Grace Under Fire: The Cannabis Journey of a US Veteran

One of the best benefits of being a cannabis educator is knowing we are helping people of all ages and backgrounds. A good percentage of the folks we have helped over the years are US Vets and a common trend we see with this demographic is that many come to us with either a recreational mentality because it’s all they have experienced or they have never tried cannabis in their life.

Those who have been in the industry for awhile know that the lines of recreational and medical use in California are quite blurred, but it usually isn’t long before people who are recreational users realize how beneficial cannabis can be for their unique circumstances and they begin to take a different approach to their use and consumption. We are especially grateful to have met Grace and to be part of her cannabis journey. This is her story.

Grace first came to see us in 2014, not long after her resignation from a nearly 15 year career with the United States Marine Corps, which included five combat deployments.

In 2011, she began to suffer from insomnia and night terrors which led to elevated anxiety and migraines, which led to lots of drinking to numb it all, which led to depression and extreme states of pain or agitation. She was prescribed a barrage of pharmaceuticals from Zoloft to Prozac to Ambien, among others. For her ever recurring migraines, she was prescribed Topamax and Imitrex; Grace became just another person whose doctors were only addressing the symptoms but not the underlying reason for the conditions, which in this case all stemmed from severe PTSD.

Like many toughened military personnel, Grace believed that PTSD was a sham; just a way to get out of working. She admits she couldn’t have been more wrong. She also knew that all the pharmaceuticals were making her feel worse. Needless to say, by her return to civilian life, she was pretty doped up, addicted to several of the prescription drugs, had lost a dangerous amount of weight and was only realizing sporadic relief. Her PTSD became more severe and the side effects made her feel like she was losing herself.

A friend suggested she try an edible and one night, she did. Grace made the mistake of drinking a bottle of wine with it and became very physically ill. She realized that wasn’t the right approach, so she went to see a doctor to get an MMJ recommendation and it wasn’t long after that she came to us. When we first met, Grace was like a kid in a candy store. After more than 15 years of not using cannabis, suddenly this whole new world opened up to her and she was eager to try it all, but it took until early this year for her to discover the full value of cannabis as medicine.

Two events triggered her motivation to look at cannabis from an entirely different perspective: 1. The suicide of a military friend in August 2015 and 2. A VA checkup in early 2016.

At the VA checkup, the Prozac did not show up in her lab work and they questioned why. When Grace told them she was using medicinal marijuana and was feeling even better than she was with the prescriptions their response was a bit shocking. She was informed that she would need to continue to take the prescribed drugs, and in fact in an even higher dose or risk losing her disability benefits.

Between that checkup and an impending hysterectomy, she decided that her mental state and physiology was more important than the money. In addition, unlike the VA, she can get her medical cannabis the same day instead of waiting three to five business days for prescriptions arriving in the mail.

She came to us to take advantage of our full consult program. In that hour session, we took a deeper look and taught Grace about her Endocannabinoid System to help her understand why and how the cannabis was working in her body. We discussed her unique response to cannabis what worked and what didn’t and together we created a therapy program to help her manage her anticipated post-surgery pain while continuing to mitigate migraine onset, managing her PTSD, depression and anxiety, as well as inducing restful sleep.

Grace had quickly realized that sativa strains gave her the same anti-depressive boost that her Prozac did, but without all the negative physiological effects of the drug. Mr. Nice, a favorite indica in our shop, became her go-to strain for managing her migraines and she found she was able to wean from the Topamax and the migraines began to lessen in frequency. Through our education programs, she began to learn to titrate and adjust her cannabis therapy as she slowly weaned off the pharmaceuticals. Gorilla Glue is what she calls her 4 in 1: delivering relief for 1)Sleep, 2)Depression, 3)Anxiety and 4)Appetite. She was even able to stop taking the Prozac.

Grace has a lower tolerance to THC, but enjoys the euphoric effects it delivers. While her lower tolerance gives her the advantage of being able to stretch her budget, the challenge was finding the right balance for her body to find relief and just the right amount of elevation while staying focused and clear during the day and still being able to sleep through the night.

A combination of the following cannabis products is the non-prescribed regime she now follows: 18:1 (CBD/THC) tincture once in the morning, and again around 1pm. She vapes a CBD rich hash oil or other sativa strains such as Grapefruit Haze or Sour Diesel as needed throughout the day, and traditional inhalation of her most effective strain, Gorilla Glue when she is done for the day. In addition, she also uses a 4:1 (CBD/THC) tincture for sleep as needed.

It’s been a long road of experimenting, understanding and enlightenment, but thanks to cannabis, Grace is in a better place physically and emotionally and while she continues to heal her PTSD, we’ll be there for her every step of the way. In her own words “Cannabis is the answer and the truth”.

About Grace’s military service:

  • Grace shipped out to bootcamp on September 11, 2001.
  • Less than a month after turning 19, she was deployed to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002/2003.
  • By 2009, she would have deployed 3 more times in a combat environment. Twice to Iraq and once to the Southern Philippines.
  • Last deployment before departing the service would be another trip to Afghanistan in 2013/2014, tracking over 700 insurgent, in her area of operation
  • She walked away from the military knowing she wouldn’t even have a pension because she knew it was a matter of time before she made a misstep in her otherwise flawless career.
  • Since departing the service she has had run-ins with law enforcement and financial irresponsibility due to untreated PTSD and depression. (That was until recognizing she had a problem).