Derek's Story: Medicinal Marijuana Use In The Treatment Of Psychological Trauma

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From the start of his career as a volunteer firefighter/paramedic in the Pittsburg area at the remarkably young age of 16, through his advancement to Chief Flight Paramedic and Outreach Education Coordinator managing three different air rescue bases in northern Arizona, Derek had seen his share of tragedy.

His training and seniority often put him right in the middle of the most horrific accident scenes, and fatalities were an all-too-frequent part of the job. Dealing with those fatalities, be they men, women or children, or even the men and women he worked with and often trained among the ranks of emergency response professionals in Arizona both in the air and on the ground, was also part of the job.

“Among all the living species on Earth, human beings are the only ones who have learned to stop the dying process,†he says. “I was getting in the way of the Grim Reaper, sometimes head-on. On some days we won, and on some days we didn’t.â€
Occasionally, those losses extended to the men and women that he worked with.

“In my 20 years on the job,†he relates, “I personally knew five people who committed suicide.â€

Derek, however, appeared to be one of the last people who would fall prey to the kind of psychologically traumatic burn-out that plagues firefighters and medics to the extreme point of taking their own lives. From a very young age, when he slid his bike down a street in the rural area of Pennsylvania 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh where he grew up, was run over by a car and then saved from a lifetime of facial disfigurement by the actions of a volunteer paramedic who was also a full-time car mechanic, it was all he ever wanted to do.

“From the time I was 14 years old,†he says, “I never had a single thought of doing anything else. I felt like I had to give something back.â€

Starting his career as a volunteer firefighter just two days after his 16th birthday, Derek would soon develop a well-earned reputation for staying cool under pressure. Upon moving to Arizona to advance his career as both a firefighter and paramedic, his job responsibilities reflected that - correspondingly expanding to include training and educating outside agencies and their personnel in addition to his own crew members, while he continued to go on emergency calls as well. He was good at his job, and his superiors and his crews knew it.

Nothing in his 20-year career in emergency services, though, as well as the training he received prior to going on the job and the continuing training he received while on the job, sufficiently prepared him to deal with the extreme nature of the tragic events that occurred in June of 2008. The effect that those events would have on him pushed him to the brink of suicide, and the initial treatment that Derek underwent to deal with the psychological trauma that those events inflicted on him that nearly robbed him of his life fell woefully short of repairing the damage that trauma caused, after which he was literally abandoned by the people he worked for and put his life repeatedly on the line for.

Forced to choose between a life of permanent disability due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or curing himself, he created a treatment that would finish fixing the damage done almost completely on his own.

And ironically, Derek himself would probably have been the last person to have speculated prior to the events of June 2008 that the treatment method he came up with that literally gave him his life back would involve the medicinal use of marijuana.

“I’m not exactly a poster-child for pot-smoking,†he says now, nearly two years after the events that brought an unprecedented level of change to his life occurred, and he’s right. At just over six feet and two hundred pounds, fit and with his hair near crew-cut short, he still looks like what he was for over 20 years between 1986 and 2008 – a firefighter and paramedic, about as far away image-wise from a tie-dyed, bong-twirling southern California surfer and Bob Marley enthusiast as one can get.

The way he carries himself, from the tenor of his voice to his posture through the almost painfully blunt way that he addresses the events of the last two years, makes it easy to see why he was right in the middle of the two tragic air-rescue accidents that occurred in June of 2008 in the Flagstaff, Arizona, area. The two crashes, involving three helicopters and seven fatalities happening within 72 hours of each other, were a tragic first in helicopter aviation rescue history.

The first of the two accidents occurred on June 27th.

The First Accident

“At that time, I was in charge of outreach education and managing or assisting in the management of bases in Show Low, Prescott and Kingman,†Derek recounts, “and pulling flight paramedic shifts out of the Show Low base. I had just finished a 12-hour shift in Show Low, driven back to Flagstaff and gotten to sleep around midnight. At approximately 4am the phone rang, and I was told that Air Evac 31 was down and that they were transporting the crew to the Trauma Center in Flagstaff.â€

Air Evac 31, flying out of Prescott with a pilot, medic and flight nurse aboard, was responding to an emergency call from the Fire Department in a town just south of Ash Fork, about 50 miles north of Prescott, on a high-speed motorcycle accident approximately two miles outside of town when it went down just after 3:30am, rolling over four times and throwing two of the three crew members out of the helicopter as it slammed into the ground.

“You could not have picked a worse place to crash,†according to Derek. “It was the tiniest place in the middle of nowhere, the kind of town with one fire station and one truck with a headlight out. Prescott was the base that I had just left as my full-time flying base, a base that I had helped start up. Everyone there was like family to me, so I was the first one to be notified.â€

As he got dressed and rushed to the Trauma Center just two miles from where he was living at the time in order to be there when the injured crew arrived, Derek had no idea of the extent of the injuries that they had suffered.

“I was told that they thought everyone was still alive,†he says, “but there had been some chaos. There was bad communication. They were out in the middle of nowhere.â€

The procedure in an emergency situation calling for air rescue assistance is for the highest-ranking member of the on-scene emergency crews responding to the accident to determine the landing zone for the helicopter, and in this case the FAA would later determine that the wrong place was chosen to direct the helicopter to land - with drastic consequences.

“The LZ was like fine talcum-powder desert,†Derek now says, “like walking on the moon. Every step you took kicked up dust. It was like two to three inches deep. This really hit me personally because I had gone out and done this fire department’s landing class, and apparently they just didn’t listen. They never walked the field where they told the pilot to land. The whole crew is under night-vision goggles, so when the pilot tried to land the dust got kicked up through the rotor blades, and that throws everyone’s equilibrium off. This is called a ‘brownout’. On the helicopter, they thought what was going on outside was the complete opposite of what was really happening. They came in tail low, and when the tail hit the ground it blew the helicopter everywhere. It was just like trying to land in a blinding snowstorm.â€

“Everyone who was thrown out of the craft was thrown through the moving blades,†he added. “It was unbelievable that no one got cut in half.â€

Derek covered the two miles from his apartment to the Trauma Center in just two minutes as three other helicopters were dispatched from the next nearest bases in northern Arizona to rescue the injured crewmen. As he was a familiar face at the hospital, where his wife (whom he was separated from at the time) also worked, he dashed straight through the lobby and up to the helipad, where he waited 45 minutes for the first helicopter to arrive.

“It felt like it took forever,†he says.

The first helicopter finally arrived transporting the male nurse, who was in need of an immediate assistance due to an unstable airway and was having difficulty breathing.

