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Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans: Where We Stand

Medical Marijuana For Military Veterans: Where We Stand

By Calum Hughes.

The relationship between marijuana use and PTSD is one of the most confounding topics in science. Every day, conflicting studies come out with opposite claims on marijuana’s safety and uses. It’s safe to say that marijuana as a treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD remains a highly controversial topic.

With issues like PTSD, the V.A.’s solution has come to be known as the “combat cocktail,” a combination of drugs prescribed to combat a variety of conditions including anxiety, depression and pain. The problem is that these drugs, if not administered correctly, can cause side effects that make veteran’s conditions even worse.

As the use of marijuana to treat PTSD continues to dominate headlines, it’s clear that the V.A.’s stance on marijuana and their reliance on antidepressants is out of touch with veteran’s experiences and needs. Here’s why.


PTSD is one of the most prevalent issues that impacts veterans. 67 percent of people exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, a higher rate than any other type of traumatic event.

Particularly for veterans, marijuana as a treatment for PTSD is quickly gaining traction at a federal level. As we speak, legislation is being heard by the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health to allow V.A. doctors to recommend medical cannabis, require the V.A. to study the medical potential of marijuana, and shield veterans from being stripped of their V.A. benefits for cannabis use in accordance with state laws.

On top of that, recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states, and medical marijuana is legal in 33. While state officials are recognizing the benefits of marijuana for our veterans and taking swift action, the V.A. has yet to follow suit.

Why The V.A. Is Tone Deaf

Among veterans, 92 percent support research into medical cannabis and 83 percent support legalizing medical cannabis. Meanwhile, veterans residing in states that have legalized medicinal marijuana are unable to obtain a recommendation through the V.A., as the agency is federally controlled. Why are we denying our veterans the right to a treatment that they clearly support?

The V.A.’s treatment options for PTSD is also outdated and problematic. The four antidepressants listed on the V.A.’s website are SSRIs like Sertraline, Paroxetine, Fluoxetine and SNRI’s like Venlafaxine. For almost all of these drugs, side effects include irritability, violence, and aggressiveness among others—not exactly what you’d want to prescribe to a patient dealing with PTSD. Nevertheless, these SSRIs and talk therapy remain the only treatments visible on the V.A.’s website.

The V.A.’s Stance On Marijuana— And Where It Falls Short

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that “There is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD.” The contradictory aspect of this statement is that the V.A. is leading the charge in stagnating new research. Since marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government — meaning it’s considered to have no medical benefits — conducting a randomized controlled trial on marijuana use is extremely difficult.

While various federal agencies debate the legitimacy of a substance that 83 percent of veterans support, veterans continue to struggle, and the U.S. takes a backseat to cannabis research while other countries take the lead.

Research and Studies

Despite the lack of federal studies, research has continued to prove that cannabis has a wide array of medical benefits that can directly improve the lives of veterans.

Science Daily reported findings in 2013 that there is a link between cannabinoid receptors in the brain and PTSD. Researchers concluded that individuals with PTSD had lower levels of the neurotransmitter anandamide, which closely resembles THC, compared to the rest of the population. Additionally, chemical compounds found in cannabinoids have shown therapeutic effects by stimulating the body’s endocannabinoid system.

There are also a handful of marijuana strains the have been significantly successful in managing anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, nightmares and other debilitating symptoms that come with PTSD. OG Kush is an example of a marijuana strain that’s popular among veterans with PTSD. With a THC content between 20-24 percent and a CBD content of 0.2 percent, it calms the entire body and provides a relaxing experience for someone suffering from anxiety.

Looking Forward

The amount of research on marijuana for PTSD, combined with an almost unanimous positive consensus among veterans, is too great to be ignored. And yet, the V.A. and other federal agencies continue to categorize marijuana as having no medicinal value.

Cannabinoids could be the solution that veterans with PTSD desperately need. And the only thing that will help is more research. Until we remove the red tape on marijuana research, veterans will continue to suffer. It’s time to move beyond the “combat cocktail,” and the solution is right in front of us.

Calum Hughes is the founder and CEO of Allied Corp. Calum is a Registered kinesiologist with the British Columbia Association of Kinesiologists and has also completed a Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Gerontology. He has researched and developed cannabis treatments to target certain strains of the plant to help treat PTSD in first responders and veterans.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.


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