Veterans and Cannabis

Vanessa Shanahan

August 16, 2019

Cannabis is widely available across Canada and much of the world is warming to it as well, however, when it comes to Veterans, opioids are much more accessible and administered for trauma. The opioid crisis that our world is facing has killed hundreds of thousands of people in Canada and the US. Doctors are keen on prescribing opioids to veterans after serving in the military. Veterans face service-related issues such as anger, anxiety, depression, feelings of detachment, and of course chronic pain. In the US, of all of the veterans returning home from the Middle East, roughly 60 percent experience chronic pain. When service ends for these Vets, it is very common to visit hospitals on a regular basis to receive hydrocodone for pain and muscle relaxers. These pills can cause dependency as well as having detrimental effects on the persons’ mental health, causing such things as anger, social anxiety and thus leading to more medications to combat these effects. The problems worsen and it can seem like there is no way out of this cycle of addiction. With the devastating toll opioids have taken on veterans, finally, we are scrambling to find alternative solutions. However, there is a much safer and far less addictive alternative to opiates, cannabis.  Smoking cannabis can allow veterans to ease off of the pills and help to manage their chronic pain. Cannabis, compared to opioids, is not seen as a gateway drug, but rather it is an exit path off of opiates. Some veterans have gone as far as saying that cannabis has been their cure-all drug. It would only take a small amount of medical grade cannabis to be able to control the pain and alleviate mental health side effects from trauma. 

Canada has the potential to come around to medical cannabis use much more easily than the US. In many states, veterans fear they will be labeled a criminal because of their choice to use cannabis. The current system of pill handouts is extremely ineffective, and in fact, most veterans who have discovered cannabis will self-medicate. As of now, the system is broken and will take some time to fix. Once cannabis researchers begin to take note of the beneficial effects cannabis is having on veterans, perhaps we will begin to see some breakthroughs in long-term veteran treatments. If there is a need, which there is, the science is there, but we need to have a willingness to listen to veterans and really see this as the crisis that it has become.