“He was conscious, but I could barely recognize him,†Derek recalls. “His flight suit was all cut up, and it looked like his whole body was covered in this light brown powder. He was just caked in it. He was in shock, and he kept saying ‘I thought the helicopter was going to explode. I thought it was gonna burn up’. When he recognized my voice, he asked me to call his wife and kids.â€

The nurse proceeded to tell Derek that he had landed just 20 feet from the body of the helicopter on top of one of the rotor blades, which were covered in jet fuel. Blinded by the dust, he couldn’t see the aircraft’s jet engine, which had come to rest just three feet from his head. Feeling the intense heat from the engine, though, and smelling the jet fuel, he was sure that the heat would ignite the fuel and it would burn up, taking him with it. Despite multiple internal injuries, fractures and extreme difficulty breathing, he still had tried to crawl away from the heat.

Derek also learned that the dust had been so thick that it took rescue personnel on the scene a near 20- minute eternity to find the crew.

Derek grabbed his injured crewmate’s hand and kept talking to him, holding on to him as he was transported down the elevator and into the trauma room, where the entire ER staff was waiting. He then continued to hold onto his hand as the staff went to work.

“Everybody there knew not to push me away,†he says. “They worked around me. They never asked me to leave.â€
Derek soon heard over the hospital intercom system that the second rescue helicopter was five minutes away, transporting the flight medic, but as he tried to leave to make his way back up to the helipad, the male nurse wouldn’t let go of his hand.

“He still couldn’t see because he had so much dust in his eyes,†Derek recalled, “so he locked onto my voice. I wanted to leave the trauma room, there was nothing more I could do and I wanted to be there for my medic, but he wouldn’t let go of my hand. I was locked into this kind of emotional catch-22. That’s when Courtney, an ER tech we both knew, came up and kissed him and the forehead and took his hand out of mine, telling him she wouldn’t leave his side. So then I ran back up to the helipad to wait for the second helicopter to touch down.â€
What Derek didn’t know at the time was that the medic, a retired battalion chief who had been flying for 25 years, had sustained the worst and most life-threatening injuries of the entire crew, and was barely clinging to his life as he was flown unconscious to the trauma center.

As they touched down, Derek was informed that the man had suffered extremely severe internal injuries. Though he was unconscious, Derek still repeated the routine he had just performed with his male nurse, taking the medic’s hand and talking to him as he was taken off the helicopter and transported down the elevator and into the ER.

“You learn in medic class,†he said, “that even if the patient appears to be unconscious, you still have to watch what you say because in many cases the brain is still awake. They could be in a coma, but still be completely awake and in pain and not be able to tell you.â€

As if the scene wasn’t chaotic enough at the time, that’s when Derek’s phone began ringing non-stop. He had managed to get off two phone calls, one to the male nurse’s wife, who was not answering, and another to his own estranged wife, telling her what had happened and asking her to get over to the male nurse’s home to wake up his wife and get her to the hospital as fast as possible. Then the barrage of incoming calls hit.

“People had started to hear about what happened,†he says, “and if you include everyone, Air Evac has a total of about 400 employees. I was management, so my phone number was one of the easiest ones to find. So people are calling my phone like crazy, and I’m just trying to be there for my guys, so all I could tell them was that everyone was still alive and I had to go. They didn’t understand that everyone was calling.â€

As he was waiting with the medic to get him in for a CT scan and trying to answer his phone and get off it again as fast as he could, Derek became aware of the extent of the man’s injuries, and how close he was to death.

“He was white as a ghost,†Derek recalls, “almost as if you’d drained all the blood out of him. They couldn’t get a pulse on him, he was about to go into cardiac arrest, and I actually expected him to die before our partner got out of his CT scan. They had multiple IV’s going into him trying to get his blood pressure up, and every time they tried to draw blood it was half blood and half IV fluid. When you have certain internal injuries, you can lose 60% to 70% of your blood into your abdominal cavity bleeding internally, so they were just about to start CPR when they finally found a pulse. So in my mind, it changed to he’s not going to die now, but he’s going to die tonight. There’s no way he’s going to make it to the next day.â€

When Derek finally saw the x-rays on the injured medic, his worst fears were confirmed.

“I thought there was no way anyone could live with what I’m looking at.â€

Amazingly, after a full year of surgeries and physical rehabilitation, the man eventually pulled through and got back on a helicopter, even though it was assumed for months that he would never even walk again without assistance.

“He is a miracle story,†Derek says now. “They show his x-rays in med school now, showing that you never write someone off. He was over 50 years old with a will to live that was unbelievable.â€

Though that was the case a year later, Derek still had to overhear the trauma surgeons arguing that night over which injured man to bring in first, not sure if the medic would survive at that point. That’s when he heard the third helicopter touching down with the injured pilot.

“So I ran back upstairs to meet the pilot. He was the best off of the three physically, but he was carrying a heavy burden. He was crying, ‘What did I do? Oh my god, what did I do?’ At that point, he wished he was dead.â€

The pilot, who had suffered fractures and soft tissue injures, had apparently tried in vain to find his crew after the crash.

“This was devastating to him,†Derek says. “He told me on the elevator that after the crash he could hear them calling for him, but he couldn’t find them. A firefighter on the scene literally picked him up and carried him away from the wreck, afraid that it was going to explode. But he kept saying ‘No, I’ve got to go back for my crew. I’ve got to go back for my crew.â€

With all of his crew now at the hospital, Derek went back down to the flight nurse, who was drugged up but still conscious and still having trouble breathing, and the man began to fill him in on more details of the chaos that ensued after the crash.

“He was already saying he was never going back up on a helicopter,†Derek recalls, “and he wanted to see his kids.â€

The man also told Derek that as he lay injured after the crash on the rotor blade, he had tried to blow the whistle and shine the light that Derek had given the entire crew for Christmas the previous holiday towards the voices he could hear, but he couldn’t draw enough breath to blow the whistle. At that point, he tried to decide whether or not to open his own chest cavity with the scalpel he still had with him, knowing that the dust he would inhale with his initial breath would probably infect and kill him within days, but he was willing to do it just to buy enough time to see his son again and not die at the scene of the accident.

Derek had also began taking on the role as the liaison between the injured crewman, arriving family members, doctors and other medical personnel arriving at the ER, though nothing in his previous training had prepared him for a situation like this.

