By 2014, waves of soldiers surged in the tides of our modern wars, with 2.7 million veterans lost in the detritus of conflict, as compared to Vietnam's 2.6 million. Both populations amplifying the undercurrents of the veteran suicide tsunami, inundating our communities. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the third highest psychiatric diagnosis for returning veterans, erodes buoyancy and dulls surfing the edges of sanity. The veteran rates of PTSD are 9% when returning, with a sharp liquid curve up to 31% a year later.
Swimming in the undercurrents, therapists report higher rates where 50% seeking help, only half get minimum treatment, thus triggering a seaquake spraying untreated veterans across communities, prisons and institutions. Army vets wash up in 67% of PTSD cases, where 19% received a traumatic brain injury, and 7% have both. Preceded by the military suicide epidemic, add bias in reporting veterans accidental deaths, plus under-reported statistics and treatment, and no central data veterans ride the white-capped waves suffering in silence, through ineffective systems, pour in poor record keeping from institutions, sets a consummate storm.
In the deep-sea of misery, the re-experiencing of vivid and graphic memories take form, in and out of reality. Often no memories and sometimes we cannot forget, a deluge of fears, repeating disturbing intrusions, running from bombs and bullets the green ghosts skip across the periscope screen. Studies point to previous trauma with increased risk and severity deepens when the soldier killed, failed to save a comrade, handled the dead, and saw atrocities. Tumbling further for veterans incarcerated, victims of military sexual trauma (MST), multiple deployments, childhood traumatization and or have substance abuse issues, all increasing suicidal behavior and risk taking. Rising tides in women veterans issues, higher rates of childhood abuse, MST, domestic violence and assault combined with combat increases the stress response and plunges with amputees and prisoners of war, where 37% are more likely to succumb to suicide. To cope, many veterans self medicate, often leading to substance abuse and an exacerbated mental health.
Where 39% abuse alcohol and 3% harder drugs, an increasing number of veterans are turning to cannabis to quell the agitating flashbacks, regurgitating anxiety attacks, gushing nightmares and flooding dissociation. Veterans using cannabis to quell the storm, report higher coping and increased resilience, significant anxiety reduction and a better quality of sleep, plus a full range of emotions to include joy and happiness. The hypothalamus and amygdala mediate stress through the endocannabinoid and limbic systems, tripping or skipping over the flight or fight survival mechanism. Cannabinoids function in fear extinction, role switching, and regulating the neuroendocrine system governing behavioral responses, resetting the mind's ocean; with calm, deep and cool convections. To quell the veteran suicide tsunami claiming 112,000 lives in the last 14 years, make cannabis legal and available to veterans.