Original article posted on CNN Health: The Chart
By Jennifer Bixler – CNN Medical Executive Producer
July 7, 2010
Kevin Grimsinger dreads the night. He often wakes up with searing memories of what happened years ago. Grimsinger, 42, is a former special forces medic. He served in Kosovo and the first Gulf War. Grimsinger’s life changed in 2001, when he stepped on a land mine in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He lost parts of both his legs and broke his back. But it’s the injuries you can’t see that he says are the worst.
“I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. When I do sleep, it is broken up because of nightmares,” Grimsinger said during a recent conversation from his Colorado home.
Along with chronic pain and anxiety, doctors have diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Grimsinger says marijuana is the only thing that helps him sleep and keeps the demons at bay. “I don’t smoke to get high. I smoke to take care of my pain and my spasms and to eat,” says Grimsinger.
On Wednesday, Grimsinger petitioned the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to add PTSD to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana. The department received its first petition to add PTSD in May. According to Mark Salley, Communications Director for the department, it is creating an advisory committee to establish rules for consideration to add ailments for authorization for medical marijuana. Grimsinger already is eligible to use medical marijuana for his chronic pain. He says he filed the new petition for others who suffer from PTSD. “It’s not for me … it’s for the thousands of veterans and civilians who are suffering on a daily basis,” he says.
Medical marijuana is legal in 14 states. Only one other state, New Mexico, allows PTSD to be treated with it. According to a 2008 Rand Corporation study, nearly 20 percent of military veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from PTSD or depression.
But does marijuana help with PTSD? According to Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, director of the Substance Abuse and Anxiety Program at the National Center for PTSD & Center for Health Care Evaluation, at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there is no evidence to suggest marijuana is effective. Still, veterans like Grimsinger say using marijuana allows them to function. “I don’t know if it took my pain away or took my head away from the pain,” he says. “It lets me lead an active, productive life.”