“I was just trying to stay focused on answering calls and being there for my guys,†he says. “I was doing at this point what I would have wanted someone doing for me.â€

After arriving at the hospital just after 4:30 that morning, Derek would remain there until Sunday morning at 2am, alternating between spending time in each room where his injured crew were, monitoring them and taking care of them while continuing to act as liaison. A bed was pulled into ICU next to his injured medic for him to sleep on whenever he could manage a few minutes, but various situations arose over the next 48 hours that kept him up and moving.

“The ICU was right next to the helipad,†he remembers, “so every time a helicopter would land my partner would wake up thinking he was back at the accident sight.â€

To deal with this, Derek got maintenance to bring in a fan large enough to drown out the sound of the helicopters landing.

Over the next 24 hours the medic had multiple surgeries, and repeatedly almost died on the table while Derek focused on maintaining his composure watching his friend fade in and out of life and death.

“I just blocked out all of my own emotions,†he says. “My wall was definitely up.â€

Of the 1200 hours of paramedic training that Derek underwent, only two hours were devoted to coping with a situation like this, but it wasn’t exactly “coping†that was taught.

“They taught us to look out for the signs,†he says. “You don’t want to leave the job and start drinking until you go back to work the next day. You don’t want to go home and kick the dog or beat your wife up. Those were the signs.â€

It wasn’t until a decade into his career that they started doing what was called Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, to assist paramedics and firefighters in dealing with traumatic situations.

“Here was the problem with that,†Derek recalls. “The veterans were like, ‘Who needs that? This is just for the new guys. We’ve got to hold their hands.’â€

“What we had when I started my career†he continues, “was called ‘Choir Practice’. You got off work at 7am, split a pitcher of beer and an omelet with your crew, talked sports, went home with a buzz and that was that.â€

Finally, on Sunday morning at 2am, Derek was ordered to go home and sleep by his superiors, who had arrived at the hospital over the previous 24 hours. He still didn’t want to leave, though.

“I was afraid something bad would happen if I left,†he says.

Utterly exhausted, he made his way back home to sleep.

“I was so sleep-deprived I couldn’t feel any emotions at that point,†he says. “I knew it would affect me personally, but I knew I couldn’t let it affect me right now. It was blocked. I needed to be there for my guys.â€

Unfortunately, the tragic events of that weekend were not over yet. Another horrendously tragic situation was about to unfold, a situation that was even more horrific than the first.

The Second Accident

Still utterly exhausted after eight hours of sleep, Derek got all of thirty minutes’ wake time Sunday afternoon before he got the call that a second accident had occurred, and that another rescue helicopter was down.

“One of my flight paramedics from Air Evac, who’s wife worked as a tech in the ER (at Flagstaff Medical Center), called to tell me that she had just called him and told him Lifeguard 2 had just gone down. It had crashed into the side of Mount Eldon. I asked him when, and he said right now, it just happened.â€

Though the downed helicopter was not with the company Derek worked for, he still felt compelled to respond.

“Why I felt like I had to do anything to this day I don’t know,†he says. “It was just an automatic reaction. We were all like family,†he says of the air rescue community of northern Arizona at that time. “Competitive, but still family.â€

As he left his apartment and rushed to his car, Derek could see the smoke plume from one of the two wrecks. At this point, he still didn’t know that a second rescue helicopter had also gone down.

“I got to the hospital in about two minutes,†he says. “The accident site was about 500 yards from the ER entrance. Half the ER staff was outside just standing there. A flight medic was also standing there, just catatonic. People were crying, and screaming.â€

What Derek didn’t know at the time was that the catatonic flight medic was part of the crew of one of the two helicopters that had just gone down. His helicopter was unable to do a hover landing at the medical center while he was aboard because it was overweight with a full crew on board plus a patient, so the helicopter did what is called a skid landing that mimics a plane landing at an airport just two miles away from the hospital to let him off so it was light enough to hover land on the medical center’s helipad.

Tragically, this action would set in motion a chain of events leading to the helicopter collision over the helipad just minutes later. A second rescue helicopter from yet another company was also converging on the medical center with a patient, and though both pilots knew that they were converging on the helipad in close time proximity to each other, a breakdown in communications failed to warn them that the crucial minutes they thought they had between landings had been erased by the one helicopter’s action of letting off that medic.

Moments later, both helicopters where on final approach to the helipad, one coming in from the south and the other from the north. Unable to see each other due to their landing angles, the two collided just 500 yards short of the helipad, sending both aircraft careening onto a mesa in the foothills of the mountain.

“As I pulled into the ER,†Derek recalls, “I saw a medic and an EMT arguing about which way to go. This was the first I heard that there was a second helicopter involved.â€

Still not quite comprehending what happened, Derek launched himself into response mode.

“I walked up, grabbed both of them and yelled ‘go over there and you’ll know what to do when you get there’â€, pointing then to the first accident site. “You’re the only other ambulance in the city. You need to be there.â€

And then Derek ran to the ambulance with them.

“I don’t know why,†he recalls, “but I was going.â€

At that point, Derek also called the director of Air Evac to inform him of the situation, as he had just left that morning after being at the hospital with the injured Air Evac crew over the weekend, and to let the director know that he was responding with the Guardian ground crew. The man told him to be careful, do what he could do, and remember that he was a member of Air Evac.

“The questions was,†Derek now says, “was I on duty at that point, or wasn’t I? He could have said no, you have no business being over there. Go be with our crew. In hindsight, that’s what he should have said, because I had just been through something very traumatic, and this is the reason why we pull people off the helicopters before we let them touch anyone else or go on other calls. No one checked me out to be going anywhere yet. He was supposed to be able to put the brakes on, like I would have with one of my crew.â€

As the ambulance Derek was in rolled towards one accident site, a police officer re-directed them to the other accident scene. It wasn’t until that very moment that Derek fully realized that two helicopters had in fact collided and gone down.

As they pulled up to the accident site, they came upon a flight nurse, who had landed 80 feet from the downed helicopter and was unconscious with a serious head injury. As they jumped out of the ambulance to assist the nurse, Derek looked over his shoulder and realized that the pilot was still stuck in the downed craft, and jet fuel was leaking out everywhere. He raced up to assist in assessing the pilot, and then ran back down to help transport the nurse to the hospital.

After unloading the nurse at the hospital, Derek returned with the ambulance crew as they went back to the accident scene for the pilot. As they returned to the accident scene, he found the pilot of a state police helicopter, who had flown to the accident scene to assist, giving the other pilot CPR. The man was on the ground and in full cardiac arrest.

As Derek and the ambulance crew joined the other pilot and Flagstaff Fire Department personnel to assist, he was informed that there were no survivors of the other crash.

