CBD For Veterans

Why this article matters

Are you a vet? If you are, thank you for your service.

If you are not, do you know a vet? A family member, friend, coworker. These people risk their lives abroad and often come back scarred. Be it physical or mental, the trauma that our soldiers go through is immense, intensive, and ever-present. And it would seem that the current solution to this scarring is to dope our veterans up with opioids. Veterans are more than twice as likely to be prescribed an opioid than a civilian. But in the era of Cannabis and CBD and holistic healing, is there a better way to fix these scars? Can Cannabis be a better treatment than a traditional painkiller?

The Physical

Approximately 130 people in the US die every day from overdosing on opioids. Opioids, such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Vicodin, and Percocet, are prescribed as painkillers to civilians and military personnel alike, though opioids are more prevalent among soldiers, who have easy access to the drugs overseas. One of the most established medical benefits of CBD is its ability to reduce inflammation and swelling, which is the cause of most physical pain.

Many veterans suffer from eating disorders. Though the precise cause varies from person to person, eating disorders stem from significant mental trauma. Though “the munchies” are caused from THC binding to CB1 receptors, CBD can function as an appetite stimulant. Though not to the extent of THC, CBD is used as an antiemetic and appetite stimulant in people with Wasting Syndrome.

The Mental

PTSD is the number one health issue affecting veterans who come home after deployment.  

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a psychiatric condition developed in people who have witnessed a traumatic event. Approximately 70% of all Americans will face a traumatic event, and approximately 44.7 million people of that 70% will develop PTSD. There are four symptoms of PTSD:

1) Fear, horror, anger, shame, distorted beliefs, and otherwise negative thoughts and feelings that usually don't have a logical basis.

2) Avoiding people, places, or things that remind them of the traumatic event.

3) Irritability, angry outbursts, reckless or self-destructive behavior.

4) Intrusive thoughts: memories, dreams, flashbacks. They are sudden, onset, and can feel incredibly real.

Anandamide is a compound produced naturally in your body, and bonds with CB1 receptors which enables a stress hormone to consolidate negative memories. When you consume CBD oil, the CBD replaces the Anandamide, which results in more unused Anandamide in your brain. Anandamide reduces stress hormones, which results in fewer negative memories.

PTSD is also a huge fuel source for the raging opioid epidemic, since a large number of military prescriptions for opioids stem from chronic pain. PTSD is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed orders, with many of the symptoms not being attributed to a traumatic event. In total, PTSD costs (medicinal, workplace, mortality, drug) cost the United States approximately $42 billion dollars every year. Nationally, the opioid epidemic costs the United States $78.5 billion. What that means is that PTSD, and the number of people prescribed opioids to "treat" PTSD are about half of all the money lost due to opioids. Understanding the biology of the brain and negative memory, and how CBD can help mitigate these negative memory consolidations, is leading towards Cannabis therapies as feasible alternatives to opiates.

In some clinical trials, data suggests that CBD is useful when helping fight addiction. Part of the reason opioids reached epidemic proportions is because they are incredibly addictive. So addictive in fact, that some vets turn to heroin when opioids are no longer as effective. 80% of heroin users in America were, at one point, prescribed opioids. CBD being both a possible alternative to opioid prescriptions, as well as a tool to kick opioid addiction, makes CBD an ideal medicine for veterans.

It is very disheartening that Cannabis has long been denied to the people who need it most. But amid a wave of legalization, decriminalization, and general societal acceptance, it is good that we can study Cannabis. And even more so, we can potentially develop Cannabis therapies for veterans, to help them instead of medicating them; to get them to enjoy life rather than just going on living.

Author: Jacob Greenberg