Another key group is supporting medical cannabis and related research – our Veterans. A recent survey conducted by Five Corners found (across veterans and caregivers, all age ranges, gender, political leanings and geography) that:
• 92% of all respondents support medical research.
• 82% of all respondents support legalizing medial cannabis
• 81% of veterans support federally legal treatment
• 83% of caregivers support federally-legal treatment
• 92% of veterans support research into medical cannabis
• 93% of caregivers support research into cannabis
• 60% of respondents do not live in states where medical cannabis is legal
• 40% of respondents live in states where medical cannabis is legal
• 88% of respondents self-identified conservative respondents support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 90% of self-identified liberal respondents support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 70% of self-identified non-partisan respondents support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 100% of respondents aged 18-30 support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 96% of respondents aged 31-45 support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 87% of respondents aged 46-59 support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 79% of respondents aged 60+ support federally legalized medical cannabis
• 1 in 5 veterans uses marijuana to alleviate a medical or physical condition
• The majority of veterans surveyed that are using cannabis are over the age of 60
The support is both not surprising and important to take notice of given the fact that, according to RAND Corporation , at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression, and of those, only 50% seek treatment and out of that, only about half get “minimally adequate” treatment. In addition, another 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI) and 7% of veterans have both TBI and PTSD. And a staggering 60% of those returning from deployments in the Middle East, and 50% of older veterans suffer from chronic pain (compared to about 30% of American’s nationwide).
As a means of coping, and as a result of either not getting proper treatment, the frequency rates of alcohol and drug abuse amongst veterans remains high. And suicide rates are sobering.
In 2011, veterans were twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses as non-veterans, fueled in large part to reckless over-prescriptions. Newsweek reports a key role played by Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OyxContin, which “gave $200,000 to the VA pain management team that essentially turned the VA into its propaganda arm…developing the initial VA-Department of Defense guidelines that concluded opiates “rarely” cause addition.”
A 2012 JAMA study showed that veterans with mental health disorders and PTSD were three times more likely to receive opioids for pain diagnoses than other veterans, concluding that “Among US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health diagnoses, especially PTSD, were associated with an increased risk of receiving opioids for pain, high-risk opioid use, and adverse clinical outcomes.”
A 2016 study found a nearly 400% increase in overdoses and suicidal behavior by Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans given too many psychotropic and opiate medications. Senator John McCain (AZ) has reintroduced the Veterans Overmedication Prevention Act in response with the objective of ensuring “doctors develop safe and effective treatment plans for their veteran patients.”
The VA is now imposing much tougher, and arguably draconian DEA guidelines on opiate prescription, which advocates argue both harms patients with legitimate pain issues and is contributing to an increase in heroin and illegal opiate medication use among veterans, in addition to suicides from veterans going through withdrawal.
Elephant in the Room
Against this backdrop it should be no surprise that veterans are asking the federal government to consider cannabis as an alternative. Trump boasts about his commitment to our veterans, accusing previous administrations for failing to protect them. Here’s to hoping his administration pivots toward a saner and more productive approach to medical cannabis than his Attorney General has taken in 2017.
 Five Corners Strategies Grassroots Public Affairs. October 19, 2017. Web source link: https://www.legion.org/documents/legion/pdf/medical_cannabis_study.pdf Invisible Wounds of War. Tanielian and Jaycox. Rand Corporation. 2008. Web source link: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG720.pdf How the VA Fueled the National Opioid Crisis and is Killing Thousands of Veterans. Levine. October 12, 2017. Web source link: http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/20/va-fueled-opioid-crisis-killing-veterans-681552.html. Karen H. Seal, Ying Shi, Gregory Cohen, Beth E. Cohen, Shira Maguen, Erin E. Krebs, Thomas C. Neylan. Association of Mental Health Disorders With Prescription Opioids and High-Risk Opioid Use in US Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. JAMA. 2012;307(9):940–947. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.234 Web Link: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1105046?resultClick=1 Collett, Garen A. et al. “Prevalence of Central Nervous System Polypharmacy and Associations with Overdose and Suicide-Related Behaviors in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans in VA Care 2010–2011.” Drugs – Real World Outcomes 3.1 (2016): 45–52. PMC. Web. 30 Dec. 2017. Web link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4819457/ veterans-681552.html.