Medical Cannabis for Veterans & First Responders

Can Medical Cannabis Help Veterans and First Responders?

Army Air Corps veteran Louis Roffman salutes during the national anthem.

There are over 20 million military veterans and tens of millions of active and retired first responders.  A great number of them are desperately struggling with addiction to deadly drugs prescribed for service-related injuries and psychological disorders.

And yet we as a nation have not provided a solution for them that does not entail trapping them in prescription cages. Medical Cannabis can assist those who have served by providing them with a healthy, alternative treatment to opiates and other numbing destructive drugs.

But changes are coming. For example, one labor union has come to an agreement with the city to allow employees to obtain medical marijuana cards: Pittsburgh firefighters.

Ralph Sicuro, president of the Pittsburgh Fire Fighters Local No. 1, said the union advocated for access to medical marijuana because many firefighters suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a qualifying condition under the state’s medical marijuana law.

Sicuro said it can also serve as an alternative to opioids for firefighters who get injured.

“If we can reduce the potential for opioid addiction within our own group, I felt like that’s something we needed to do,” Sicuro said.

Unfortunately, efforts like these are few and far between for veterans, police, paramedics, firefighters, 911 operators, and other public services professionals.

Veterans

America’s prolonged military conflicts over the past 17 years have exposed an aging and ineffective health care system, ill-prepared for the type and severity of the latest round of war-related injuries.

Upwards of 20 percent of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience post-traumatic stress or depression, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA is not equipped to effectively or comprehensively treat the complexity of every veteran’s mental and physical wounds, leaving former service members to cope with limited and inadequate treatment options.

Veterans are often placated with “cocktails” of prescription drugs, including powerful and addictive opiates. The current arrangement is not meeting veterans’ healthcare needs.

Medical cannabis is a proven, safe and common-sense personal health management option, free of the devastating side effects of opiate-based drugs. It is now legal in 34 states plus D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands and is recognized by experts such as the American College of Physicians, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association as a safer alternative to many federally legal treatments. Medicinal cannabis is an incredibly effective tool for veterans challenged with managing the symptoms of their wounds.

[Could not say this any better – Excerpted from Veterans Cannabis Project. Please click the Veterans Cannabis Project link for more information.]

First Responders

Many of us take them for granted. They are always there and, at the drop of a phone call, police, paramedics, firefighters, and 911 operators appear magically to help those in need.

The research was conducted online between September 2016 and January 2017 by a group of mental health experts from across the country. It is published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Of the 5,813 participants, 44.5% “screened positive for clinically significant symptom clusters consistent with one or more mental disorders.”

While this report was from Canada, we feel we would find similar results here in the United States. Results from Canada’s first national survey looking at operational stress injuries among first responders note that they are much more likely to develop a mental disorder than the general population.

How high is this? Statistics Canada has reported that the rate for the general population is 10%.

And that’s not all. Symptoms of operational stress injuries also appear to increase with more years of service and more exposure to traumatic events.

Due to the high-stress environment, these men and women work in, many face serious risks, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. These conditions can then lead to other dangers, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide.

While there isn’t currently a specialized medication for treating PTSD, medical cannabis may be a possible solution to help first responders cope with the stressors of their high-risk roles in the community.

PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety

As noted by the Canabo Medical Clinic: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious anxiety condition caused by disturbing or traumatic experiences, such as military combat, sexual assault, or life-threatening incidents. The persistence of PTSD is a result of changes in brain chemistry that occur at the time of trauma when adrenaline and stress hormones are at an all-time high.

The symptoms often involve flashbacks, social isolation, and insomnia symptoms that, over time, become increasingly debilitating and dangerous for the sufferer.

Because the job of a first responder involves a number of potentially disturbing and stressful situations, these men and women are at serious risk for PTSD and other mental illnesses. If left undiagnosed, they will often turn to more dangerous coping mechanisms out of a need to escape.

As more and more first responders are diagnosed with mental health conditions, better protection and treatment is an absolute must. One possible option for helping these individuals is medical cannabis.

Medical Cannabis for PTSD

Studies show medical cannabis may be able to help treat a number of medical conditions, including PTSD. Even if you aren’t suffering from PTSD, it can still effectively treat other illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

When it comes to attempting to treat PTSD with medical cannabis, it’s important to understand the two compounds that are often in question: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is a cannabinoid that does not cause the psychoactive “high” that’s often associated with cannabis, while THC is the primary psychoactive.

Because PTSD is about learned fear, it’s important to note that CBD may be able to reduce this fear response and allow sufferers to relax by easing nightmares and reducing flashbacks. This is why many sufferers opt for a CBD strain to attempt to reduce symptoms during the day.

Interestingly, however, many patients who experience frightening night terrors claim to find THC-heavy strains improve their sleep patterns, allowing them to get a good night’s sleep and function better the next day. Without flashbacks, night terrors, and fear, first responders may be able to better handle their emotions and become more in control of their feelings and responses to stress. This is ideal for treating PTSD.

Because everyone’s body is different, it’s important to work with a medical practitioner to find the right strain to work with your body’s chemistry.

If you’re in a high-risk job, it’s important to take care of yourself just as much as it’s important to take care of others. Medical cannabis might be able to help.

After reading this, you might be more interested in Medical Cannabis for Veterans and First Responders. Are these the physical challenges you have? We will bet you have some of these challenges and are looking to figure out if Medical Cannabis is right for you. Next, you need to find out more about “How to Safely Use Medical Cannabis,” 5-Steps to Safely Using Medical Cannabis, and the MediCannaCare Low and Slow Testing Process. Click here to Start.