Key points

  • Veterans are more likely to develop conditions and illnesses (e.g., PTSD, chronic pain, anxiety and depression) after service. Based on previously published studies, these ailments could be treated with cannabis use based on previously published studies.
  • Anecdotal reports from veterans themselves suggest that cannabis use – whether by smoking or other delivery methods – can help treat the numerous symptoms veterans face daily.
  • Cannabis is an attractive option for medication given to veterans. Unlike opioids or alcohol, the side effects of cannabis are relatively mild.
  • There’s still an ongoing debate on whether veterans should have free access to medical cannabis treatment programs. Some argue that cannabis use in this particular population can lead to dependence, misuse, and worsening mental health conditions.
  • Organisations such as the Veterans Cannabis Project, Cannabis Europa, and Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access continue to advocate using medical cannabis as a treatment option for veterans.

Many veterans face potential health complications after leaving the army. There could be any number of reasons for this. Nevertheless, it is often related to deployment, injury or long-term use of alcohol or pain-relieving medications like opioids.

Many soldiers get diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) while on duty and even after deployment. These conditions, after all, are very likely to develop in duty members who have been exposed to combat.

When a veteran faces serious health complications, medications are used to treat the symptoms and make the transition back into civilian life more manageable. A significant number of veterans turn to illicit substances and alcohol – and eventually develop an addiction – as a way of coping with pain, stress and anxiety.

As such, there has been a growing interest in other therapies to help veterans transition into civilian life. Thanks to legislation changes across the globe, many veterans have turned to medical cannabis for veterans as a way to treat their chronic pain, PTSD and other mental health disorders.

In this article, we’ll take a look at medical cannabis for veterans, including its benefits, side effects and legal status.

Veterans have higher risks of developing illnesses and mental health disorders

Several studies have shown that veterans are more likely to develop chronic illnesses and mental health disorders like:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • depression, anxiety and substance use disorders
  • suicidal ideation and behaviour
  • disability from chronic pain
  • alcohol and opioid addiction

It is not unheard of for veterans to develop more than one of these illnesses, which can make it challenging to get their life back on track. Returning to civilian life can seem impossible for those who have been deployed to particularly violent wars or situations.

Many veterans use prescription medications as part of their treatment plans for mental health disorders and medical conditions. However, many also develop an addiction or dependence on alcohol and opioids.

There are several reasons why a veteran may be at an increased risk for developing an opioid addiction. These include:

  • Prescription painkillers are often used to treat physical pain that veterans experience after being deployed
  • Veterans who have been exposed to traumatic events while deployed may be more susceptible to the effects of opioids on mental health.
  • Transitioning from military to civilian life can be difficult and stressful, increasing feelings of isolation and depression.

In light of these concerns, veterans and their loved ones continue to seek out alternatives that do not lead to a worsening of their quality of life.

Cannabis may be one of the best options. Not only does it show promise in treating the symptoms, but it also is a safer treatment route. Many veterans swear by it, and science is catching up.

Medical cannabis for veterans: how it can help

Veterans are some of the most vocal proponents of medical cannabis. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers found that veterans consume cannabis at rates higher than the regular population.

Since they’re at risk of developing debilitating symptoms, veterans are likely to seek treatment in alternative ways. A 2018 review suggests the same conclusion. According to researchers, 41% of veterans classified their cannabis use as “medical” – a percentage twice as high in the general population.

Cannabis can help manage PTSD, depression, and anxiety

Anecdotal evidence from veterans suggests that using cannabis can help them better manage their symptoms as opposed to other medications. A 2021 study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse reports:

“[Older] veterans reported positive effects of cannabis use for their pain, sleep quality, health conditions, and QOL. … Veterans in our study were more likely to use cannabis [as compared to non-veterans] for mental health conditions.”

A dose containing both CBD and THC was shown to help with PTSD among veterans, a 2021 study published in The Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology states. The study adds that not only does a cannabinoid treatment work, but it is also well tolerated among veteran patients.

