Retired U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant Mike Whiter managed to take care of both combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and prescription pill addiction, not thanks to his official doctors through Veteran Affairs, but rather cannabis.
Whiter is now a cannabis activist protesting for veterans’ right to treat symptoms of PTSD with weed, rather than the astonishing number of mind-numbing pharmaceutical prescriptions the VA offers.
In a Daily Beast Feature film by Kenneth Lipp, Whiter describes the effects of PTSD, which brings up disturbing memories of a 1999 incident in Kosovo when an 18-year-old died while playing with a bomb cluster.
“They called us to pack it up. His arms and legs were gone, and we pick up his torso, and I got him [under the hips]and his skin melted off, and I dropped him and it splashed in my face. I clearly remember it was in a lavender field, and now when I smell lavender I get nauseous. Even today, if I catch a whiff, it takes me right back there.”
“That’s the kind of shit that PTSD does to you.”
After Kosovo, Whiter was deployed to Iraq in 2004, where he oversaw surveillance details at Abu Ghraib prison.
Returning home from his discharge in 2010, the VA’s solution to his feelings of “deadly panic” involved a dangerous combination of more than 40 different antidepressants and pain medications during his first year of treatment, taking as many as seven drugs at once.
Instead of helping his condition, Whiter instead tuned everything out.
“I didn’t care if I lived or died. I took a shower every now and then when I felt like it. I shit on everything.”
Whiter traded his destructive VA pill addiction for cannabis after seeing a television special about veterans who treated PTSD by smoking weed.
“That day I called a friend and asked her if she could get me some weed, and I smoked a joint, and it felt great,” Whiter told the Beast.
“I just threw away my pills. I had some pretty nasty withdrawal symptoms, but I smoked a lot of weed in those few months,” he added.
PTSD is an urgent concern among war veterans, as a 2014 study by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group found that more than half of them “knew at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who died by suicide, and 31 percent have thought about committing suicide since joining the military.”
The NPR reported in October that the military fired more than 20,000 soldiers between 2009 and 2013 for mental problems such as PTSD for “misconduct.”
Whiter now hopes his activism and photography will encourage veterinarians to seek out more information about medical marijuana and focus like him.
“All I wanted to do was learn about it because I was amazed at how I felt. I’ve got myself back,” Whiter told the Beast. “Once you start to feel, you start to heal. It’s like [the movie] Frozen, Man.”
Photo credit: MikeWhiter.com