Cannabis and Veterans: A Healing Alternative for Our Nation’s Heroes

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Many of our veterans are turning to cannabis for their opioid addiction, anxiety and pain relief and are seeing positive results.

But even as medical marijuana for veterans is being pushed as a safer alternative to opioids and antidepressants, which have become addictive and deadly in this community, the Department of Veterans Affairs says it will not conduct research into whether medical marijuana could help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

This ongoing VA and medical marijuana battle is disheartening given the devastating toll opioids have taken on veterans. Doctors prescribe opioids for chronic pain, prevalent among veterans. In fact about 60 percent of military veterans returning from the Middle East experience chronic pain, reports PBS.

Medical Marijuana for PTSD, a Safer Alternative

Many veterans also take benzodiazepines for the anxiety they experience due to their post-traumatic stress disorder. But since Benzodiazepines and opioids are both sedatives, and the combination can be deadly according to National Institute on Drug Abuse, then the case for medical marijuana for PTSD is made stronger.

In fact, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose Veterans Day in 2017 to make PTSD a qualifying condition for the state’s strict medical marijuana program. New York joined 27 other states to include PTSD on their lists of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis.

Though things are still hazy on what exactly cannabis does, the scant cannabis research involving PTSD out there has shown some promise. A 2009 study published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics showed that the nighttime administration of THC reduced the frequency and intensity of nightmares in 72 percent of the 47 PTSD patients studied. But other trials have presented more mixed results.

What’s promising is that The Scientific American reported in January 2018 that the first-ever randomized control trial on the efficacy of marijuana for PTSD study is underway with cannabis provided by the federal government and a protocol approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The study, funded with a nearly $2.2-million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is examining four different strains of cannabis in treatment-resistant military veterans.

We’ve got young men and women with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries coming to us and saying that cannabis works.

Medical Marijuana for Veterans Helps Treat Opioid Addiction and Pains

Since opioid abuse has been linked to homelessness, prison and suicide among veterans, medical marijuana advocates have promoted the drug as a viable alternative to opioids. States with legalized marijuana have less opioid overdoses, too. It was found that, on average, states with legalized marijuana had close to a 25 percent lower mortality rate from opioids than states without such laws, according to a 2014 JAMA study.

The American Legion, a veterans group which was established after World War I, argues medical marijuana could ease suffering among soldiers who return from the horrors of war. “We’ve got young men and women with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries coming to us and saying that cannabis works,” Joe Plenzler, a spokesman for the American Legion, told The New York Times.

Cannabis has been shown to help alleviate chronic pain, according to a news release by NAS. Millions of veterans want cannabis removed from the Schedule I list, and it wants more research on the medical potential of cannabis. Let’s hope the government listens to its heroes.

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