Iraq Vet: Marijuana Saved Me From PTSD, Pills
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Mike Whiter managed to to take care of both combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and a prescription pill addiction no thanks to his official doctors via Veteran Affairs, but, rather, cannabis.
Whiter is now a cannabis activist protesting for veterans’ rights to treat symptoms of PTSD with pot, rather than the startling number of mind-numbing pharmaceutical prescriptions the VA provides.
In a Daily Beast feature by Kenneth Lipp, Whiter describes the effects of PTSD, which brings back disturbing memories of a 1999 incident in Kosovo when an 18-year-old died while playing with a bomb cluster.
“They called us out there to bag him up. His arms and legs were gone, and we’re picking his torso up, and I got him [under the hips], and his skin, like, melted off, and I dropped him and it splashed in my face. I remember distinctly, it was in a field of lavender, and now when I smell lavender I feel sick. Even today, if I catch a whiff, it takes me right back there.”
“That’s the kind of shit PTSD does to you.”
After Kosovo, Whiter was deployed in 2004 to Iraq, where he oversaw guard details at Abu Ghraib prison.
Upon returning home following his discharge in 2010, the VA’s solution to his feelings of “mortal panic” was a dangerous combination of over 40 different antidepressants and painkillers throughout his first year of treatment, using as many a seven medications at once.
Rather than helping his condition, Whiter instead tuned out everything altogether.
“I didn’t care if I lived or died, I was taking a shower every now and then if I felt like it, I was sh–ting on everything.”
Whiter traded in his destructive VA-enabled pill addiction for cannabis after watching a television special on veterans treating PTSD by smoking weed.
“That day I called a friend and asked her if she could get me some pot, and I smoked a joint, and it felt great,” Whiter told the Beast.
“I just threw my pills away. I had pretty nasty withdrawals, but I smoked a lot of weed over those couple of months,” he added.
PTSD is an urgent concern among war veterans, as a 2014 survey of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America showed that over half of them “have known at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has died by suicide, and 31 percent have thought about taking their own life since joining the military.”
The NPR reported in October that the Army has discharged more than 20,000 soldiers between 2009 and 2013 for mental issues like PTSD for “misconduct.”
Whiter now hopes his activism and photography sparks vets to seek more information on medical marijuana and find focus just as he did.
“All I wanted to do was learn about it, because I was f—ing amazed at the way I felt. I got myself back,” Whiter told the Beast. “Once you start feeling, you start healing. It’s like [the movie] Frozen, man.”
Photo credit: MikeWhiter.com