Marijuana and PTSD by Stephen Otero

My name is Stephen Otero. I am currently an active duty member of the US Air Force. I have been enlisted for 11 years now and heve been to war twice, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am a combat photographer and have dealt with many difficult situations throughout my years.

In 2007 I was diagnosed with PTSD after my deployment to Iraq. In the years following initial diagnosis I struggled through multiple drug and therapy trial's. I also was suffering from nerve damage that resulted in 3, very painful, neuromas.

So I was fighting both physical and mental pain for a few years. But in 2009, I was afforded an opportunity to be sent to the eastern border of Afghanistan where once again I was involved in violent and strenuous operations. I call it an opportunity because I am a proud military member and enjoy serving my country when I am asked.

I returned in May of 2010 and immeiately began seeing a psychiatrist provided by the Air Force. I was doing a little bit better on this return transition, but my primary complaints were anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Partly due to physical pain. After struggling for a few months and ending up on a cocktail of approx 7 different drugs for pain and anxiety, a civilian friend of mine who saw me struggling, provided me with a small amount of marijuana.

Being a military member, I know that it is against federal law for me to ingest THC, but after so many years of struggling, I decided to take leave and tried smoking for approximately 7-10 days.

It was like a miracle. I did not need ANY other drugs and my body felt better than ever. I still had a minimal amount of pain due to the nerves, but nothing like before. I was not depressed, had little to no anxiety, slept through the night without nightmares, and even went to the gym.

So this substance that I had only really used as a teenager, became a true miracle for my mind and body.

I have been hospitalized twice over the past year for suicidal ideation, once was for 29 days and the second time was for 91 days. Locked away for my own safety I suppose. Now here's where it gets kind of funny... An Army Dr. at Walter Reed decided to try and prescribe 10mg's of Marinol, 3 times per day, to see what effects it would have. I immediately went from 11 different meds a day to 2, Marinol and Prilosec. It was not the same as real marijuana, but it did work wonders on my body.

My military separation board met last Thursday and after two hours of deliberation, the members of the board determined that I should be discharged Honorably.

I was informed by the lawyers involved that this is the first such case of an honorable discharge for drug use at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. So my story is unique in that aspect.

Many military people are very angry about this. But marijuana saved my life, my marriage and my sanity.

I will now be looking to the NORML community and many others to find out ways that I can participate in the movement and begin speaking out against prohibition. Marijuana could be just what we veterans have been looking for as a realistic treatment for PTSD and combat stress.