Veterans say marijuana combats suicide epidemic

YUMA, Ariz. – The Department of Veterans Affairs says 22 veterans commit suicide each and everyday. Many veterans say they were going down that same path until they introduced marijuana into their life.

“I’m happier in life today than I was four years ago,” Navy Veteran Kevin Spence said. “I have a life today and it’s because of [marijuana].”

Spence ingests medical marijuana multiple times a day to treat his severe back pain and post traumatic stress disorder. He says cannabis is the only thing that helps with his symptoms.

“I feel happier, I feel uplifted, I feel more joy,” he said. “I have a relationship with my family again. I have my friends back!”.

Other than cannabis, which is considered a schedule one narcotic by the government, Veterans now have limited options in treating their PTSD. The only FDA approved treatments for the disorder through the Veterans Health Administration are zoloft and Paxil. One of the side effects of those drugs is suicidal thoughts or actions. Ricardo Pereyda describes his experiences before marijuana.

“Coming back from war and being discarded by the military and then being abused by the VA. How does it make me feel? It makes me feel mad and it should make everyone else mad,” he said.

Arizona native Dr. Sue Sisley is fighting for a change because of the lack of options. Sisley is the only person in the country with government approval to study if marijuana treats PTSD. After she received 2 million dollars she was fired from the university of Arizona.

“I care about this because I care about the epidemic of veteran suicide. I have had the awful experience of having my own patients kill themselves,” Sisley said while choking up.

However despite the termination Dr. Sisley’s ground breaking study is moving forward. It  will follow 80 veterans, 40 in arizona and 40 at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

Thousands of vets kill themselves each and every year. Some veterans believe Dr. Sisleys trial might be the key to saving lives.


About The Author

Eduardo Santiago joined the FOX 9 and ABC 5 news team in February, 2012. That’s the same year KECY launched its very first local newscast. He has been covering local news in Yuma and the Imperial Valley since his start as a KYMA photojournalist in 2006. During his decade in broadcasting, Eduardo has covered some of the biggest stories in the Desert Southwest – from President Bush’s visit to Yuma, Ariz. to the uncovering of drug tunnels that span the US-Mexico border. One of the most memorable stories Eduardo covered was the 2010 Easter Earthquake that rocked the Imperial Valley, Mexicali, and Yuma. Eduardo, along with his news team, won an award from the Associated Press for best coverage of an ongoing story following the quake. Before he made his move to TV, Eduardo was just a kid born in East Los Angeles, where he spent his early childhood. His parents moved him to Mexicali, B.C. Mexico, where he did most of his elementary school education. He finally landed in El Centro, where he graduated from Central Union High School in 2005. Eduardo is currently a student at Imperial Valley College. You can find Eduardo hanging out in the Imperial Valley and Yuma with his family on any given weekend. His off-screen passion is playing guitar and sports.

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