Flash Forward

Medical marijuana calms distressing symptoms of PTSD.

On the outside, Trent* is a successful businessman at a thriving company. But few are aware of the struggles he faces internally. Most of his emotional distress can be connected to his two tours of duty in Iraq with the US Army Corp of Engineers.Dr. Kelly King of Releaf MD in Brandon treated Trent’s post-traumatic stress disorder with medical marijuana.

“During my second tour of duty, I was on the bomb squad, and our primary mission was to counter IED [improvised explosive device] operations,” Trent describes. “Our job was to go out every day and cruise the streets of Baghdad looking for roadside bombs to disassemble.

“We successfully disarmed just under two hundred roadside bombs, but we also had several explode on us. It was really scary when they exploded.”

Once Trent’s second tour in Iraq ended, he returned to the United States. At first, he felt fine and thought everything was going well. But over the course of the year, he began experiencing difficulties in his day-to-day life, and that concerned him.

“I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was facing some physical and emotional challenges,” Trent shares. “I had trouble concentrating, my anxiety level was high and I was suffering from headaches.

“I also experienced flashbacks to my time on the bomb squad and saw things that weren’t there. If I drove past a garbage pit where someone was burning garbage, that was a very strong flashback trigger for me. I finally realized I needed professional help.”

Trent initially sought assistance from the Veterans Administration, where medical center staff diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To treat it, the doctors at the VA prescribed medications for sleep, anxiety and depression.

“I tried the medications, but they didn’t work,” Trent relates. “And I was concerned about the serious side effects that can occur with them. I respect the doctors at the VA, but the tools they had available just weren’t helping me, so I started looking for alternative therapies. I did an internet search and found Dr. King at Releaf MD in Brandon.”

Kelly Ennix King, MD, is a board-certified internist who is licensed to treat patients in Florida with medical marijuana. At Releaf MD, Dr. King tailors safe treatment plans for patients with various conditions, including PTSD, using medical cannabis. She is among the three percent of Florida physicians licensed to prescribe medical marijuana.

“One of the main compounds found in marijuana is cannabidiol,” Dr. King says of the extract better known as CBD. “It is a very potent anxiolytic, meaning it is extremely effective at diminishing anxiety in patients and helping to relieve the other distressing symptoms of PTSD. That’s why I recommended medical cannabis as a good option for treating Trent’s condition.”

At first, Trent was a little uncertain about using medical marijuana for his PTSD, but after speaking with
Dr. King, he was motivated to try the alternative treatment.

“I’m a skeptical person by nature,” he states. “But with Dr. King, I felt confident that I was working with a doctor who was committed to me and believed in what she could do for me. When I walked out of her office at Releaf MD, I was excited about exploring an alternative to medication for treating my PTSD.”

Dispensing Relief

With PTSD, the thoughts about a traumatic event and the feelings about those thoughts originate in an area of the brain called the amygdala and the hippocampus, Dr. King explains.

“Another main compound in medical marijuana, THC, works at the amygdala and hippocampus to help uncouple those thoughts and feelings,” the doctor notes. “As a result, patients’ thoughts and feelings about their traumatic event are not as intense or debilitating.”

Another common problem affecting people with PTSD is difficulty sleeping.

“During the day, there are many inhibitions present as people focus on their daily activities,” Dr. King informs. “But at night, these inhibitions are no longer present. The thoughts about the traumatic event become much more prominent, and many times result in nightmares and night terrors. THC helps people relax and promotes sleep.”

Dr. King tailors a treatment plan to each patient’s symptoms and diagnosis. Often, she uses more than one strain of medical marijuana and more than one method of delivery, which might include sublingual drops or edible or topical formulations to fully address the patient’s needs.

“I use several combinations depending on what the patient’s symptoms are,” she verifies. “Indica is a type of cannabis plant that we prescribe for patients to use during the evening and at night. It helps with things such as relaxation and sleep, whereas Sativa is a strain that we utilize during the day. It is more energizing and stimulating.

“The dispensaries offer the different strains as well as extracts in which they adjust the levels of CBD and THC. That is the beauty of medical marijuana. I can use different formulations and rotate the routes of delivery to address a patient’s symptomology.

“Patients’ symptoms are going to be different throughout the day, so different strains and delivery routes are especially useful for addressing that. And one person’s PTSD is not exactly like another person’s PTSD. That’s why we target each person’s particular symptoms and circumstances.”

Initially, Dr. King made several suggestions for Trent’s treatment plan. After discussing the risks and benefits with Trent, Dr. King chose a treatment regimen consisting of a CBD-THC mixture using the two marijuana strains and several routes of delivery.

“At Dr. King’s recommendation, I use some medical marijuana products that are effective during the day and some that are more effective in the evening,” Trent states. “I might use drops in the evening and maybe something edible or a vape cartridge during the day. The best thing is, it’s working for me.”

Leaving Worries Behind

Dr. King’s treatment plan for Trent, with its combination of medical cannabis strains and multiple delivery methods, is working well for him. Trent’s PTSD symptoms are dramatically improved, and he is back to experiencing a more “normal” day-to-day life. He’s extremely pleased with his degree of improvement using the alternative therapy.

“The medical marijuana treatment at Releaf MD is absolutely successful,” Trent raves. “I sleep much better now, which is the best part of the results for me. My anxiety and headaches have also decreased dramatically.

“The flashback triggers still exist, but I’ve noticed that my threshold for the triggers is higher now. They’re much easier to handle.”

Not only were the medications from the VA doctors ineffective for Trent, he also worried about the drugs’ side effects. But after beginning his medical marijuana therapy at Releaf MD, he left most of those worries behind.

“I’m not currently using the majority of the medications the doctors at the VA originally prescribed because I no longer need them,” Trent says. “That’s probably the most important thing to me. I believe there’s a time and place for medication in treating disorders like PTSD, but they weren’t doing the job for me.

“Dr. King and her medical marijuana treatment are doing the job for me.
Dr. King is a godsend!”

*Patient’s name withheld at his request.
Print This Article
    • Releaf MD

      At ReleafMD, Center for Medical Marijuana they take pride and caution in their authority to recommend medical marijuana in Florida, California and New York. They keep all of your medical and vital records confidential and secure. Whether you a... Read More

    • Kelly Ennix King, MD

      Kelly Ennix King, MD, is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and is trained in primary care and hospital medicine. She earned her medical degree from the University of Tennessee School of Medicine and completed her resid... Read More