Tragically, the liquid oxygen tanks on the other helicopter exploded shortly after the craft went down, killing the entire crew before they could be pulled from the wreckage. Two Guardian paramedics had just managed to extract the patient from the aircraft and gotten just a few feet away from it carrying the patient when the explosion occurred, throwing them both nearly 100 feet from the wreck. The force of the explosion killed the patient instantly, rendering his remains nearly unidentifiable. Fortunately, both of the paramedics survived, but with injuries that required extensive treatment in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

After the second victim was transported to the medical center, Derek found himself standing outside of the ER covered in jet fuel, dirt and blood.

“That’s when all three days hit me,†he recalls now. “I remember thinking ‘How could this have happened? How could this all have happened?’. That when I felt my knees go weak, and I started to get sick.â€

That when he also realized his wife Kelly, who had (unknown to Derek) responded to a hospital-wide disaster page and was assisting in dealing with the near-overwhelming situation at the med center as an ER nurse that day , had come outside to get him, and was gently trying to lead him back inside to get cleaned up.

“You could smell the fire and the jet fuel throughout the whole hospital,†he remembers. “I knew that was going to set my one conscious partner off in the ICU. He and the pilot had to relive their accident tenfold, when they were told that their friends had crashed and they were all dead. The nurse that I worked on, who had been the only initial survivor of the midair collision on Sunday, was in the room next to my pilot, and he died the next day.â€

The incident still weighs on Derek to this day.

“There are so many things you can look back on,†he recalls. “There are so many things that could have happened to stop it…but didn’t. It was just the perfect combination of things that led to this immense tragedy.â€

The Aftermath

After spending Sunday night with his injured crew in the hospital, Derek was again ordered by his superiors to go home, where this time he collapsed and slept for 18 hours. Company officials had finally stepped in to take over support of the injured crewmen and their families, leaving Derek with nothing to do outside of whatever he felt he needed to do.

“Over the course of the next week,†he recalls, “I never ate a meal alone. I was always with a co-worker, and usually it was a group of us. It was a spontaneous way of coping. I was never alone unless I went home to sleep. Everyone was agreeing to go home at the same time, and meet the next day at the same time. This was nothing official. We were just trying to be there for each other. Nothing like this had ever happened before.â€

Group meetings also began with counselors, therapy sessions with members of the base, some family, and occasionally a combination of the two meeting once and sometimes twice a day. This went on for the next ten days.

“It was a way for people to vent,†Derek recalls. “A lot of people were mad. There was a lot of anger, and there were a lot of misconceptions about how things should be dealt with.â€
Unfortunately, these sessions didn’t do Derek any good.

“It wasn’t helpful to me,†he explains, “because none of the people there…they were all seeing it from an outsider’s perspective, being there hours or days later. Nobody was there from the very beginning like I was.â€

Derek also felt his own emotions getting ready to blow.

“I sat there many times thinking, ‘How could you be so upset?’†he recalls. “You didn’t see it. You didn’t smell it. I mean, I understand them being upset, but I still felt like I had much more of a right to be extremely angry and extremely depressed, but I was still holding it together better than people who weren’t there. I still wasn’t letting my emotions out. I was getting mad at them. It was like, how dare you? What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was a kind of protective mechanism I was doing that had kicked in.â€

One thing the group therapy sessions did make clear to Derek was that he was going to need to seek help for himself.

“I knew during the first couple of therapy sessions that I was going to need to see somebody in private,†he remembers. “I did know that. During the group sessions they were asking me questions, and I was responding as best I could. I was helping them through counseling, but it wasn’t helping me. I was on the wrong side of the therapy.â€

People around him began noticing that Derek was not himself, and that he was in trouble.

“I was showing no emotions outwardly,†he remembers. “People could see that I was holding it in and ready to lose it, to explode and go off the deep end. I wasn’t looking normal to them. My facial expressions and reactions were different. I had what some people call the ‘thousand yard stare’, like you see in veterans of wars like Vietnam or Iraq. I looked different. I was slightly catatonic without knowing it.â€

The group therapy counselors also noticed the difference in Derek, and alerted his supervisors that he needed help.

“I wasn’t sharing my emotions with anyone,†he explains. “At that point it was clear to them that at any moment I could go home and blow my own head off.â€

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a full week after the accidents that the counselors noticed this change in Derek and tried to get him help.

“I think that was a little late,†he says now. “At that point I didn’t feel I had any input in it. I didn’t feel I needed or didn’t need it. I just did what I was told to do. I was on autopilot, but with less of my senses than when the accidents were going on. When I was with my partners in the ICU I had something to focus on. Now I had nothing to focus on.â€

When the company did finally attempt to help Derek, the services available turned out to be fraught with problems or woefully inadequate, as if the company had never planned for this kind of situation and were unprepared to deal with it when it occurred.

“I was left on my own,†Derek recalls. “They didn’t help me find anyone. I was told that if I wanted to do it through the company, I’d have to go to Phoenix over two hours away. It was 150 miles to the closest counselor that they could provide.â€

Derek then found out through the company’s 800 information number that he was guaranteed eight sessions with a mental health professional, so after searching for two days and running up against multiple refusals, he located the only Post-Traumatic Specialist in the Flagstaff area that was on the company insurance plan.

“Most of the counselors in the area were for rape victims or family trauma,†he found out. “There was almost no one there for a public safety worker in need of help. This was a whole different monster.â€

As no one on the base was going to be let back to work without counseling, Derek located a “crisis counselor†who worked with public safety people in the Flagstaff area and set up an appointment.

This would turn out to be yet another disaster, a disaster that almost led to Derek taking his own life.

The Counseling Attempt That Failed

Ten days after the accidents, Derek had his first individual session scheduled with the only mental health professional in the Flagstaff area who claimed to be qualified to work with public safety personnel suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

From the very start of the sessions, things went drastically awry. Derek entered the man’s office, which was directly adjacent to the medical center, sat down on the couch, and found himself looking out a window that featured a view the med center’s helipad on one side of it and one of two accident sites on the other, the site where the fatal explosion had occurred. Five minutes into the session, a helicopter came in to land on the helipad.

“It was so close the vibrations from the helicopter rattled the window and shook the pictures on the walls,†Derek recalls. “I immediately broke into a cold sweat and became extremely nervous. I was literally waiting for that helicopter to crash. I had tunnel vision watching it, completely focused on every movement of the tail section, and I completely spaced out on the doctor even trying to ask me questions. I literally put myself in that helicopter. It wasn’t until it was completely down and landed that I realized the doctor was sitting next to me on the couch, trying to break my concentration on the helicopter.â€

It had apparently never occurred to the therapist that this was the wrong place to meet Derek, considering the circumstances and the experiences that he had just gone through.

