Veterans turning to cannabis more for PTSD treatment

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Millions of Americans will celebrate our nation’s independence with fireworks but it can be challenging for many of our veterans.

“Big loud explosions, big flashing lights. That actually triggers parts of our brain associated with fear,” said Dr. Randolph Baca, a psychiatrist at Lovelace Medical Center.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 7% of veterans suffer from PTSD. Fireworks, which may seem fun to crowds, can trigger memories of wartime trauma.

“They’re having difficulties with hyper-vigilance, hyper-aroused. They have nightmares. Basically, that traumatic episode that they experienced continues to be repeated over and over again,” Dr. Baca said.

Now, local dispensaries say more veterans are turning to cannabis to help treat themselves.

Dr. Baca says that decision is a personal one.

“I think there are definitely pluses and minuses. It’s, you know, another tool in our toolbox,” he said.

However, Dr. Baca has seen success in patients who use cannabis in low doses.

“As far as the neurobiology, I think that it actually could be helpful. It actually is helpful to a lot of patients,” he noted.

Dr. Baca says it’s paramount to reassure everything will be OK if a loved one is triggered.

“Make sure they know they’re in a safe place and be there for them,” he said.