'My mood’s stable now,' says Ryan Begin of Jackman, who fought in Iraq
By Michael Shepherd, Maine Today
AUGUSTA -- Ryan Begin was checking a report of an improvised explosive device in Iskandariya, Iraq, on Aug. 1, 2004.
Then the U.S. Marine Corps corporal saw one. It detonated, blowing apart his right arm.
More than 30 surgeries later, Begin said he has regained some use of his arm. But the psychological damage has taken a harsher toll, including drug addiction and violence.
Begin told doctors in federal health centers high-grade medical marijuana was his only hope for tamping down the innumerable nightmares, flashbacks and fears that followed him from the battlefield.
"My mood's stable now -- no peaks and valleys, just stable ups and downs," he said.
His mother, Anna -- "a little bit apprehensive" about medical marijuana at first -- is a believer.
"When he started the marijuana, it was like having my son back," she said.
Doctors in the federal veterans' health care system aren't as convinced. The substance remains illegal under federal law, and guidelines for federal health centers don't support medical marijuana.
That ended Begin's relationship with the federal health system.
Today, Begin is unemployed, and one of 1,807 patients registered with the state to use marijuana medicinally.