“He was also so blown away by what I went through as I was going through the story with him that he was left kind of awestruck,†Derek observed. “He was floored, and he couldn’t help me.â€

To make matters worse, the therapist was unable to prescribe any medications for Derek to provide him with any kind of relief from what he was going through, and told him he’d have to go through the psych ward at the hospital to obtain anything along those lines.

“In the end I just said fuck it, I need to get out of here,†Derek recalls. “My knees were weak and shaking, and I had a panic attack leaving his office.â€

The man hastily set up another appointment for 48 hours later, but then called Derek the next day to reschedule, telling him he forgot that they needed to find another location to meet.

“It was a total breakdown of the mental health system,†Derek now says.

Unfortunately, the result of the disastrous first meeting and the botched second meeting caused something inside of Derek’s head to finally snap, and the results were far from positive.

“Now I was finally speaking up,†he remembers, “and not in a good way. I was nervous, I was mad and I was edgy. I was snapping at people. I was hostile. I was finally starting to unravel, and I felt like no matter what, I had to keep moving.â€

Despite this, Derek was thinking that his best course of action was to force himself to get back onto a helicopter and face the source of his anxiety head-on, like a kid getting back on a bike after falling off. The therapist warned him, however, that this was probably the worst thing he could possibly do.

“The guy said absolutely not,†Derek recalls. “He told me that this approach only works about 10% of the time, and I didn’t want to know what could happen the other 90% of the time. He told me that there was a good chance that the emotional overload could push me over the brink into suicide mode.â€

Derek was fast approaching that mode anyway. He found at this point that he could only sleep about one hour at a time, and when he could sleep the nightmares were constant and horrific. His moods were becoming manic, he was having crying breakdowns, and he found himself smashing things in his apartment at random.

“That first day in that office unleashed everything,†he now says.

To make matters even worse, when Derek went back for the rescheduled second meeting the therapist was not there, never arrived there, and did not call. As it turned out, he had been pulled into a suicide intervention and was forced to commit someone, and was unable to get word to Derek. That was when Derek gave up on therapy and decided to take matters into his own hands, taking the action that the therapist warned was the worst possible thing to do.

“I decided to take a shift,†he recalls. “I was going to go up. I had to know whether I was going to be able to do this or not.â€

Though the therapist eventually called that night at around 10pm and offered to come meet him immediately, knowing the shape he was in, Derek told the man to forget it. He had decided that he was not going back for any more therapy.

“I was either going to cure myself,†he recalls, “or I was going to kill myself.â€

So no one would stop him, Derek decided to take that shift at a base far from Flagstaff, about two hours away. He also tried to plan it so that he would have no time to think about it, arriving just as the shift was to begin. Unfortunately, that part of the plan did not work out like he wanted it to, and he inadvertently arrived at the base 45 minutes before the shift began.

“It was too much time,†he now says. “I had an anxiety attack and couldn’t get out of the car. It felt like I was having a heart attack.â€

Because of this reaction, Derek felt that he was now down to only one possible course of action.

“If I’d had my gun with me,†he will now say without any hesitation, “I would have killed myself right then and there. My entire life was gone.â€

Though he did not have his gun, he did have a back-up plan, one that he felt would have a much more positive outcome.

“I had a wife and I had a daughter, and the only way I was going to be able to take care of them if I died would be to make it look like an accident. I decided to make my death look like a car crash.â€

Ironically, Derek based his plan and the location of the accident on his own professional experience. He knew the area’s mountain roads and dangerous switchbacks well, and he knew of one particularly dangerous curve where he had responded to seven different accidents over the course of his career in Arizona, a curve that had seen numerous fatalities.

He popped his Rally Race Addition WRX Turbo-Charged Subaru into gear, a car that would do 160mph flat-out, and headed for that mountain road.

“As soon as I made this plan,†he remembers, “the anxiety stopped.â€

To make sure that this looked like an accident, Derek decided that he would also need witnesses. To enable this, he planned to stop at a specific place on the road’s incline, let three cars pass him, and then overtake all three cars on his way to the curve he would intentionally not clear, his intention being that it would just look like he was driving recklessly - with fatal results. Also based on his professional experience, he decided that he would go over the side with his seatbelt off, leaning against the steering wheel, thus guaranteeing the wreck would be fatal.

Suddenly, he was not only rid if his anxiety, he was thrilled.

“I was elated,†he says, “that I had come up with a plan to take care of everyone and end the suffering.â€

What he had not planned on, however, was an intervention from a person who may have been the only person who could have stopped him from going through with his plan – his estranged wife, Kelly.

As Derek pulled out behind the three cars he intended to pass before going over the side, his cell phone rang. He looked down and noticed it was Kelly. He was approximately 90 seconds away from the curve he didn’t intend to clear. As he up shifted, he answered his phone.

“She asked me what I was doing,†he recalls. “The one thing she knew was the sound of my car revving up through the gears and getting up to a high rate of speed. Once she heard that, she wouldn’t let me off of the phone.â€

He was now approximately 45 seconds away from the curve, and contemplating hanging up the phone anyway.

“I did almost hang up on her,†he will say now, “but she said she was having a real hard time with everything and she really needed to talk to me. When she said she needed my help, I thought about what I was doing, throttled the car down and drifted into the side lane to talk to her.â€

Ironically, their estrangement had caused Kelly to lapse into a depression that had included suicidal thoughts. Now, in the strangest of role reversals, she knew exactly what he was doing. Knowing him well enough to know that she couldn’t talk him out of it, she asked him for help instead, and it worked. He pulled over.

“She figured out almost immediately what I was doing,†Derek recalls. “She also knew what to say to get me to stop. Though I was perfectly comfortable with what I was doing, I wanted to make sure she wasn’t going through one of her bad times, and she also said that she was worried about our daughter. At that point, I was thinking maybe I wasn’t going to do this today.â€

She asked Derek to come down to have a cup of coffee and talk. Over the course of that conversation, she suggested that they give themselves a chance to change their environment, and that maybe it was the environment that was making them sick. By the end of the conversation, they had decided to take their daughter and leave Flagstaff the next day.

Discovering The Cure

Derek and Kelly packed everything they thought they’d need for anywhere from a few days to a few months out of town and left Arizona the following morning at 3am, heading west for California. Not only did they not tell anyone where they were going, they didn’t even tell anyone they were leaving. In the wake of their departure, a frantic drama ensued that could have escalated into a major incident.