Medical cannabis for all veterans can aid with chronic pain symptoms

Veterans have higher rates of depression and anxiety than civilians. And to add salt to the wound, nearly one-third of all veterans will experience chronic pain at some point during their lives.

While conventional treatments like opioids can work, these medications can lead to debilitating addictions down the line. Chronic pain is the second most common reason for veterans seeking a cannabis treatment program.

Several studies have proven that THC and CBD oil have potent pain-relieving properties. The cannabinoids in cannabis help regulate pain perception by activating critical receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). For starters, the ECS is a network of receptors and chemicals that your body uses to regulate stress, mood, memory and other biological functions.

Medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids and alcohol for veterans

Many veterans are turning to medical cannabis as a safer option for treating their physical and mental health problems. The FDA-approved medications used to treat chronic pain can cause serious side effects like insomnia and nausea, leading to addiction if not properly managed.

In contrast, many studies show that medical cannabis may have fewer side effects than any other medication today. And unlike many medications used for these conditions, such as opioids or benzodiazepines (also known as tranquillisers), there’s is little risk of overdose.

Studies show that those who enter medical cannabis programs will likely quit opioid use altogether. A 2018 clinical trial in the Minnesota Department of Health found a 38% reduction in opioid medications following cannabis treatment.

Moreover, veterans who use cannabis are more likely to get into other therapeutic programs such as yoga and combination. A combination of cannabis medication and lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of PTSD and other chronic pain conditions.

Risks and dangers of cannabis for veterans

When considering whether or not to use cannabis for pain management, there are many risks and dangers to consider. The potential for addiction is still present. Many also fall into the trap of developing cannabis dependence and cravings.

If you have a history of mental health disorders (including substance use disorder), you’re at risk of developing other mental health disorders as a result of using cannabis. Some studies also suggest that cannabis use might encourage veterans to try out dangerous substances later.

Should you consider cannabis treatment for veterans to manage your symptoms, it’s best to consult a doctor or specialist. At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, we have a dedicated team of specialists to help you navigate the process of cannabis treatment for veterans. We’ll work with you to determine whether this is a good option for you and manage your symptoms effectively. Book your online consultation now. 

How to get medical cannabis for veterans?

Medical cannabis for veterans is a big topic, and it’s worth getting informed about. The most important thing you can do is learn about your options and seek a doctor who can prescribe medical cannabis.

The first step in understanding how to get medical cannabis for veterans is finding a doctor who is willing and able to prescribe it. Contacting local clinics may be your best bet, but be sure they have experience treating patients with PTSD or other conditions that might benefit from medical cannabis.

The internet provides many resources if you want to look up doctors near you specifically recommended by veterans communities online. There are also many online guides available that teach people how they were able to find doctors willing to provide them with cannabis prescriptions.

Once you get your prescription, you can get them at a specialist pharmacy or dispensary. This is a good way of ensuring that you get the right product and dosage and talking to someone about how it’s working for you.

Cannabis for veterans – What’s next?

The future of medical cannabis for veterans is looking up. The demand is increasing, and more people are interested in using this treatment for their conditions.

Despite the lack of legislative support, more and more advocacies and organisations are pushing for government-backed cannabis programs for veterans. This is a positive development for the industry and veterans looking for an alternative to opioids.

UK

Recently, there has been a petition for the UK Government to provide free medical cannabis for all veterans with various conditions, including PTSD. The petition reads:

“Medical cannabis is proven, safe and free of the devastating side effects of antidepressants and/or opiate-based medications. Other countries have recognised this and are seeing great success with this approach. Those with lesser health issues may well respond to access to CBD.”

Unfortunately, the petition has been rejected as of writing. Still, the advocacy for medical cannabis is gaining momentum, and many advocates in the UK and across Europe want to see change.

