Post-Traumatic Stress is a Women’s Issue

8a176c8ae275c39136d1342649344469When people think about Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), they usually think about male combat veterans (only about 17% of combat veterans are female). But PTS isn’t limited to the horrors of war. There is plenty of trauma to go around.

NOTE: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as an anxiety disorder precipitated by a traumatic event and characterized by symptoms of re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance, numbing and hyperarousal. Because there is ongoing debate over whether or not this response is a “disorder” along with the stigma associated with calling it a disorder, I’ll use the preferred PTS dropping the offending “D.”

It’s estimated that 7.8% of Americans, or 24.4 million people, suffer from PTS. Women experience PTS at rates more than double that of men (10.4% women, 5% men).

While men are more likely to experience PTS as a result of accidents, disasters and combat, PTS in women is more likely a result of sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse.

Although clear statistics on veterans and PTS are hard to nail down, it’s estimated that 10-15% of veterans (2.2-3.3 million) suffer from PTS. That means that approximately 13.5% of Americans suffering from PTS are veterans, while 86.5% of PTSD sufferers are civilians.

Although the vast majority of our combat troops (83%) are men, when these soldiers return from the battlefield, it is often left to the women in their lives to support their reintegration into society. The wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, and friends are often left to help pick up the pieces of lives shattered by combat.

How many wives of PTS sufferers have watched their loved ones struggle through nightmares and insomnia, or slip into pharmaceutical-induced stupors? How many have walked in just in time to stop a tragic suicide, or have been too late?

Women who may not suffer from PTS themselves are often in support roles such as rape crisis counselors or victim advocates. Many first-responders are women, such as emergency department nurses, doctors, paramedics and emergency medical technicians, police and firefighters. These women are critical in healing the damage left by trauma.

When we consider a person’s right to choose how best to treat their PTS, including the right to use cannabis, we must not limit our discussion to veterans. Many adult trauma survivors do not have physical scars or symptoms like pain or seizures to qualify them for medical marijuana under current Colorado law. Without PTS as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, mothers, particularly women of child-bearing age, who find cannabis helpful in relieving symptoms of PTS are at risk of repercussions from law enforcement, child welfare and the medical community, traumatizing them once again.

A critical part of the healing process after trauma is the ability to be honest and speak truthfully about the experience, including treatment options. Patients need and want to talk to their doctors and therapists about their medicinal use of cannabis, but fear of consequences or stigma discourages them from discussing it. This does not serve the patient or their healing. This is not good medical practice.

We MUST add PTS as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in Colorado! Not just for our veterans, but for our women.

For more information, please visit these web sites:

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/epidemiological-facts-ptsd.asp

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2014/12/04/pentagon-rand-sexual-assault-reports/19883155/

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/ptsd-isnt-just-for-soldiers

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

— Rx MaryJane (Teri Robnett)


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Categories: Colorado, Family & Relationships, Mental Health, Stats, Veterans, Women

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