When Derek failed to show up for his rescheduled appointment the previous day, the therapist had tried to locate him at approximately 8am the following morning. In a strange bit of timing, he attempted to call both Derek and Kelly just as they had crossed the California border and were driving through a dead zone where neither of their cell phones would pick up a signal for almost an hour, not that Derek even had his cell on at that time during the trip.

Regarding Derek as missing for over 20 hours at that point and knowing the condition he was in when he’d last seen him, the therapist contacted the police and had a state-wide APB put out on Derek, calling him armed, potentially dangerous, suicidal and with a child. He also told police that, given what he had seen in Derek during their one and only session, he thought Derek was capable of not only killing himself but taking a few family members with him.

“He was generalizing,†Derek now says. “Even at my worst, I would have never harmed my wife or my daughter.â€

The police, however, did not know this, and soon every officer in the state of Arizona was looking for him. When they arrived at a motel a few hours later, Kelly got a number of messages on her phone from friends who were concerned for her well-being and informed her of the situation in Arizona. Derek, knowing what was probably waiting for him by way of frantic messages from any number of people, opted not to even turn his phone on at that point.

Kelly then had to call the police herself to tell them that Derek was not suicidal, and was not at that moment holding a gun to her head and forcing her to tell them this. Derek then had to get on the phone and convince the police of the same. In the end, the officer he was speaking to made what Derek would later refer to as a “judgment call†and rescinded the APB, much to the relief of everyone involved.

Derek, Kelly and their daughter then resumed their journey, and did not stop again until they reached the California coast and the seaside town of Marina Del Rey.

“I intended to get counseling in California,†Derek recalls. “I needed to show myself why I needed to live. In retrospect, I really don’t know why I was suicidal. It was probably because for the first time in my life, I felt like I wasn’t in control. After that second accident I felt I was completely not in control of myself, and that was scary. It got to the point where I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t eat, and I knew this was wrong but I didn’t know why I felt that way. It actually took me a while to figure out that this was depression.â€

Though he was out of immediate danger, Derek was still far from alright and still needed to get help.

“You just didn’t have breakdowns on this job,†he explains. “I mean, we saw dead adults, dead kids, whole families dead, but you still didn’t have breakdowns. But then again, nothing like this tragedy we’d just been through had ever happened in the entire world before. They were totally 100% reactive until these accidents, and then the Fed stepped in and said ‘you guys aren’t cowboys, and you can’t just do what you want. You obviously can’t patrol yourselves, so here’s the deal’. It took two years, but they finally laid down some rules.â€

Though these changes did eventually take place, at that time Derek still was in a position where he had to get help for himself, so after about a week of searching he finally found a PTSD therapist in Southern California who only did PTSD and not multiple “specialtiesâ€, a woman who worked with LA County Fire and Sheriff’s personnel. Using his own health insurance, he set up an appointment.

The new therapy regiment was immediately different from the first. Sessions were twice a week, and it took Derek two sessions just to get the whole story out. Immediately after the first session, the therapist prescribed him .5 milligram Xanax pills to be used as needed for anxiety, plus 20 milligram Celexas, an anti-depressant SSRI, to be taken twice a day and another drug called Busparin to boost the effects of the Celexa. After two weeks, she switched him from the Celexa to the maximum dose she could give him of Paxil.

“The meds took away the depression,†he recalls, “but they also took away everything else. They took away my ability to be happy, too. I was numb. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t sad. I had no personality at all.â€

Derek also underwent a procedure called EMDR Therapy, a procedure that renders the patient desensitized to the traumatic event or events if it is successful.

“They put a counter in front of your eyes that mimics what your eyes do when you’re asleep,†Derek remembers. “It also mimics what your conscience does when you’re asleep. Then the psychiatrist brings out the accident while you’re in this zone, and desensitizes you to make it all seem like a dream.â€

According to Derek, the procedure did work – to an extent.

“By the time she was done,†he says, “I could stand under a helicopter while it was hovering. I could even get on a helicopter. Before this, even the smell of diesel fuel, which smells like the jet fuel we use in the rescue helicopters, would give me cold sweats. She disconnected all of my sensory stuff that was giving me problems. That part worked, but what was left was anxiety attacks for no reason, short temper and periods of manic and chaotic thoughts that were a lot like anxiety attacks. So it worked for the sights and sounds of the accidents, but it didn’t take away any of the other mental health issues.â€

According to Derek, the procedure resulted in a strange kind of mental health trade-off that left him far from being cured.

“Now things that should have brought just minor stress instead provoked extreme reactions,†he recalls. “Minor stuff like my daughter playing with her food would make me blow up. Everything was huge to me, and this was while I was still on the medications. It took away the depression, but instead I became a scary asshole.â€

Derek would describe his state at this point as being “functional but unstable.â€

“I was not a nice person to be around,†he says. “My family was walking on pins and needles around me."

Also at this point, with all of his sick time and all of his vacation time tapped out, Derek attempted to get back to his job and his career, and ran right into a company wall.

According to the procedure set by Air Evac for Derek to get his job back, after undergoing whatever therapy he chose to go through, he would have to take a test that featured a long list of multiple choice questions that to Derek at times seemed to apply to his job and his state of mind, but that at other times seemed completely random. A company-employed analyst would then determine from those answers whether he was fit to return to duty or not, with little or no explanation given behind the conclusions reached.

With the intention of getting his job back, he took the test.

“Some of the questions on the test were things like ‘Do you ever feel like you could run a red light and hit people?’ or ‘Do you feel like you could kill someone?’ or “Do you feel like you could kill yourself?’â€, he says. “After finishing the test I felt like I had no idea what just happened. I had no idea how I did on the test, and no idea what they were looking for.â€

He didn’t get the test results back or hear from the company for four weeks, and when they finally did call, the confusion Derek felt after taking the test only got worse.

“I got a phone call from the Human Resources Manager out of Louisiana where the company is based,†he recalls, “and he said ‘Well, I’m looking at a report from the company psychologist and she feels that you will not be able to safely perform your duties as a flight paramedic for our organization and you’re going to have to sign up for long-term disability. We just need your doctor to go ahead and sign the papers."

Derek, however, disputed those findings, telling the HR Manager that his doctor sent them papers saying that he could go back and that there is nothing related to the accident that can keep him from flying now. Anything ancillary has nothing to do with his job functions.

“He told me ‘sorry, but we don’t provide psychiatric care for our employees, so I suggest you either take this and you will not fly again or you’re going to have to resign.’ I told him I’d get back to him, and I never spoke to him again.â€

Derek now feels that they were trying to get him to get a third party to say he couldn’t do his job, so then they could fire him.

