RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- It is estimated nearly 40 percent of combat veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or PTSD, and need treatment when they come home. The state of Nevada recognizes medical marijuana as one way to do it.
But the federal government, including the Veteran's Administration, does not agree. It leaves some vets stuck between a treatment they say works and the government, and On Your Side is there to investigate.
"You would get incoming every morning around 5 o' clock," said "Concerned Marine". "You start getting incoming everyday so you wake with fear."
This Marine is a Vietnam veteran who saw lots of combat. "You're jumpy, you trust no one. You fear everything. You get no sleep."
But he says he found a way to cope: medical marijuana. "You get high, you go to sleep. You sleep, you don't dream."
Because the federal government considers the use of marijuana illegal, this marine wanted to remain anonymous. He said he sought traditional treatment at the VA for PTSD, but hated the side effects of the pills he was prescribed.
"If we look at combat veterans and the statistics are only out for male combat veterans is about 39 percent could possibly have a diagnosis of PTSD," said Dr. John Keogh.
John Krogh is a Clinical Psychologist at the Reno VA. He said PTSD can last a lifetime. "The interesting thing about PTSD is that the symptoms that develop are actually normal reactions to an extreme stressor."
Over the years, PTSD has been called several things from malingering, to battle fatigue, even shell shock. One thing that has remains consistent is experts agree it is triggered through extreme stress.
"Medications are a useful tool for PTSD," said Dr. Krogh. "They are a few PTSD medication or medications approved through the FDA for PTSD."
Dr. Krogh said in addition to medication, the therapies offered through the VA include talk therapies that turn down memory intensity. The therapies also address any changes in thought process following extreme stress.
He said based on research, this approach has a lot of success. "They're able to engage in their life, feel emotions, reconnect with their family and be more effective at work, sleep better, those are phenomenal results."
Some vets agree. "They tackled the problem right away, they gave me my medication," said Michael Gunny Rios. "Since then, I have my medication and I take it."
Rios is a marine vet who suffers from PTSD. After years of denial and struggle, he recently sought treatment through the VA and it is working. He said he would never consider using medical marijuana. "It would be hard for me to take it, because that's not what I'm about."
Dr. Krogh also says the inhaling of any smoke is not good for the body. "So some that say if they smoke marijuana or smoke cannibus that it has no ill effects on them. Any amount of smoke that person inhales in their lungs is not a healthy thing to do."
But the Vietnam vet who want marijuana said the other drugs have side effects too. Unintended side effects.
"You give me one pill, now I got to take another pill to counter the side effects, then now I got to take a stool softener," said Concerned Marine. "You see I end up I got one issue but I'm taking 10 pills. Where does it stop?"
"They drink to counter the side effects of it, but if they're smoking marijuana there's no side effect, there's nothing," added Concerned Marine. "They don't have to go get a six pack of beer or fifth of scotch."
There is one big reason that's difficult to give clear answers on the marijuana issue. The federal government considers marijuana illegal, and a Schedule One drug.
It's a legal designation meaning it is not recognized as having any medicinal value. It's the same classification as Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy. Because of that, it is very difficult for any clinical trials or testing to take place in the United States.