FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Does the VA Care?

U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti will rule any day now on a suit brought by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth. The vets want the judge to order the Department of Veterans Affairs to upgrade its mental-health services. Some 500 vets are committing suicide every month. There is a backlog of 600,000 disability claims, half of them involving post-traumatic stress and depression. The wait to have your claim adjudicated can be five years or more. Lawyers for the VA state that 1,300 therapists have been hired to solve the problem; and anyway, they contend, a judge can’t tell the VA how to conduct itself, only Congress can.

Outside Conti’s courtroom in the San Francisco federal building one morning a Vietnam vet I’d met long ago asked what I was doing there. I said maybe I’d write about the runaround that vets have been getting from the VA in connection with PTSD. He said, “Welcome back,” as if I had gone somewhere. Single Issue Politics separates us from our potential allies.

California cannabis specialists report that 3-5% of their patients have PTSD diagnoses. The late Tod Mikuriya, MD, being a psychiatrist who made his own diagnoses, saw a slightly higher percentage. This is from Mikuriya’s classic 2005 paper on the subject:

“Approximately eight percent of the >9,000 Californians whose cannabis use I have monitored presented with PTSD (309.81) as a primary diagnosis. Many of them are Vietnam veterans whose chronic depression, insomnia, and accompanying irritability cannot be relieved by conventional psychotherapeutics and is worsened by alcohol. For many of these veterans, chronic pain from old physical injury compounds problems with narcotic dependence and side effects of opioids.

“Cannabis relieves pain, enables sleep, normalizes gastrointestinal function and restores peristalsis. Fortified by improved digestion and adequate rest, the patient can resist being overwhelmed by triggering simuli. There is no other psychotherapeutic drug with these synergistic and complementary effects.

“In treating PTSD, psychotherapy should focus on improving how the patient deals with resurgent symptoms rather than revisitation of the events. Decreasing vulnerability to symptoms and restoring control to the individual take priority over insight as treatment goals. Revisiting the traumatic events without closure and support is not useful but prolongs and exacerbates pain and fear of loss of control.”

Veterans in California and other states with medical marijuana laws are faced with an especially cruel choice, says disabled Air Force vet Michael Krawitz (who lives in Virginia): “use medical marijuana and leave the VA or take the VA’s medicine and stop using medical marijuana.”

It has been well established that pain patients can cut their opioid use in half by adding cannabis to their regimen. Krawitz, 44, is challenging the legality of the “pain contract” that the VA insists some patients sign in order to get their prescribed opioids —thereby subjecting them to having their urine tested for illegal drugs. Krawitz says forced drug testing by the VA violates the 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search; the 5th Amendment protection against forced self-incrimination; and the 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law (because only pain patients are made to sign the contract).

Do Ted Kennedy’s Doctors Know?

Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD, a Sebastopol, California doctor, reports in the current O’Shaughnessy’s on a case in which cannabis apparently countered the advance of glioma multiforme (the aggressive brain tumor that has afflicted Senator Edward M. Kennedy).

P.J., a 50-year-old man, was still enjoying motorcycle riding and surfing
when he began having right parietal headaches with increasing frequency and severity in the spring of 2003. Within three weeks from the onset of pain, P.J. saw his primary-care doctor, who advised over-the-counter pain medications. A few weeks later the pain worsened and P.J. began to drop things from his hands and slur his speech. On hearing this, the doctor ordered a brain scan.

P.J. was found to have a large stage-4 brain tumor, subsequently diagnosed as a glioblastoma multiforme. P.J. got his brain surgery in July ’03, followed by radiation therapy. He was also referred to a study group at a major teaching hospital. Now, more than four years since his surgery, P.J. continues to improve despite the ominous prognosis with the diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme. Untreated patients are found to live about three months from diagnosis. Treated patients have a median survival of 10-12 months. In the best case scenario people with this tumor are alive at 18 months. Very few are still alive after five years.

What’s different in P.J.’s case is that every day he eats at least five cannabis capsules that he prepares for himself. The cannabis helps P.J. with his appetite and sense of well-being.

Of great interest is the fact that he has been seizure-free and there has been no recurrence of the tumor on his follow-up brain scans, MRIs, and PET scans (conducted three or four times per year since 2003). Just back from a road trip to visit family, P.J. is out riding his bicycle on the rural roads with increasing confidence and he has re-applied for his driver’s license.

Several labs have reported in recent years that cannabinoids can inhibit the growth of gliomas in various in vivo and in vitro models. Researcher Herbert Schuel (who has elucidated the role of cannabinoids in fertilization) predicted in 2005 that if and when the FDA approves a cannabis-based medicine, it will be as a treatment for glioma. “They have nothing else for glioma,” said Schuel. “Nothing else that works.”

The drug companies would have us believe otherwise. “Hints of Progress, and Longer Life, as Drug Makers Take on Brain Cancer” read the headline on a New York Times piece May 23. It ballyhooed Temodar, a drug from Schering-Plough shown in clinical trials to extend patients’ survival from 12.1 months to 14.6 months (in conjunction with surgery and/or radiation). Temodar “is on track to surpass $1 billion in sales this year, which would make it the first blockbuster drug for brain cancer.”

Medical news on the business pages is never ironic; it’s simply a given that profit is the primary goal of research. Thus the Times’ brain-cancer story by Alex Pollack noted matter-of-factly that the brevity of life after a glioblastoma multiforme diagnosis –the speed with which it kills— has inhibited drug development. “The typical life span isn’t that long, so it doesn’t have the recurring revenue stream,” Pollack quotes the chair of a nonprofit that promotes brain-cancer research.

“But the situation is changing,” Pollack goes on. “As pharmaceutical companies have been able to sharply raise prices for cancer drugs in recent years, it has become possible for treatments for even rare cancers to have hefty sales —as demonstrated by Temodar.”

FRED GARDNER edits O’Shaughnessy’s the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

 

 

More articles by:

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
July 19, 2018
Rajai R. Masri
The West’s Potential Symbiotic Contributions to Freeing a Closed Muslim Mind
Jennifer Matsui
The Blue Pill Presidency
Ryan LaMothe
The Moral and Spiritual Bankruptcy of White Evangelicals
Paul Tritschler
Negative Capability: a Force for Change?
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: ‘Social Dialogue’ Reform Frustrations
Rev. William Alberts
A Well-Kept United Methodist Church Secret
Raouf Halaby
Joseph Harsch, Robert Fisk, Franklin Lamb: Three of the Very Best
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail