit everybody right away,” he said.

The number of soldiers who show symptoms of PTSD, about 30 percent, is nearly double that of soldiers who have been diagnosed with the disorder, Beam said.

PTSD is vastly under-reported because of the negative stigma attached to mental illness in America, Beam said. Some soldiers fear that a diagnosis would be a “career-ender,” which Beam said is “not even close to being true.”

There is a tendency for soldiers to think “if you’re depressed, you’re weak,” Beam said. “A broken bone is a broken bone. There is no stigma attached.”

Most veterans whose PTSD goes untreated attempt to self-medicate with a combination of alcohol and drugs, Beam said.

For the veterans who receive treatment, Beam said the biggest challenge is “trying to find the right medicine in the right dose.”

VEGAS FOUNDATION HELPS

More than two-thirds of the clients at the Las Vegas medical marijuana advocacy group Karma Holistic Health Foundation are elderly and/or veterans who seek help for PTSD or pain, said foundation founder Dee Powers.

She feels so passionately about the positive effect medical marijuana has on those with PTSD that she offers a 10 percent discount to veterans, hoping they will at least try the alternative medicine, Powers said.

“Happiness, love, positiveness” are all side effects of medical marijuana that Powers has witnessed in PTSD patients, she said.

Powers started the foundation in 2013, when her mother came to live with her. She said her mother was taking so many prescription pills, she could hardly speak. Powers thought, “There’s gotta be another option,” she said.

The time-consuming process to obtain a Nevada medical marijuana ID card prompted Powers to start a business that would streamline the process and “help people get their medicine,” Powers said. “I saw a huge need.”

There are 6,541 active medical marijuana patient cards in Nevada, nearly 75 percent of which belong to Clark County residents, according to an October report from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

There is a lot of information on the benefits of medical marijuana that the public needs to know, Powers said.

“Kids aren’t gonna go into mom’s medicine cabinet and grab a joint. It’s gonna be pills or alcohol,” Powers said. The risks of medical marijuana are far less than pharmaceuticals and alcohol, she said.

Veterans who walk into the holistic health foundation’s office have everything they need to get their medical marijuana card in less than 20 minutes, Powers said. They could have the alternative medication delivered directly to their home that day.

Wait times at VA facilities vary, but to schedule a standard appointment, a veteran typically could expect to wait two to three months, Beam said. Emergency rooms, however, are available for more acute needs.

Beam said there is a growing body of evidence that medical marijuana needs to be studied further.

The VA is not conducting any research on the medical use of the plant, simply because federal law prohibits it, Beam said.

PTSD sufferers who are using medical marijuana should inform their doctors because a wrong combination of medications could be dangerous, Beam said.

“The VA wouldn’t make a moral judgment,” Beam said of the VA’s self-disclosed medical marijuana users.

“We’ve got patients we know are using marijuana,” Beam said. “We have to look at the ethical boundaries, but we’re not gonna kick out a veteran.”

It is most crucial that veterans showing signs of PTSD seek help, because the sooner treatment begins, the better, Beam said.

Doing so is nothing more than saying, “I need someone to coach me through this. Even Mike Tyson had a coach,” he added.

