A Personal Journey With CBD
Philip Van Vlack, 6-19-2018
In 2016, I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had struggled with
severe anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) through my teen years and 20's, but I
always knew something wasn’t right. My therapist and I were interested in any and every
treatment that could help alleviate some of the debilitating symptoms I was experiencing. Panic
attacks were the most severe. If you’ve never had a panic attack, the best way to describe one is
to ask you to imagine someone is choking you. Then, you realize the person choking you is you.
Your hand is locked around your throat, and although every instinct is telling you to let go, you
can not, and everything is getting fuzzier and more confusing. Somehow, the pressure releases
and you’ve made it out the other side… but you know it’s going to happen again, it’s just a matter
Depending on how you look at things, either luckily or unluckily, PTSD was on the approved list
of ailments to consider being admitted to the medicinal cannabis program in Connecticut. I have
a been a recreational user of cannabis for many years, and enjoyed the experiences. However,
what is generally not available “on the street” is CBD dominant strains. Tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) is the psychoactive component in cannabis; in other words, it gets you stoned.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, the ingredient with arguably
the most medicinal and therapeutic properties that can be derived from the plant. I was eager to
have access to cannabis that would actually help my illness, not just provide a temporary, albeit
pleasant, relief from the symptoms. After paying the appropriate fees to my doctor and the state
of Connecticut, I set foot for the first time in a dispensary.
As a recreational user, it was like going to summer camp, Disneyland, and heaven, all wrapped
into one. But I was not there for recreation. I spoke with the pharmacist and we decided on a plan
of action, which strains would help the most, and which were worth trying to see if they worked.
Because of federal law, cannabis is not open for clinical trials to determine the most effective
dosage/medication/potency. Therefore, the dispensaries rely on patient experiences and
recommendations to help future patients. It was a trial-and-error method of medicating, but one I
was very excited to experiment with.
Naturally, I went for the high-THC strains first, like a kid in a candy shop with too much money
in his pocket. But I also acquired an oil vaporizer, a strain with a CBD potency unmatched by
anything they had seen before. I set it aside for a special occasion: a panic attack. Within a few
days, the time came. The familiar feeling of drowning on land returned, and I couldn't breathe.
Rationality and focused thoughts go out the door when the body is experiencing that amount of
stress, so I almost forgot I had CBD available to me. I turned on the vaporizer and took two long
pulls on the cartridge. Then I sat. My leg, as it does when I panic, was shaking uncontrollably.
Without trying to stop it, I noticed the shaking was going away. I didn’t feel like someone was
stepping on my chest. I was coming back to the world.
Then, I wept. Even now, that moment of realization, that I had found something that truly works
in a safe and immediate manner, is enough to make me emotional. Two hits. That’all. I have taken and been administered in the emergency rooms all manner of drugs to stop severe panic attacks. They have worked, I stopped panicking… but not in the same way. The shot of lorazepam makes the symptoms stop, I don’t shake, and I can breathe, but the thoughts, the
reason for the symptoms, is still there.
Within five minutes of my first two CBD doses I was symptom-free, and miraculously, I found the thoughts that had been pervasive, dark, and dangerous, were ebbing away. Gone? Never. Insulin doesn’t cure diabetes, it helps manage it,
make it livable. That’s how CBD changed my life. It didn’t cure me, my diagnoses remain, but
CBD has allowed me the ability to manage them, to not permit them the control they had for