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Texas’s PTSD Requirements for Medical Marijuana Explained

Texas is beginning its 88th Texas Legislature Session, and on the slate are several measures dealing with medicinal and recreational cannabis. Some legislative measures seek to legalize recreational marijuana in Texas. Other measures, like House Bill 1805 and Senate Bill 121, look to expand medical cannabis access in the state. Unfortunately, the Texas legislature has traditionally shut down all efforts to expand cannabis legalization.

However, if you currently suffer from a chronic health condition, you may already qualify for Texas’s limited medicinal marijuana. Advocates of medicinal marijuana say there is little knowledge or fanfare behind the program, meaning most people don’t know that they may qualify for benefits. Although Texas is struggling to expand access to medicinal and recreational cannabis, injured Texans may be able to take advantage of the underutilized programs already in place.

The Texas Compassionate Use Program

In 2015, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act. The measure legalized low-THC cannabis products for patients diagnosed with certain medical conditions. At the time, the Compassionate Use Act only applied to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. However, since then, the law has been updated to include a variety of other health conditions. As recently as 2021, the legislature passed HB 1535. The bill adds cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of medical conditions that make a person eligible to seek low-THC cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Although the Compassionate Use Act made medicinal cannabis use legal in Texas, most patients don’t know cannabis use is an option. The program is small. Texas is one of the largest states in the country, yet news reports indicate Texas only has three medical marijuana dispensaries.

Although the Act passed in 2021, the medicinal marijuana industry in Texas is still finding its way. This may be due to the state’s tough stance on marijuana and repeated attempts to block meaningful cannabis legislation and discussions about marijuana. Repeated statements from Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) denouncing cannabis use and legalization may have stigmatized even the medicinal use of the drug and stifled conversations about medical cannabis availability in the state.

Cannabis advocates want to shift the discussion and help people diagnosed with certain medical conditions understand that they may have more options than they realize.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

 Post-traumatic stress disorder is a significant mental health condition. Intense physical or emotional trauma caused by a terrifying event may trigger PTSD in some people. Sometimes symptoms of the disorder don’t manifest until well after a traumatic event, possibly months or even years later.

 Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by chronic symptoms that interfere with work or relationships. Signs of the condition can typically fall into four different categories. These categories include intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking or mood, and changes in physical or emotional reactions.

Intrusive Memory Symptoms:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Recurrent and unwanted memories of the traumatic incident 

Avoidance Symptoms:

  • Avoiding certain people or places that remind a person of the traumatic event
  • Avoiding thinking about the event
  • Avoiding talking about the event

Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood Symptoms:

  • Negative thoughts or self-perception
  • Hopelessness
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Difficulty feeling or expressing positive emotions
  • Lack of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Memory problems

Changes in Physical or Emotional Reaction Symptoms:

  • Difficulty sleeping/ insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Emotional outburst
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame
  • Being easily frightened
  • Self-destructive behaviors

The signs and severity of PTSD can vary over time. If you or someone close to you is experiencing troubling thoughts following an intense event, talk to a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible.

How Can Medicinal Cannabis Help Ease Symptoms of PTSD?

Some studies indicate that medicinal marijuana can help patients suffering from the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD includes chronic symptoms like nightmares, anxiety, avoidance, overwhelming emotional responses, and self-destructive behavior. Research suggests cannabinoids may help treat PTSD by reducing activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for fear responses to threats.

Separate studies suggest that compounds in cannabis may also help dampen traumatic memories. These separate studies conclude low doses of THC may reduce overall anxiety responses, help dissolve traumatic or challenging memories, and reduce fearful responses to threatening stimuli. Other studies also show cannabis may benefit those who suffer from PTSD, especially veterans. Participants in the study reported a decrease in the severity of their PTSD symptoms while taking medicinal cannabis, compared to the study participants using the placebo.

Where to Turn for Help

 To qualify for medicinal cannabis in Texas, you must be diagnosed with a Compassionate Use Program-eligible medical condition. Unlike other states, Texas does not issue medical marijuana cards for medical cannabis use. Patients must get a cannabis prescription from a physician. However, only physicians registered with the Compassionate Use Program are authorized to prescribe low-dose THC cannabis.

The Compassionate Use Program has an online portal where you can search for doctors in your area who participate in the medicinal cannabis program. If a participating physician believes a person qualifies for medical marijuana, they can enter that person into a database. The patient can then walk into a Texas medicinal dispensary to fill their prescription.

Medical Marijuana Moving Forward

 There is a reason some Texas legislators continue pushing to expand the medicinal marijuana program and legalize cannabis use across the board. Only a few physicians, mostly in densely populated cities, can prescribe medical marijuana. There are even fewer dispensaries licensed to distribute therapeutic marijuana. If you live in San Antonio, Houston, Austin, or Dallas and have a qualifying condition, you may be in luck. However, people in less urban areas may find it challenging to access medicinal marijuana.

Expanding medical and recreational programs in Texas would mean expanding access to therapeutic marijuana for everyone, not just those living in metropolitan areas. For now, those diagnosed with PTSD and other qualifying medical conditions can access medical marijuana only under these limited conditions. Legislators, physicians, advocates, and patients will have to keep working to expand medical marijuana in Texas for those options to grow.

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