Veterans, Medical Cannabis, and PTSD

For those that serve their country, it’s, unfortunately, a common occurrence to come back home with symptoms like chronic pain, PTSD, or other mental illnesses. Veterans, depending on their nation of origin, will often get health benefits which are helpful in dealing with some of these symptoms however in America the VA policy for medical Cannabis is that it’s not to be recommended for patients. Here’s why that is a problem.

Medical Cannabis pain relief

Medical Cannabis can bring relief to the chronic pain that can be brought about by many injuries. It can come in a variety of forms but often people will opt for CBD products as they can offer relief without the “high” feeling associated with THC. The CBD products come in a variety of ways to take it like topicals, oils, and vapes. The main benefit to using a CBD product over the traditional prescribed pain relievers and opioids is that CBD and other medical Cannabis products are much less addictive. Addiction is another common problem among veterans for a multitude of reasons so it is beneficial to offer options that might be safer options for individuals.

Does Medical Cannabis relieve PTSD?

There is an increasing belief that medical Cannabis can be one of the most beneficial treatment options for PTSD but are they true? The mechanisms behind PTSD are still being identified but there is research to suggest there are positive effects to using Cannabis to temporarily relieve PTSD symptoms. According to a 2019 study, medical Cannabis was found to relieve symptoms but it wasn’t completely understood if it was merely acting on the parts of the brain that anxiety and depression share with PTSD as the mental health symptoms often go hand in hand.

One of the regions that appeared to be brought relief was the amygdala which is in charge of the fear response. Even if cannabis doesn’t directly treat PTSD, its ability to treat symptoms associated with it make it worth trying.

Medical Cannabis isn’t always an option for veterans

As you can see, veterans can benefit greatly from medical Cannabis if that is the treatment option they would like to pursue further. However, as it currently stands in America, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is still prohibiting the recommendation or prescription of medical Cannabis for veteran use through their offices. Veterans can still use medical Cannabis on their own but they will not be supported by the VA, which means they will need a different insurance option or pay out of pocket for the medication.

This makes it difficult for the people that might need the relief the most to try this treatment option. On top of that, there is a misconception among veterans that they can’t mention their medical Cannabis use or they will lose their VA benefits. This is not the case as the Doctors are simply not allowed to make their own recommendations regarding medical Cannabis, but they should be let know so they don’t prescribe anything that might be problematic in conjunction with medical Cannabis.

Conclusion

Medical Cannabis can bring relief to chronic pain in patients and is showing considerable promise in relieving PTSD symptoms. However, at the moment the true possibility of Cannabis and PTSD relief is still being studied. Unfortunately, many veterans won’t be able to access this treatment option for themselves as medical Cannabis is not supported by the Federal government in America. The VA can’t allow its doctors to recommend it as an option which means it is not covered by veteran benefits. 

 

There is a push to change this policy for veterans as there are representatives on both sides of the aisle who are interested in supporting the change in policy but only time will tell how long the change will take. In the meantime, if you are a veteran who is able to obtain medical Cannabis, please remember that you are allowed to use it (depending on your state) and the VA will not revoke your benefits. It is better to be honest about your lifestyle so the doctors can better help you.

Illustration by 355A