Contact Kimberly De La Cruz at kdelacruz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @KimberlyinLV on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Hundreds Attend Slides, Rides and Rock and Roll in North Las Vegas
Hundreds attended the inaugural slides, rides and rock and roll event in North Las Vegas Saturday. The event featured a car show, water slide park and live music. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It's All Rainbows At The Center's New Cafe
The Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) introduced its new coffeeshop, Little Rainbow Cafe, in June. Rainbows are everywhere, even in the lattes and toast, and employees wear t-shirts with the quote "Be a rainbow in someone's cloud." Owner Ben Sabouri said the concept is "built around the idea of, you know, be kind and treat everybody the same." (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a Rainbow Latte at the The Center's Little Rainbow Cafe
The Center, a community center for the LGBTQ community of Southern Nevada, has a new cafe. Little Rainbow Cafe serves up a pride-inspired signature "Rainbow Latte." (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed trying to cross Sahara
A pedestrian was killed Friday trying to cross Sahara Avenue near Maryland Parkway about 5 a.m. A sedan struck the pedestrian while the person was outside the crosswalk between Maryland Parkway and Pardee Place, according to Las Vegas police. Police also said the driver of the sedan remained at the site of the crash. The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene. This is the 75th fatal crash that Las Vegas police have investigated in 2018.
Man shot multiple times
Las Vegas police are investigating after a man was shot multiple times early Friday morning. The shooting was called in about 3:20 a.m. at the Harbor Island Apartments, 370 E. Harmon Ave., near Koval Lane. The man was hospitalized and is expected to survive, but police are still searching for the shooter.
Former Military Police Corps Officer Celebrates 100th Birthday
Summerlin resident Gene Stephens, who served as a military policeman in WWII and escorted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and President Roosevelt during the war, turned 100 on July 13, 2018. He credits his longevity to living a normal life, exercising regularly and eating three square meals a day. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Motorcyclist suffers serious injuries
A motorcycle rider was seriously injured Tuesday night after a crash on Charleston Boulevard. The crash was reported just before 10 p.m. near Durango Drive, according to Las Vegas police. The motorcyclist was hospitalized with unknown injuries but is expected to survive. Las Vegas police are investigating the cause of the accident.
CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara Has Lunch With Students
New Clark County School District superintendent Jesus Jara continued his listening tour by having lunch with students at Red Rock Elementary School as part of the district's summer lunch program. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of 18 can find a free lunch at 104 different locations across the valley through the summer months. Jara highlighted the free program and the importance of eating healthy during his visit. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Timeline Leading Up to Scott Dozier's Execution
Scott Dozier is set to be executed by lethal injection the night of July 11 at Ely State Prison. Dozier was convicted of the April 2002 killing of 22-year-old Jeremiah Miller and was given the death penalty in Oct. 2007. In 2016 Dozier asked in a letter to District Judge Jennifer Togliatti requesting that he “be put to death.” A three-drug cocktail of midazolam, a sedative; the painkiller fentanyl; and cisatracurium, a paralytic, is expected to end his life. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Program Helps Mothers Battling Addiction
Jennifer Stanert has battled drug addiction on and off for the last 21 years. It caused her to lose custody of one of her children, Alec, after she gave birth while high. A new program at Dignity Health St. Rose Dominican Hospitals aims to connect mothers like Stanert with community resources and provide case management services while still pregnant to get connected to lactation and parenting classes, group peer support and education on neonatal abstinence syndrome. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Felon caught with guns in Mandalay Bay room 3 years before Las Vegas shooting
A felon was caught with guns in a Mandalay Bay hotel room three years before the October 1st mass shooting. Six weapons were found inside Kye Aaron Dunbar’s 24th floor room in November 2014. Four were semi-automatic. One was a scoped rifle pointing toward the Strip, according to court documents. Dunbar was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison for unlawful possession. The case just came to light in a lawsuit accusing Mandalay Bay of negligence in connection with the Oct. 1st shooting.
Illegal fireworks in the Las Vegas area garner complaints
Clark County received nearly 25,000 complaints over the Independence Day holiday on a new illegal fireworks site. Reports from the site led to at least 10 illegal fireworks busts across the valley overnight. As of Thursday morning, the county is still compiling the total number of citations issued.
House fire displaces 2 people
Two people were displaced after a house fire early Thursday morning. The fire, at 963 Temple Drive in east Las Vegas, was reported just after midnight, according to a battalion chief from the Clark County Fire Department. Crews from the North Las Vegas and Las Vegas fire departments also were called in to help. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"Red White and Boom" July 4 Fireworks at the Stratosphere
Full video of the Fourth of July "Red White and Boom" fireworks show at the Stratosphere as seen from the 8th floor Elation Pool. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
July 4th fireworks at the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite
July 4th fireworks at the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite. (7-04-18) (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Crowds Enjoy Fireworks at the Stratosphere
Revelers enjoyed watching fireworks displays from the Stratosphere's 8th floor Elation pool on July 4. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed in Henderson
A pedestrian trying to cross St. Rose Parkway at Bermuda was hit by a vehicle on Tuesday night and later died. The crash was reported around 11:30 p.m. Las Vegas police responded initially, but handed over the investigation to Henderson police once it was determined the accident happened in their jurisdiction. Las Vegas police did respond to a report of a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle on the Strip. The person, who was hit by a BMW near Fashion Show mall, suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.
USPS owes $3.5 million for using Vegas Statue of Liberty on stamp
The United States Postal Service has been ordered to pay $3.5 million to a sculptor after using the Las Vegas replica of the Statue of Liberty in a stamp. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Officer Brent Horlacher shoots at Jessie Murillo
Las Vegas police video of an officer-involved shooting on June 29, 2018. Officer Brent Horlacher, 28, fired a single shot at suspect Jessie Murillo. Murillo was not injured. The radio audio is of the officer who fired the gun and the body camera video is from a different officer. Radio audio excerpts are added to the video and are not the precise times the audio was spoken.
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
UNLV professor cautions dangers of distracted walking
An alarming number of adults do not cross the street safely according to a study conducted by professor Tim Bungum of the School of Community Health Sciences at the UNLV. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas-Review Journal) @brokejournalist
Car left in remote desert 21 years is recovered for late owner's children
Showboat casino blackjack dealer Mark Blackburn died outside of White Hills, Ariz. 21 years ago. His 1980 Datsun B310 wagon remained in the remote desert until a network of volunteers recovered the car for his children. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resort on Mount Charleston Sold for $4.8 million
North Carolina couple and hoteliers Deanna and Colin Crossman have purchased the Resort on Mount Charleston for $4.8 million. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic stop turns into officer-involved shooting
Las Vegas police are investigating after an officer fired a shot at a suspect fleeing a traffic stop early Friday morning. The officer tried to pull over a black Dodge Durango with license plates that belonged to a different vehicle. The driver took off northbound on Lamb Boulevard and at one point crossed into the southbound lanes. A man got out of the car and fled on foot. During the chase, the officer saw something in the man’s hand and fired a single shot, police said. The man wasn’t injured and was later taken into custody. Police could not confirm if the man had a weapon when he was arrested. This is the 9th officer involved shooting of 2018. Per police policy, the identity of the officer will be released after 48 hours. 01:05
5 Dead in Shooting at Capital Gazette Newspaper in Maryland
5 Dead in Shooting at Capital Gazette Newspaper in Maryland Five people have been killed and two have been injured in a "targeted attack" at the newspaper, which is owned by the Baltimore Sun. Anne Arundel County deputy police chief Bill Krampf said the suspected gunman entered the building with a shotgun and walked through the lower level of the building, where the newspaper is housed. According to Krampf, the suspect "possibly" had a connection to the paper through social media. The suspect was identified as Jarrod Warren Ramos. Ramos filed a defamation claim in 2012 against the paper but the case was dismissed. He is currently in custody. President Trump was briefed on the events.
Clark County Fire inspects fireworks booths
Clark County Fire Prevention Inspector Amanda Wildermuth talks about inspecting fireworks booths to keep everyone safe on Fourth of July. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Robbery suspects apprehended
Four robbery suspects were taken into custody Thursday morning after a vehicle and foot chase that ended in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. The incident began when a person was robbed at gunpoint around 4:45 a.m. near Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn. Officers arriving at the scene tried to stop two vehicles. One vehicle escaped but police chased the second into a neighborhood on Flamingo Road near Mountain Vista Street. Police surrounded the neighborhood and the suspects were apprehended. It looked like one police vehicle was involved in a collision with the suspects' car. One woman suffered an unknown injury and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. 01:04
Las Vegas Monsoon and Flood Season Are Approaching
The Clark County Flood Control District held a press conference to remind the public that monsoon season begins in July and runs through September. The exceptionally rainy season brings with it dangerous flooding events that can put the public in danger. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garage catches fire in central valley
No one was injured after a detached garage caught fire early Wednesday morning on Lawry Avenue near Lake Mead Boulevard and MLK. Crews from the Las Vegas Fire Department responded to a fire call just after 2 a.m. When they arrived, firefighters had to cut holes in the roof to clear out smoke inside the garage so firefighters could enter safely, The cause of the fire is still under investigation. No injuries were reported.
Local
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's 7th annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ranging from ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like