Friday, March 1, 2024

Pot, PTSD, and a Purple Heart: A Virginia Beach veteran gets better with cannabis

Gen. Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command, congratulates Lisa Bohn after she received the Purple Heart injuries she sustained during a grenade attack in 2002. The ceremony took place in the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Lisa Bohn)
Gen. Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command, congratulates Lisa Bohn after she received the Purple Heart injuries she sustained during a grenade attack in 2002. The ceremony took place in the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Lisa Bohn)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Lisa Bohn knows what it’s like to serve, and also knows severe pain.

After surviving a grenade attack in Pakistan and suffering with PTSD, she finally found a treatment that alleviated most of her pain: Cannabis.

Bohn, of Virginia Beach, was activated in the Army Reserve following the Sept. 11 attacks. By March 2002, she was serving as a civil affairs liaison in Islamabad. Her Christian faith was important to her at that time, and on March 17 she walked into a church outside the U.S. Embassy.

A man entered the church and started throwing hand grenades, killing five people. Bohn was hit by shrapnel in her legs and back.

She was awarded the Purple Heart two days later.

Bohn said she began having graphic, violent nightmares almost immediately. Within weeks, she was diagnosed with PTSD while receiving treatment at a U.S. military facility in Kuwait.

Bohn said she has struggled with painful migraines, depression, nightmares, and “was always in military mode, constantly looking around waiting for the worst thing to happen.”

Related story: City officials slated to show support for medical cannabis oil industry; then it was canceled

“At one point, my migraines were so bad that I would have a mask on my face, earplugs in, the blanket pulled all the way up, and the sound of the birds chirping outside would still hurt me,” Bohn said.

But that all changed in 2013 when she confiscated pot from her 17-year-old son and smoked it with her neighbor.

Bohn’s life was never the same.

Pot brought relief

Bohn said she felt a little guilty about smoking at first, but within weeks she realized her migraines were relieved. Then she began to feel more calm and emotionally in control.

And then, the nightmares stopped.

Well, sort of.

“The nightmares are a little different now,” Bohn said. “Now I have a recurring nightmare that they’re sending me back to war.”

Lisa Bohn was hit by grenade shrapnel while serving with the Army in 2002. She has purple hearts tattooed everywhere a piece of shrapnel was removed from her body (Joshua Weinstein/SouthsideDaily)
Lisa Bohn was hit by grenade shrapnel while serving with the Army in 2002. She has purple hearts tattooed everywhere a piece of shrapnel was removed from her body (Southside Daily)

“My life has really improved,” Bohn said. “Actually, it’s not my life: It’s my well being. I can just handle things better.”

Bohn said it’s all because of smoking marijuana, but she wasn’t always so public about it.

After lobbying lawmakers in Richmond to reform marijuana laws with members of Virginia NORML, Bohn decided to be more vocal about the beneficial effects of cannabis use in early 2018.

“I realized that if I didn’t start talking about it, nothing was going to change,” Bohn said.

More help through cannabis

When Virginia passed a law expanding medical cannabis oil usage in the state, Bohn was optimistic.

“But then I was kind of mad about it because VA doctors won’t recommend cannabis” due to marijuana still being illegal at the federal level.

Lisa Bohn discusses treating her PTSD with cannabis (Catherine Davis/SouthsideDaily)
Lisa Bohn discusses treating her PTSD with cannabis. (Southside Daily)

The VA doctors know about her cannabis use and believe that PTSD caused Bohn to have a “cannabis use disorder,” according to her medical records. But that doesn’t bother her one bit.

“Little do they know, it is what is keeping me together,” she said.

According to a report from Veterans Affairs, the risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among veterans when compared to non-veteran adults in the U.S.

Bohn said she thinks cannabis can help other veterans, like it helped her.

“If more veterans had access to cannabis or cannabis oil for PTSD treatment, I think there would be less suicides than there are today,” she said.

If you or anyone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-8255. The Veterans Crisis Line is also available at 800-273-8255.

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