A new study suggests that medicinal cannabis improves quality of life and reduces unwanted medication and substance use among veterans.
In a new survey of over 500 US military veterans medicinal cannabis was found to improve quality of life and reduce unwanted use of other substances, including alcohol and other prescription medications.
As of 2020 there were 19 million veterans living in the US, with figures suggesting that up to 3.9 million may be living with a mental illness or substance use disorder.
According to government statistics, nearly one in three had depression, one in four had anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with one in five living with alcohol use disorder, and nearly one in 12 opioid use disorder.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics, recruited 510 veterans between March-December 2019, who were living with a range of mental and physical health conditions.
Most participants reported using cannabis daily and many said they were using it to reduce their use of other prescription and over-the-counter medicines including antidepressants and anti-inflammatories.
The vast majority (91%) of those surveyed said that cannabis helped them to experience a ‘greater quality of life’.
Many reported using less alcohol (46%), fewer medications (45%), less tobacco (24%), and fewer opioids (21%) as a result of their use of medicinal cannabis.
The study also noted that Veterans who were Black, female, living with chronic pain or who had served in active combat, were more likely to report a desire to reduce the number of prescription medications they were taking.
“Participants’ cannabis use positively affected the treatment or management of several health conditions and symptoms,” said the study authors.
“Many of the respondents reported that medicinal cannabis treatment helped them to experience a greater quality of life, fewer psychological symptoms, fewer physical symptoms, and to use less alcohol, fewer medications, less tobacco, and fewer opioids.”
The authors have urged stakeholders, including clinicians, government agencies and other academic researchers to ‘consider the evidence’ that supports cannabis as a harm-reduction strategy to reduce unwanted medication use with the veteran population, and potentially even as a tool to help tackle the opioid crisis.
They conclude: “The present findings indicate that medicinal cannabis can potentially play a harm-reduction role, helping veterans to use fewer pharmaceutical medications and other substances.
“Clinicians should be mindful of the potential associations between race, sex, and combat experience and the intentions for and frequency of medicinal cannabis use.”
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