Why cannabis should be recommended to Veterans

Published Apr 29, 2019 11:30 a.m. ET
Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

Though many people are beginning to recognize the potential health benefits of marijuana use in general, it is rarely something that is offered to our most vulnerable people, and in this case, those folks are our veterans. We respect our soldiers who leave behind families, wives, and children who are actively in the military, but one group gets systematically forgotten about, and that’s those who have served and are now suffering for their duty to protect this country.

Many of our country’s veterans are living a low quality of life, on a minimum income, and all the while being prescribed pharmaceutical medications that often will hinder more than they assist them. Luckily, there is some drug coverage in Canada, but cannabis is not yet covered by any more than one health insurance policy in the entire country, and that leaves marijuana a costly and rarely available option for those who are trying to manage their PTSD symptoms. Then there is another demographic of veterans who can afford medical marijuana but don’t fully understand the benefits that they could obtain from using it either as a replacement or in conjunction with other already prescribed medications. Today, we will touch on just some of the many reasons why marijuana and PTSD can often work well together to manage hindering or uncomfortable issues in patients.

Common symptoms of PTSD

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a rather all-encompassing term that can include a wide variety of symptoms and severity. Some of the most commonly experienced issues with PTSD are:

  • chronic pain
  • sleeplessness
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • social detachment
  • flashbacks

Marijuana and PTSD

Though veterans might also suffer from a wide range of other problems that are not included here, these are the PTSD specific symptoms that marijuana use is proven to help to alleviate.

Effects of marijuana on chronic pain

Chronic pain is a problem that is experienced by a large portion of the population at some point in their lives, but the chances of an individual going through this as a veteran are doubled. Whether the trouble is inflammation or an old wound that never healed properly, THC can help to alleviate all different kinds of pain and is just as effective as many of the lower dosed opioids that are often prescribed to veterans.

Effects of marijuana on anxiety and depression

Both anxiety and depression are common side effects of PTSD. THC can stimulate the brain's receptors which allows a natural release of bodily hormones that can help to regulate these symptoms in a more natural way than alternative sedatives which is one of the biggest reasons that PTSD should be an automatic consideration for medical marijuana.

Effects of marijuana on sleep quality

Both THC and CBD have proven beneficial when taken by those who suffer from sleep troubles like insomnia or nightmares. THC is an active sedative that once worn off will lull the user into a deep and restful sleep that is free of frequent interruptions from waking and frightening dreams.

Effects of marijuana on social detachment

Many of the symptoms of PTSD can lead to a noticeable social withdrawal, where the person is far too uncomfortable to travel outside of their home with any frequency. This is mainly due to depression and anxiety that hinders their ability to enjoy regular social activities that foster healthy relationships. This can degrade a person’s mental health even further and needs to be addressed immediately. Cannabis can help to encourage social activity by alleviating overwhelming symptoms of anxiety and depression with little to no side effects when compared to pharmaceutical alternatives that are so often prescribed today.

Effects of marijuana on flashbacks

This is the only symptoms of PTSD that has a reasonably high chance of being exacerbated using cannabis. This is due to the psychoactive qualities of the THC which has been known to induce an overwhelming sense of relaxation along with heightened blood pressure. THC is only effective in 50% of PTSD cases including flashbacks, but CBD has a much higher 80% success rate when used in conjunction with other prescribed medications.

Effects of marijuana on appetite

Cannabis comes with a host of potential side effects like dry mouth and a lack of motivation, but one of the most significant findings on marijuana and PTSD is its ability to improve the overall appetite of anyone who is experiencing nausea, anxiety, depression, and several other influential factors. Indica and high THC strains are most notorious for inducing a good old-fashioned case of the munchies which are enough to make almost anyone hungry.

In conclusion

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to using medical marijuana to manage symptoms of PTSD. Though significant numbers of people have enjoyed great success with the introduction of THC and or CBD into the daily care routine, consumption of either cannabinoid should start of slow and controlled. This allows for close monitoring of the situation by friends, family, and healthcare providers. It also helps to avoid any overwhelming sensations from lasting too long which could induce fear of cannabis use in the future. Always remember to consult with a healthcare provider before self-medicating with medical marijuana. Especially if you are on any prescribed medications that cannabinoids might negatively interfere with.

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