Medical Marijuana: Treating Veterans with PTSD

veterans, veteran
January 13, 2021 0 Comments

Several studies show cannabis has proven medicinal properties, including relieving post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. So much so that 36 states in the U.S. have legalized medical marijuana.

Unfortunately, cannabis has not been legalized at the federal level. This means those who may need it most can’t get a prescription for it. In that category fall the brave Americans who have served our country as soldiers.

Medical Marijuana Treatment

Many veterans suffer physical and emotional traumas. These traumas may be relieved by a treatment course that includes medical marijuana.

  • Veterans are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than non-military citizens.
  • Veteran suicides from 2007 to 2017 increased by 50% because of veteran mental health disorders.
  • More than 60,000 veterans died from suicide from 2007 to 2017 ten-year span.

And, one look at these statistics, it’s obvious there is a need for:

  • Crisis-level intervention
  • Retired soldiers support

Federal Government Transitioning Programs

The physical scars and injuries sustained during active duty may become the new norm for veterans after discharge. And, the following are difficult, especially if a veteran has sustained psychological trauma.

  • Transitioning into civilian life
  • Obtaining employment
  • Rebuilding a new life

The Federal Government offers transitioning programs to help veterans adapt to their new lives. However, many veterans feel they aren’t prepared for life after military service.

Also, they feel a social stigma against the mental health problems suffered by active-duty and retired veterans.

Living With PTSD

Over the past 13 years, 500,000 U.S. troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Firstly, symptoms differ for each individual. A soldier diagnosed with PTSD may experience some or all of the following symptoms.

  • Deep Fear of Trust in Relationships
  • Hypervigilance
  • Difficulties with Emotional or Mood Regulation
  • Flash Backs and Night Terrors
  • Muscle Armoring
  • Severe Mobility Impairment and Chronic Pain from Hypertonic Fascia
  • Persistent Feelings of Sadness and Depression
  • Shame and Humiliation

And, some can successfully manage symptoms with anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications. However, for others, the psychotropic medications providers prescribe by conventional medicine don’t work.

Why Is PTSD Difficult to Treat?

Researchers don’t fully understand how PTSD affects the brain. However, traditional approaches to treating patients with PTSD include:

And, after years of therapy, someone who has PTSD may feel that life will ‘never get better’ because the treatments are not working. So, veterans may turn to self-medicating to relieve the pain.

  • Addictive drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Hurting themselves physically
  • Committing suicide

How Can It Help Veterans With PTSD?

Recent studies suggest military veterans with PTSD may benefit from therapeutic cannabis. Also, studies show both CBD and THC may make PTSD symptoms more manageable.

THC may:

  • Provide pain relief.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Provide anxiety relief.

Some studies report activating CB1, and CB2 receptors for veterans may help them unlock repressed memories. Unlocking these memories may help heal the root trauma.

How Can Veterans Get Access?

There is good news and bad news on this front. The good news is in 2018, the Veteran’s Affairs department announced veterans would not be penalized for using medical cannabis under these conditions:

  • They must reside in a legalized state.
  • Medical marijuana use must be supervised by a primary care provider (PCP).

The bad news is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must follow federal laws regarding marijuana use. So even in a state where it is legal, VA health care providers may not recommend it or assist Veterans in obtaining it.

Hence, here is what you need to know if you are a veteran and want to use medical marijuana as part of your treatment plan.

According to the VA

Veteran participation in state marijuana programs does not affect eligibility for VA care and services. VA providers can discuss marijuana use with veterans as part of comprehensive care planning and adjust treatment plans as necessary.

Importantly, veterans need to know the following about marijuana.

  • The VA:
    • Will not deny benefits because of marijuana use.
    • Encourages discussing marijuana use with providers.
    • Will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.
  • Providers will record marijuana use in the veteran’s VA medical record to have the information available in treatment planning. As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record. However, it’s protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
  • Clinicians may:
    • Not recommend medical marijuana.
    • Only prescribe medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use. At present, the FDA has not approved most products containing THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids.
    • Not complete paperwork/forms required for veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs.
  • Pharmacies may not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
  • Under regulatory approval, scientists may research marijuana:
    • Benefits
    • Risks
    • Potential for abuse
  • All VA medical centers, locations, and grounds prohibit marijuana use and possession. When you are on VA grounds,  federal law is in force, not the state’s laws.
  • VA veteran employees are subject to drug testing under the terms of employment.

You can also view the full directive here: Access to VHA Clinical Programs for Veterans Participating in State-Approved Marijuana Programs.

Thank You for Your Service

We’re here to help! So, if you are a veteran living in Florida and want to learn about what Medical Marijuana can do to support your physical and emotional health, contact us today! Most importantly, we would be proud to act as your non-VA Primary Care Provider.

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Medical Marijuana: Treating Veterans with PTSD
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If you are a veteran currently living in Florida and would like to learn more about what Medical Marijuana can do to support your physical and emotional health, contact us today!
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