At just 22 years of age, U.S Sergeant Douglas Williams was sent to the Vietnam War and was stationed in Thailand and Japan as a ‘Dittybopper’; a jovial term given to those who had the job of receiving and copying down morse code for it to be later translated by another department. Like so many others while serving for their country, he was contaminated by the merciless chemical Agent Orange which would, unbeknownst to him, affect him for the rest of his life.
For those who don’t know, Agent Orange is now almost synonymous with horrifying health conditions and physical deformity. But during the Vietnam war, its influence was barely fathomable. An incredibly harmful chemical agent used as a herbicide and defoliant during the Vietnam war by the U.S military, it was utilized to help the U.S military cut through the dense and sprawling jungles of Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
But at the time, no one was truly aware of the incredible impact this mix of toxic chemicals and it’s active ingredient Dioxin would have on the health of locals and the military people who came into contact with it.
Just 50 years on and we are still only just now recognising the detrimental health implications Agent Orange has and continues to have. Agent Orange, or Napalm, has now been linked to an incredible number of problematic health issues that at the top of the list includes: causing multiple forms of cancers, neurological disorders and birth defects that even today continue to affect the children of those who came into contact with it.
Douglas’s daughter, Jennifer, explains that as a result of his contact with Agent Orange, he now suffers from incredible neuropathic pain in his feet, arthritis and his most recent diagnosis of Type ll Diabetes. Douglas now, like many other veterans, must take a cocktail of medications just to get on with his day.
But one day Douglas said enough was enough. Taking his neuropathic medication gave Douglas extreme vertigo, making normal day-to-day activities impossible, and forcing him to make the decision between excessive pain or incredible dizziness. It was one evening that, after taking his prescription meds, he was forced into making a decision. He experienced such a case of dizziness that he fell over, cutting his head open badly.
This event forced Douglas to weigh up the pros and cons of taking this medication. If he decided to continue taking it, he knew he would need to deal with the extreme vertigo that could mean more falls and injuries. On the other hand, giving it up meant dealing with the crippling pain from his neuropathy and arthritis. Even so, he decided the latter was the lesser of the two evils.
He told his doctor he could not, and would not, take any more of the neuropathy medication and resigned himself to a life of indescribable pain. Without many options left to him and knowing that pharmaceutical medications were no better than the issues he was taking it for, he and his daughter began researching other options. It was then that he was first introduced to cannabis medicine.