“They work the system,†he says. “They’re the largest helicopter support corporation in the world. They know the right things to say. If they’re providing treatment, and their physician says I can’t fly, that makes them responsible. He was trying to get a private physician to say that I couldn’t fly, so then they could go to the state and say they weren’t responsible. Basically, they were trying to get me to quit because it was going to cost them too much money. It was like, they were not going to fire me, but they weren’t going to pay me, either.â€

Derek felt at that point that his only option would be to sue the company to get them to pay for treatment, but he also knew that lawsuits took years and his health insurance to keep up treatment was now all used up.

Not entirely clear on what to do next, Derek decided on a whim to get a tattoo, and while he was at the artist’s shop on another whim he also asked the man if he could get him some marijuana.

“I hadn’t smoked pot in over ten years because of my job,†he says.

What he did not realize at the time was that he was about to stumble onto the key to completing the treatment that would give him his life back.

The Use Of Medicinal Marijuana In The Treatment Of PTSD

At a recent stop at a PO Box store, Derek discovered to his slight amazement a number of magazines devoted to documenting the potential uses of marijuana as a medicine.

“I was shocked,†he says. “I’d never seen anything like these magazines before in my life.â€

Out of curiosity, he picked up a few of them and took them home to read, and discovered a number of articles on using marijuana medicinally to get off of other drugs.

“By then,†he says, “I wanted to get off the meds because I knew they weren’t for me, but I didn’t just want to come off of them cold turkey. They had become a sort of routine.â€

But when he got home and smoked the pot he scored from the tattoo artist later that night, he immediately noticed something had changed.

“Suddenly everything was good,†he remembers. “I’d never smiled so much in my life. What really hit me, though, was that I breezed through the next day without smoking anything and life was still good. This was not while I was high. This was the next day. I have to admit that I was really blown away. I didn’t smoke at all that next day, but the whole day was still awesome.â€

One of the first things he noticed was that the radical mood swings he had been enduring had suddenly stopped.

“My daughter was late for school that day,†he remembers, “and on any other day I would have completely blown up. That day, though, it was okay. I told her to go ahead and finish her cereal. Life was good. I actually got things done that day.â€

Given the results, Derek began a routine of smoking just before going to bed, and found that when he did that, everything would go fine the next day. He also noticed that, with his anxiety attacks diminishing, he had stopped taking the Xanax every day.

“At first it was every other day,†he recalls, “and then it was every two to three days.â€

At that point, his years of medical training and experience kicked in, and he applied it to what he was experiencing.

“It struck me as amazing,†he says, “that the people here in SoCal still didn’t realize how many different types of herb there are. They didn’t know the difference between an indica and a sativa. I noticed that I didn’t like some of the feelings I got from some of the different kinds of herb there were, like I didn’t enjoy getting the munchies, for example. So at that point I decided to start doing some research to find out what worked best for me.â€

He also decided to put technology to work in doing his research.

“I went online and started to look at the whole thing from a medicinal context,†he says. “I checked out edibles, not doing them to get high, but more like trying different medications. I’d find a particular brand, like a type of fudge from one place, and I’d divide it up into eight pieces. I’d eat one piece in the morning, and while it wasn’t enough to get me high, it was enough to control all of my adverse symptoms, and this is when I weaned myself off of the antidepressants, too. And I was doing this with the support of my family physician.â€

“He did not condone getting baked,†Derek adds, “and I agreed with him. I had no need to do that. I don’t have cancer. But at low levels, this was working for what I did have.â€

This was also when Derek scaled down his Xanax doses to just .25 milligrams once every three to four weeks, if he happened to have a bad breakthrough anxiety day. This prompted him to go online looking for other PTSD patients to see what he could learn.

It was then that Derek found stories about Canadian doctors treating Iraqi war veterans with medicinal marijuana.

“At this point I was already treating myself,†he says, “but being the medically trained person that I am, I wanted to find more legitimacy to it. I felt like I’d really hit on something.â€

The information that he found was somewhat generalized, giving only doctor’s names and patient’s stories.

“But at least I knew they were doing it,†he says, “and it was working.â€

This prompted Derek to step up his research and do more online interactions with more PTSD people to find out what was working for them. Some of the information he found, however, was somewhat disturbing to him from a medical professional’s point of view.

“Some people were getting no help,†he says. “Other people were having serious nightmares and had to do a really hardcore indica to go to bed and then a sativa during the day. They were self-medicating as well, but with no guidelines to go by.â€

He also found more disturbing information.

“The people working with doctors were all in Canada,†he says. “Everyone doing it in the United States was on their own, even though some of them were being seen at VA hospitals.â€

Further research revealed some of the most disturbing information he came across, especially given how much the United States supposedly prides itself on taking care of its war veterans.

“Some of them actually told their doctors or their psychiatrists at the VA what they were doing,†Derek recalls, “and they were dropped as patients. They were completely left hanging. This was no ‘three strikes and you’re out’ situation. They were immediately dropped. Doctors refused to see them and treat them. It was either Western psych medicine or nothing. They were out.â€

Digging deeper, the information got even more disturbing.

“Many of these vets were afraid to get their Medicinal Marijuana cards because they’d get in trouble with the VA,†he found. “Many of them had other wounds that they still needed the VA to get treated for. If they got put on some state list and the VA found out, who knows what kind of trouble they were going to get into.â€

Though recently Derek has had to scale back his research time somewhat because he’s launched a new company of his own as a computer tech that is thriving and he has a young daughter to take care of, he is far from finished in his pursuit of legitimizing the use of medicinal marijuana in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Being the kind of person that I am,†he says, “I want to get settled in this new job situation so I can create more free time to work on this, because I feel like I have knowledge that people can use, even if I just focus on veterans coming back from combat.â€

One of the biggest problems that he’s found is the lack of consistency and documentation of the ingredients in the products available to medicinal marijuana users.

“I have the ability to measure the content of the stuff that works for me,†he says. “Unless the baker uses the exact same ingredients, the batches are going to be different. Considering that they usually bake using pounds of trimmings, it’s usually a mix of everything. Now, for the first time, I have all of my own stuff. I’m going to keep meticulous records of the butters I make and keep track of the strains, and with that I can sit down and write out actual treatment plans. I have the ability to do that. It might take a year, but I should be able to write out actual treatment plans for PTSD patients, and be able to treat their issues with specific strains.â€

As for his own personal well-being, Derek now feels like he has successfully conquered the nightmare situation that he went through over the last two years, the accidents and their nearly fatal aftermath, and he’s now moving forward with his life again.