Last December 2021, David Moczulski – founder of Tier One CBD – called for a Government-funded medical cannabis program to help veterans manage physical and mental health conditions. Furthermore, Moczulski advocated for support networks to educate veterans on cannabis use and how it can help with PTSD and other mental health disorders.

Europe

Last year, the Cannabis Europa conference hosted a ‘Cannabis for Veterans’ panel with industry experts. Former veterans like Moczulski shared their experiences and how CBD treatment helped them cope with PTSD and other mental health issues.

Talking about his experience with CBD, Mocsulski said: “I met a guy who made his own CBD oil. He gave it to me, and within two days of taking it I felt mentally buoyant, and physically I could do things that I wasn’t previously able to do.”

Doctors and health care practitioners were also present at the conference. According to neuropsychiatric Dr Mayur Bodani, cannabinoid treatments in a medical setting allow both patients and healthcare providers to make empowered choices.

Canada

Unlike in most of Europe and the United States, Canada offers subsidised medical cannabis for veterans.

A government wing known as the Veteran Affairs Canada reimburses the cost of the medication to veterans who meet certain criteria. Canada is poised to spend $200 million annually on medical cannabis for veterans.

United States

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, veteran use of cannabis does not affect eligibility for VA care and services. Though such is the case, the country lacks assisted cannabis treatment programs for its veterans.

Thanks to more research and changing legislation in certain states, the use of cannabis to treat PTSD and the like has been growing in popularity. Service organisations like the Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access continue to lobby for subsidised use among veterans.

Conclusion

As medical cannabis continues to gain popularity, more veterans are turning to it as an alternative to traditional medication. The benefits of this treatment are numerous and include fewer side effects than prescription medications. However, there remains a need for more research to make cannabis a first-line option.

Cannabis is not a cure-all for these problems, but it has helped many veterans get their life back on track from the side effects of prescription medications. It’s not uncommon to hear veterans say that medical cannabis has been a lifesaver for them.

If you’re a veteran seeking help managing chronic pain or other symptoms, consider trying out medical cannabis. Many options are available depending on where you live; check with your doctor or dispensary before deciding on one course of action over another.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What illness qualifies for medical cannabis for veterans?

Various illnesses qualify for medical cannabis for veterans, including chronic pain and PTSD. While other conditions are not eligible for this treatment option, there are many ways to access medical cannabis.

Is medical cannabis for veterans covered by insurance?

As of writing, insurance does not cover medical cannabis for veterans. This can make it difficult to afford treatment, but there are ways to get access without insurance coverage.

Can you get a medical card for cannabis as a veteran?

Anyone who has been prescribed medical cannabis in the UK can sign up to receive their ID card, which will prove that they are a legal patient. A medical cannabis card for veterans comes with no extra costs or fees.

What is Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access?

The Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access is a non-profit service organisation based in Virginia, USA. It advocates for the right of veterans to use cannabis for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it.

What is the usual price of medical cannabis for veterans?

Since medical cannabis is not covered by insurance, patients have to pay for it out of their own pockets. The price varies depending on the strain, the potency, and even the kind of product (e.g., tinctures, pills, edibles) you choose to purchase.

References

https://norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets/marijuana-and-veterans-issues/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdeangelo/2022/06/20/vets-and-medical-cannabis-its-the-least-we-can-do/?sh=63f1b382d74e
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/05/27/federal-marijuana-policy-veterans-black-market-271197
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272735821000015
https://cannabishealthnews.co.uk/2021/12/07/were-not-doing-enough-as-a-country-should-medical-cannabis-be-funded-for-veterans-anxiety21/
https://cannabis-europa.com/2021/11/16/cannabis-for-veterans-panel-roundup/
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269881119882806?journalCode=jopa&
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33881952/
https://www.greenlymed.com/news/2018/3/2/research-intractable-pain-patients-in-the-minnesota-medical-cannabis-program-experience-of-enrollees-during-the-first-five-months-minnesota-department-of-health-march-2018