The Potential of Cannabis for Treating PTSD in Ukraine’s War Veterans

Many of Ukraine’s war veterans are turning to cannabis as a form of self-medication for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The war in Ukraine has left deep physical and psychological scars on both soldiers and civilians, with an estimated 57% of Ukrainians at risk of developing PTSD. However, despite evidence suggesting that cannabis can help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, the drug is not available for medical research in Ukraine.

At the Forest Glade Centre for Psychological Health and Rehabilitation of Veterans, located just outside of Kyiv, soldiers are treated using various methods such as video games, acupuncture, physical therapy, and group counseling. However, the staff at the center believe they need additional treatment options to effectively address the trauma experienced by veterans. Kseniia Voisnitsina, the director of Forest Glade, advocates for the exploration of cannabis, MDMA (ecstasy), and psychedelics like psilocybin as potential treatments for traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Many veterans are already self-medicating with cannabis to alleviate their symptoms, although they often consume more than necessary due to the lack of alternative options.

Danylo Yevtukhov, a war veteran who suffered severe burns during the conflict, attests to the effectiveness of cannabis in managing his pain. He explains that cannabis helped him sleep, eat, and feel less nervous, providing him with a sense of relief and flexibility to cope with his injuries. However, the use of cannabis is restricted by Ukrainian law, which prohibits its production and use for medical research.

Professor Viktor Dosenko from the National Academy of Science highlights the urgent need for clinical research in Ukraine to gather more evidence and support the potential benefits of cannabis for treating pain and PTSD, given the country’s high prevalence of PTSD cases. President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed his desire to change the law and legalize cannabis-based medicine, scientific research, and local production. A draft law proposing a regulated medical cannabis industry has been introduced, but it has caused confusion due to its lack of clarity on the legal status of cannabis and the prohibition of raw ingredient imports until 2028.

The proposed reforms have sparked a divided opinion within the government, with the health ministry supporting licensed production and the interior ministry opposing the draft bill. Critics of the draft law, such as Sergei Vlasenko from the opposition Motherland party, argue that it prioritizes private business interests over the immediate needs of the population. Vlasenko warns against the potential for corruption and criminal activity if the government lacks strict control over the cannabis industry.

Despite some opposition, a majority of Ukrainians support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes. However, without a consensus among government bodies, finding a solution to this issue remains uncertain. Currently, self-medication with cannabis remains the only option for individuals seeking relief from pain and trauma caused by the war.

This article sheds light on the potential benefits of cannabis in treating PTSD among Ukraine’s war veterans. It highlights the urgent need for further research and the challenges posed by the country’s restrictive laws. The division within the Ukrainian government further complicates the path towards legalization and effective regulation of cannabis for medical use. The plight of veterans and the prevalence of PTSD underscore the importance of exploring alternative treatments to alleviate their suffering and improve their quality of life.