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Australian Veteran With PTSD Pushes Commission for Alternative Treatments



Post-traumatic stress disorder can be treated in a number of ways, though experiences around the globe call into question the need for alternatives as folks grapple with it. Specifically, David Hill, an Australian veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following two tours in Afghanistan, told ABC News about his experience navigating his life and how cannabis unexpectedly came into the picture.

Following the tours, Hill was prescribed a group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or benzos, to manage his PTSD, saying at his worst, he was taking 50 pills a day. “They were good for keeping me regulated and keeping me numb,” Hill said.

Over time, his dependence on benzodiazepines worsened, and he enlisted the help of his father Max, a former drug cop, to illegally obtain cannabis oil as an alternative. Hill said cannabis helped to wean him off of benzos and begin a more meaningful period of treatment surrounding his PTSD. 

Experts indicate that drugs like benzos can help in short periods, but in the medium- to long-term, can prohibit treatment of PTSD through psychotherapy and other techniques, and can ultimately lead to addiction.

“You may as well just be a walking ghost … you become numb to just about every emotion, including joy. So, there’s no real positive at the end of it,” Hill said.

Following concern of how veterans are medicated and other stories like Hill’s, the issue has opened up on a broader scale.

A vocal supporter of issues surrounding veterans and PTSD in Australia, Independent Senator Jacquie Lambie supports a full investigation of treatments offered to returned soldiers and veterans. She said that the government must look for alternative treatments, including cannabis.

“This will be one of the biggest things that needs to go through that royal commission on exactly what pharmaceuticals we are shoving down veterans’ throats,” Senator Lambie said.

The movement for alternative treatment for veterans has the support of experts, though many have admitted that there is not one cure-all for PTSD, and more research must be done. Hill also indicated there were not enough resources available to discharged veterans about available assistance. 

“[The royal commission] has got to look at the way that they inform the soldiers, and they need to basically investigate it from start to finish,” Hill said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs indicated the terms of reference were still being decided and they were seeking public input.