It’s not easy being a veteran. Luckily, they have more respect coming home than they did a could of decades ago, but they don’t have enough. In order to keep their federal benefits, many veterans are forced to choose from a selection of pharmaceuticals offered by the VA, and some of those medications, like opioids, can be harmful to their body after long term use. The Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act was introduced this month and is set to be reviewed by Congress this week along with two other bills focused on our veterans, and this could be a huge turning point in the battle for access to cannabis for all.
The Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act
This month, The Veterans Cannabis Use for Safe Healing Act was introduced by Rep. Greg Steub from Florida with Rep. Gil Cisneros from California as a cosponsor. Steub is actually a veteran himself, knowing first hand what our troops go through when they come home and what their needs are. This bill he has introduced is meant to ensure that veterans who use cannabis products following the state law will not lose their federal benefits despite the classification of cannabis being a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This bill will also allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis within the VA.
Why Do Veterans Need Access to Cannabis?
When it comes to people who dedicate their lives to this country, it only makes sense that they get the care that they need when they return home. These people could have done anything with their lives, but they chose to serve this country and the consequence of that is often pain or brain health issues. For their sacrifice, the least our nation could do is give them access to safe medication that works, like medical cannabis.
Veterans in Pain
Did you know that veterans are 40% more likely to deal with pain than regular civilians? This causes a loss in productivity, higher health care costs, and disability. The VA began disclosing how many opioid painkillers are prescribed through their health care system, reporting that they have decreased their prescription rates. They have started using a multifaceted approach to helping relieve pain. However, many believe that medical cannabis needs to be a part of that methodology.
Studies have shown that medical cannabis is very effective when combatting chronic pain. By reducing the body’s sensitivity to pain, cannabis has a high efficacy rate with one of the most attractive side-effect profiles on the pharmaceutical market. There have been no known overdoses linked to cannabis use, which takes away one significant issue that has been associated with painkillers.
Veterans and Brain Health
Pain isn’t the only reason that veterans are wishing to get access to cannabis, having medicine that also improves your brain health while combatting pain at the same time is the golden goose of medications. Cannabis has shown in studies to be very beneficial to the brain helping with a wide range of brain health issues, two of the most common being traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Veterans and TBI
22% of veterans that fought in Afghanistan and Iraq are reported to have brain injuries causing comorbid illnesses that bring on an extreme drop in productivity. Many of the cases of TBI are mild, and the treatment for TBI isn’t invasive. The VA offers different therapies and offers medication to help combat some of the symptoms like nausea and headaches. If the VA was able to utilize cannabis, they might be able to not only help relieve symptoms but treat the TBI altogether.
Veterans and PTSD
Going to war isn’t easy. Being away from home in a room full of stressed out comrades can be a recipe for disaster. Between 11-20% of veterans from the Iraqi war reported having PTSD. The Gulf War has reported 12%, and the Vietnam war an estimated 30%. 23% of women in the military have reported sexual assault, an additional fuel to the PTSD fire. PTSD is running rampant in the minds of our soldiers, which can cause a myriad of other brain health issues including anxiety, being susceptible to violent behavior, and devastating depression.
PTSD is a disorder that you can recover from using medication and therapy. Studies have shown that in the cannabis plant, CBD may be the most effective cannabinoid for PTSD treatment. By reducing the overactivity of the amygdala which causes the fear response in patients, cannabis or hemp oil may be able to help veterans work through their therapy treatment with reduced symptoms. The goal with anxiety isn’t to stay on medication forever, but to use it as a tool for treatment.
What Can Civilians Do for Our Veterans?
We aren’t in congress so we can’t pass this bill. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could, though? So what can we do as civilians to help our veterans after all they have done for us?
One thing you can do is donate your time or money to organizations that promote cannabis for U.S veterans.
Another thing you can do is help raise awareness. There is still a negative stigma on cannabis, and this stigma is a huge roadblock when it comes to full access. By sharing stories of people who have gotten their life back using cannabis, studies that show it’s effectiveness or safety, or even articles like this that just talk about why people need it. Getting the word out there may be able to help abolish the stigma and get people the help they need and deserve.