A veteran and CBD business owner discusses mental and physical health for the military and how CBD could play a part in recovery.
As troops return from Afghanistan this month, there has been a renewed call for extra support from the Government as many veterans report feeling depressed, anxious or struggling with increased stress. There is also a number for whom the recent media coverage will have brought back memories.
Health Secretary, Sajid Javid has said he is ‘urgently’ looking into more support but could CBD help to reduce mental health conditions such as PTSD for the military?
Combat Stress say calls for mental health support to their charity have doubled since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. They are now experiencing approximately 70 calls a day. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, one in eight were seen by military healthcare for a mental health reason in 2019.
As well as mental health, military life can be difficult on the body, causing long term or life-changing injuries along with chronic pain conditions over the years.
David joined the military in 1984 staying for sixteen years. Daily life in the military included lots of heavy load-bearing walking or parachuting. He explained that over the years, military training and combat can cause a lot of stress on the body.
“If anyone operates at a tempo where you are putting out a lot of energy then you can accrue a lot of chronic pain injuries,” he explains.
“I had multiple chronic pain injuries which were operated on but they failed, which both mentally and physically ended my military career. That was it in 1999 and I was shown the door with a small compensation package.”
He adds: “Several times I attempted to get back into fitness but the injuries would always stop that. I pretty much gave up on myself from that aspect. Walking was okay but not at great distances. Anything more than that wouldn’t happen.
“I was classified as disabled then given a disability allowance with an emphasis on the little you can do. It was very scarring mentally but I’ve grown to live with the limitations.
“I’ve deferred operations on my ankles because of the small chance that my foot may have to be amputated if it’s messed up. I need the operation on both feet so I decided not to do that.”
CBD for veterans
A friend gave David a bottle of CBD in 2019 which he decided to take a chance on. He felt that mentally he had reached a state where he was desperate for something to work. He tried it and felt that in two days, his chronic pain reduced and he felt particular improvements in a back injury that had gotten worse over time. He was able to return to the gym and begin doing more manual work.
He had become used to treating the pain with ibuprofen or paracetamol every few hours including throughout the night disrupting his sleep. He described it as ‘a grim existence.’
“In March, I was able to do some physical work with an ex-colleague of mine and I was worried about how I was going to pay for it physically the next day. However, I didn’t have to because the CBD helped,” he says.
“Not only did I start feeling better about myself but I was mentally more robust. It was a complete change in my life where it closed a very dark chapter.”
CBD for veterans
The sudden change in mood and pain reduction led David to start thinking about how many other veterans knew about CBD.
“Most people in the military joined when they were 16. You do a two-year apprenticeship but you are worked hard then your real service starts from 18-years-old,” he says.
“Even if you do a few years that can be pretty full-on. Your body takes a pounding, which is in your formative years as well. You are still becoming an adult and your body is still growing.”
David started to research the statistics of veterans in the UK.
He explains: “I looked at the metrics of the veteran’s community which is three million or more in the UK. We are all living longer now so if you have injuries then you’ll have them for longer. We are increasing in numbers annually so there is a large group of people that might need light therapy like CBD.”
“Certainly in the last 15 years or more, we’ve had the Iraq and Afghanistan debacle which is still being played out. So mentally there are a lot of people with anxiety and PTSD post-conflict. What concerns me is the MoD do nothing.”
David started to write to veteran MPs to ask if there was a way that CBD for veterans could be funded or could there be more discussion about using it as part of a treatment. However, he found that no one was willing to speak it. He is frustrated as he often receives private messages from troops asking if they can get into trouble for using CBD.
“I get so many messages from serving guys asking if they can get into trouble with this because for decades we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that cannabis is the devil’s plant,” he says.
“When people serve, they have periodically got to do a drugs test called a CDT. Drugs testing teams coming in unannounced to collect 100 people randomly to do the test.”
This was part of the reason for David setting up his own brand, Tier One. He was keen to provide a product that troops could depend on to be THC-free.
He adds: “I get so many messages from personnel saying, ‘I really want to try this as I’m anxious, I’ve got to go somewhere or I’ve just come back and I’m not sleeping. I don’t want to lose my career with a drug test’.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder
David highlights that it isn’t just fighting that can cause PTSD, but the things that veterans are exposed to while in a conflict zone.
“You may have one person that has been somewhere like those in Afghanistan now. They may not have done any shooting or killing, they may not have seen their comrades kill but they come back and they’ll have visions of babies being passed over razor wire or women screaming while holding their children,” he says.
“All of that plays in the psyche. You can’t go out there, come back and switch that off to crack on with life.”
David says it can often end a military career to be labelled with mental health difficulties, but untreated anxiety can amplify because it goes unchecked.
“If you say to your boss that you feel a bit traumatised then you are out of action. You may even have to leave because there is no sort of decompression or mechanics in place to fix it. You are out of the zone because they can’t trust you with live ammunition if your mind is not where it needs to be.
He adds: “There is more [support] than what there used to be, but there still isn’t enough.”
Feedback so far for Tier One has been overwhelmingly positive. David said it is one of the more emotional parts of running a business.
“This is the only business that pays you several times over in terms of not just the financial aspects but the wholesome messages you get. You are literally changing people’s lives because you present a good quality product. Some of the reviews really bring it home and bring me to tears. This is a great business to be in if you can get it right.”
Affordable CBD for veterans
Another big part of Tier One is keeping CBD affordable. Remembering his own journey with CBD, David is adamant that it has to be affordable for those on ordinary budgets who may be struggling to afford expensive oil. He is also keen to stress that the oil is not just for veterans but for anyone.
“The pricing structure of CBD in the UK bothered me massively. Some people can’t afford to pay £80 a bottle each month, most people who live on an ordinary budget were finding that extra money can become problematic. You need to pay bills first so you go without your CBD that month,” he adds.
“There has to be integrity, high quality and people have to be able to afford it.”
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