VA Doctors Can Now Discuss Medical Cannabis, But They Still Can’t Prescribe It

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Countless veterans return home to find their world will never be the same. To reduce the mental and physical anguish many vets face, they are often prescribed a cocktail of prescription medications. Opioids for pain, anti-anxiety meds like Xanax, and mood stabilizers like Lithium become “treatment protocol.” These drugs don’t always work however, and several vets find themselves worse off after receiving what the VA prescribes to make them feel better.

Addiction, depression, and anxiety are common among vets with PTSD. Unfortunately, so is suicide. A 2016 study by the VA showed that around 20 veterans a day take their own lives.

Innumerable veterans are seeking other avenues of treatment for PTSD, and medical cannabis is at the forefront. The VA however, has taken stance along with the federal government. They refuse to recognize any medical benefit of cannabis, and VA doctors are forbidden to prescribe it, even in states where medical marijuana is legal.

The VA recently released a new set of physician guidelines that encouraged increased communication about cannabis between patient and doctor. They immediately released a press statement afterwards however, that states VA doctors are not allowed to prescribe medical cannabis. That and they haven’t changed their medical marijuana policy in the slightest.

This leaves vets to succumb to what the VA offers, or take things into their own hands. A group known as the Weed for Wounded Warriors Project wants to ensure that vets are able to find comfort with their pain through using medical cannabis. Sean Kiernan, President of Weed for Wounded Warriors stands firmly behind helping veterans find the relief they need.

“If you look at the medicines the VA gives to you,” Kiernan asks, “what’re they giving you? First, let’s take pain. You’re getting some type of opioid or narcotic. What’re the side effects of that? You can see addiction to synthetic heroin, basically. Beyond that? Overdose. What else do they give you? Mood stabilizers. Lithium. SSRIs, the anti-anxiety meds, Xanax and so forth. The anti-convulsants. The anti-psychotics. The anti-depressants. And the ADD meds, because those others all make you fall asleep. Then they throw in Viagra because now you’re sexually dysfunctional, too. My point being, cannabis is a substitute for all of that — for many of us. I know triple-amputees who were on 30 pills today. Now, they take none. They use cannabis heavily.”

Despite the fact that medical cannabis is positively changing the lives of countless vets suffering from PTSD, the VA still won’t budge on their stance against it. They’re now open for conversations about cannabis use among vets, but not for reasons of considering it as medicine.

According to VA spokesman David Cashour, “VA physicians can gather statistics and other information from veterans about their use of marijuana or other federally illegal drugs as part of understanding the effects of that drug use on their overall health. VA’s position on marijuana remains unchanged.”

As medical cannabis continues to save the lives of countless vets, the federal government and the VA continue to turn a blind eye. VA doctors can now discuss medical cannabis with their patients, but they’re far from able to prescribe it.

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