“I feel like I’m finally back to normal again,†he says. “I’m happy. I’m better than I was even before the accidents. I smoke a little bit every now and then, but smoking doesn’t work as well for me as the baked goods. Since there is a lack of consistency in the baked goods available at the (medical marijuana) dispensaries, now I’m making my own.â€

What are the biggest problems he sees in the state of the medicinal marijuana situation in the United States right now?

“A serious lack of research on this in the United States,†he says, “and a lack of consistency in the products available to medicinal marijuana users.â€

“For me,†he adds, “this is only the beginning of my story. My whole intention in this is that I know how to write articles for medical journals, and this is only one person’s opinion – mine – but I will tell my story with research to back it. Other people tell their stories but they’re not trained to do this. I have the training and the ability as a medical person with a whole lot of background, along with my wife, in emergency medicine. We’ve handled dozens of medicines, and we’ve saved lives with them. I’m going to nail this down and get an article out there to the medical community and to the people in it that are willing to take a second look at this. Nobody’s really putting information out there that’s useful for people with PTSD and anxiety, but we know it’s being used for it.â€

Derek knows he may be in for an uphill battle to achieve these goals, but he’s convinced that he can achieve them anyway, and he’s no stranger to uphill battles.

“For this to be taken seriously in the medical world,†he says, “there has to be more definitive prescribing and specific guidelines, and what I want to write will be good enough and give legitimate guidelines that will be very difficult for even the most staunch anti-medical marijuana doctors who are totally against it to refute. I’m writing those guidelines so that they will work in any American Medical Association journal, and they are not going to be able to fight it.â€



Author: MS Lee
420 Magazine Staff Writer
 
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Huge amounts of gratitude to you for writing your story and starting your medical cannabis research.
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Hypervigilance and was on pharmaceuticals for 15 years, and yes, i lost my personality.
Losing my job (laid off), and then losing my COBRA (sent in my health insurance payment too late one time), and watching the debate on Capitol Hill re single-payer (or not), and watching the parma and insurance companies jack up their prices before any deal making controlled them (yeah, right), and seeing poor people reel back in shock at the pharmacy trying to pay for their prescriptions, and hearing how vets prefer herb over the toxic dose given them to go back for more tours of duty...
Yeah, i cold turkeyed - just as my crop came in, and it's true - cannabis is a miracle.
I don't need an indica because depression has it's own 'couch-lock' so i grew sativas - Satori from Amsterdam Marijuana Seeds and S.A.G.E. from Mandala. Very nice and creative just when i needed to reassess and repurpose whatever material goods i have acquired now that i have fallen off the capitalistic acquisition merry-go-round.
Awesome escape story you tell. Welcome to the green side!
 
Thank you, Derek, for the depth of detail in your account. It was both heartbreaking and inspiring. If anything is sacred on this planet, it must be cannabis. I see it as a people's medicine, as a food, as a spiritual companion, a cornucopia; and as such, complete and total access to it is our right, as children of the earth. We are all grown up enough to handle it, and now is the time to integrate it effectively into our society.

Others who, like you, are courageous enough to take their well being into their own hands will find the research and recording you are doing invaluable.

I would't be surprised if you already knew this, but in case you didn't: MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) has just gotten FDA approval for a study of cannabis in the treatment of PSTD. Good article here: This is quite exciting. .

Here's a link to the MAPS website.
 
The urge to self-medicate is strong in PTSD suffers. Many are first diagnosed because of an alcohol violation. It's unfortunate that our culture is such that this grasping for relief of suffering turns folks to alcohol. As a retired clinical psychologist, who spent years providing PTSD counseling to combat vets, I'm hardly surprised that the weed really helps. Best wishes to all who suffer from PTSD; it's a horrible disease! AND damn those who send young men to war, then fail to support them when war takes it's toll!
 

420 Motoco

Member of the Month - October 2014 Member of the Y
Hi OldHippyMan, one talking to another, lol. My Son has severe PTSD. Cannabis Concentrated Oil (Sativa dominant during the day and Indica at night) is an very effective treatment. Taken properly their is no euphoric. The Wife and I could see changes in him the very first day. Crowds didn't bother him, the 10,000 yard stare went away as well as his slurring from the morphine. He started digesting the oil and getting ripped. Not good with morphine, oxycodone and upstair meds. I pulled it from him over a year ago. 3 months ago he wanted another go at the oil and has been using it right. Family, friends are amazed how his attitude changed from negative to positive. He is off the couch exercising, outdoors fishing, riding his bikes with the family. Amazing turnaround. A worthy mention Israel has used concentrated oil for their combat troops for PTSD and its 100% effective they claim. I would agree from what I've seen.

My Son did start off a heavy drinker when returning to the states from Iraq, then morphine. Seems the VA loads em up on the pharmies, puts them in the corner. A final mention; while some Vets report MMJ helping them most I've seen it has adverse effects on their PTSD by having severe anxiety/panic attacks/paranoia. Just another aliment concentrated oil can help.

The urge to self-medicate is strong in PTSD suffers. Many are first diagnosed because of an alcohol violation. It's unfortunate that our culture is such that this grasping for relief of suffering turns folks to alcohol. As a retired clinical psychologist, who spent years providing PTSD counseling to combat vets, I'm hardly surprised that the weed really helps. Best wishes to all who suffer from PTSD; it's a horrible disease! AND damn those who send young men to war, then fail to support them when war takes it's toll!
 
Motoco... I have seen many who learn to live with PTSD, compensate, and go on to have a good future. NO ONE IS CURED! I suspect you figured that out already. I know a Nam era Marine Scout Sniper, who also, along with PTSD, lost both legs to an artillery round. Kenny lost everything, house, job, wife, kids, self-esteem, everything. He put it all slowly back together, and is now an amazing old man. He is perhaps the most honorable man I have ever met. It seems, psychologically, being in hell can teach you a lot about heaven.

I was sitting, and drinking whiskey with him one day, and asked him if he is ever still angry. He told me that when he falls, in the winter, he becomes angry at the politicians who he believes lied him into a war.

So glad to hear that your son is doing better!!

Peace.

:Namaste:
 
This is very interesting story! Thank you very much for sharing it with us! I have learnt many valuable information. It is a very long story but I will recommend it to others to read as well!
 

SweetSue

Member of the Month - March 2015 & September 2016
It's the second-largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the United States.
I'm pretty sure this was Pittsburg, California. :4:

A gripping account. We now know for certain what cannabis can do for PTSD treatment, which makes it all the more unacceptable that it's still listed on schedule 1.