As we honor those who have served in the United States armed forces, CannaMD has organized five of the most important things every veteran deserves to know about medical marijuana, PTSD, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
We’re eternally grateful for the selfless sacrifice and courage of those who have served and remain committed to helping our veterans in any way we can!
If you are not a veteran, but have a loved one who is, we encourage you to share today’s important message.
Medical Marijuana Patients Still Receive VA Benefits
While VA doctors can’t prescribe or recommend medical marijuana (that’s what we do), they also can’t withhold benefits because you’re a medical cannabis patient.
The VA, through VHA Directive 1315, confirms:
Veterans must not be denied VA services solely because they are participating in state-approved marijuana programs.
According to the VA:
Veteran participation in state marijuana programs does not affect eligibility for VA care and services. VA providers can and do discuss marijuana use with veterans as part of comprehensive care planning, and adjust treatment plans as necessary.
The VA also outlines the following rules:
- Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.
- Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.
- VA health care providers will record marijuana use in the veteran’s VA medical record in order to have the information available in treatment planning. As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
- VA clinicians may not recommend medical marijuana.
- VA clinicians may only prescribe medications that have been approved by the FDA for medical use. At present, most products containing THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids are not approved for this purpose by the FDA.
- VA clinicians may not complete paperwork/forms required for veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs.
- VA pharmacies may not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.
- VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.
- VA scientists may conduct research on marijuana benefits and risks, and potential for abuse, under regulatory approval.
- The use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA medical centers, locations and grounds. When you are on VA grounds it is federal law that is in force, not the laws of the state.
- Veterans who are VA employees are subject to drug testing under the terms of employment.
For more information, see: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Marijuana May Work Better than Other PTSD Medications
According to a leading neuropsychopharmacology journal:
Although SSRIs [antidepressants] are associated with an overall response rate of approximately 60% in patients with PTSD, only 20% to 30% of patients achieve complete remission.
Fortunately, medical marijuana may provide an effective alternative. As Dr. Alexander Neumeister, director of the molecular imaging program in the Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology at the NYU School of Medicine, explains:
There’s not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD. There’s a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as antidepressant simply do not work.
In fact, we know very well that people with PTSD who use marijuana — a potent cannabinoid — often experience more relief from their symptoms than they do from antidepressants and other psychiatric medications.
For more on marijuana vs. pharmaceutical medication, see: How Marijuana Helps PTSD.
Veterans Receive Discounted Marijuana Treatment
Before purchasing cannabis from a medical marijuana treatment center, Florida patients must first qualify for a medical marijuana certification; CannaMD provides qualified patients with the state-required recommendation to complete this process.
In addition to working with Veterans for Cannabis and other local organizations, CannaMD‘s board-certified physicians are honored to provide medical marijuana treatment to veterans and offer a 10% discount on all appointments.
Veterans are also encouraged to speak with their local dispensary regarding military discounts on cannabis medication. Standard discounts include:
- AltMed (MÜV): 15% discount
- Curaleaf: 20% discount
- Fluent: 20% discount (includes veterans and spouses)
- GrowHealthy: 30% discount (includes veterans and spouses)
- Harvest: 20% discount
- Liberty Health Sciences: 25% discount
- Rise: 25% discount
- Surterra: 15% discount
- Trulieve: 20% discount
- VidaCann: 15% discount
Note: Discounts are subject to change. Dispensaries may be running additional specials on Veteran’s Day.
For a full list of medical marijuana treatment centers, see CannaMD‘s Dispensary Directory.
PTSD Studies Support Cannabis
A 2014 study of 80 patients applying for their state’s medical cannabis program concluded:
Based on the Clinician-Administered Post-Traumatic Scale (CAPS) for DSM-IV, study participants experienced greater than 75% reduction in CAPS symptom scores when patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.
Research suggests that marijuana may work in a number of different ways to decrease PTSD symptoms. For instance, a recent Frontiers in Neuroscience review noted that marijuana cannabinoid, CBD, can inhibit disturbing memories while offering fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medication.
Medical marijuana may also play a role in treating nightmares. A 2009 Canadian clinical trial of synthetic cannabinoid medication, nabilone, found:
The majority of patients (72%) receiving nabilone experienced either cessation of nightmares or a significant reduction in nightmare intensity. Subjective improvement in sleep time, the quality of sleep, and the reduction of daytime flashbacks and night sweats were also noted by some patients.
Lastly, research has identified a link between PTSD and low levels of the brain lipid, anandamide – a compound that closely resembles marijuana cannabinoid, THC. Anandmide has been called the body’s “natural antidepressant,” and when anandamide levels are restricted, results can include chronic anxiety, impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and other symptoms of PTSD.
Importantly, anandamide activates our body’s CB1 receptors, the same brain receptors that are stimulated by THC. Studies link exposure to chronic stress to decreased CB1 receptor binding and expression within the hippocampus. This is a significant finding, as the hippocampus plays a major role in short and long-term memory consolidation (disruptions to memory consolidation are thought to play a role in PTSD flashbacks and other symptoms, such as hyper-vigilance).
While more research is needed, these studies suggest medical marijuana may restore balance to this complicated biological process.
You’re Not Alone
Of the nearly 175,000 medical marijuana certifications issued in Florida in 2018, more than 41,000 were for the treatment of PTSD, making it the second most common qualifying condition behind chronic pain. While CannaMD‘s experienced team of physicians are always available to help, it’s important to know that other PTSD and veterans resources are also available.
For additional support, consider visiting:
- American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network
- Hearts of Valor
- Hero Grown
- Love Our Vets: PTSD Family Support
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- PTSD Projects
- PTSD Support and Recovery
- The Weed for Warriors Project
- Veterans for Cannabis
- Weed for Warriors Project (North Florida)
For more PTSD and cannabis facts, see CannaMD‘s PTSD Studies Page.
A NOTE REGARDING ACTIVE SERVICE MEMBERS: The Department of Defense states in their military drug and alcohol policy for active service members that they will “…enforce the prohibition of illicit and controlled substances, and substances prohibited by lawful order. Controlled substances are scheduled in 21 U.S.C. § 812 and are referenced by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. § 912a, Article 112a.” However, thanks to an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), active service members may now use products containing hemp and its derivatives, including CBD (note: marijuana-derived CBD is still prohibited).