More than 500 Australian veterans have died by suicide since the start of the Afghanistan war in 2001, significantly dwarfing the number of lives lost on the battlefield. A recent spike in suicide deaths amongst serving and ex-serving ADF personnel has veteran’s organisations fearful of ongoing mental health issues. Veterans have poorer mental health than Australian’s overall. The suicide rate in 18-24 year-old men who have been medically discharged from the military in Australia is four times the national average, leading veteran’s organisations struggling to understand why there has been a spike, and whether it’s going to get worse.
Around 20% of veterans who have seen active duty are troubled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Veterans suffering the PTSD and other mental health issue face difficulty in adjusting to regular life and in some cases end up on the street or addicted to drugs.
Most veterans deal with combat-related chronic pain, making their life extremely difficult. Doctors tend to prescribe opioids to deal with chronic pain, which may give way to side effects like stress, anxiety, mood swings, and sleep disorders.
Today, tens of thousands of veterans have received treatment for opioid addiction worldwide.
Can Medical Cannabis Help with Anxiety & PTSD in Veterans?
Many veterans around the world have said they have had positive results from Medical Cannabis when it comes to alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, and enhancing their mood.
Medical Cannabis has been used by veterans with PTSD as an alternative for opioids; having already shown enough positive results for these symptoms to receive approval to launch an observational study on the use of medical cannabis to help combat PTSD in veterans. The study hypothesis is that medical cannabis treatment will be beneficial in reducing the PTSD symptoms in patients with treatment-resistant PTSD.
How does Medical Cannabis Work for PTSD & Anxiety?
Studies investigating the effects that medical cannabis has on anxiety stated that “a single dose of medical cannabis reduced anxiety” – however, evidence indicates that the medical cannabis lessens anxiety best “in subjects where stress had been caused before medical cannabis administration”. This means that medical cannabis may help those who get anxious from experiences, situations, or in random moments.
Therefore, veterans currently suffering from PTSD who get random episodes of significant anxiety could get relief from these symptoms using medical cannabis after each traumatic incident.
The study found the use of medical cannabis to be the most effective in helping people deal with traumatic events. What this means is that Veterans, combat soldiers, or other people alike can probably use medical cannabis within an hour of their experience, and significantly decrease the adverse effects of the disorder. This is extremely important because as further research is completed, it may show that medical cannabis products can be revolutionary for the military and DVA in terms of managing such issues. This is not a ‘solution’ or a ‘remedy’ because medical cannabis won’t make the symptoms go away. However, with regular medical cannabis use, managing the issues of PTSD and post-war anxiety will be more comfortable. Medical cannabis may simply help veterans live a better quality of life.
A career in the armed forces can be rewarding, but also demanding. Challenges include rigorous training, frequent relocation and time spent away from family connections. Deployed military personnel may be exposed to trauma during combat, peace-keeping missions, border protection, disaster relief, and training accidents. They may be confronted not only with threats to their own lives or safety, but also witness the suffering or death of others, which can have a significant emotional and psychological impact. So it’s not surprising we see higher rates of mental illness amongst veterans compared to the overall Australian population.
There is continuing concern within the ADF and the wider Australian community about suicide in current serving and contemporary ex-serving ADF personnel. In particular, contemporary ex-serving ADF personnel may face increased risk of suicide. Policies regarding mental health treatment for contemporary ex-serving personnel have undergone changes in recent years to facilitate early access to mental health treatment.
Returning to Civilian Life
Recent research has highlighted one of the most challenging periods for military personnel can be transitioning back to civilian life. Major changes can be stressful for anyone, but leaving the Australian Defence Force can feel like more than leaving a job. It will likely represent a change in a person’s way of life across the board.
While many transitioning personnel may initially experience some uncertainty and a sense of losing a part of themselves, most make the adjustment successfully. For others, the problems may not go away, and for some, may become worse, unless they receive help.
Using medical cannabis products early enough could prevent severe PTSD or anxiety from entirely developing.
Medical Cannabis for PTSD
Although the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of physical and psychological disorders is still relatively controversial, medical cannabis is legally prescribed in Australia. Using particular compounds found in marijuana may benefit those with PTSD, and that “plant-derived cannabinoids” (psychoactive chemicals) such as THC may possess some benefits for individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.
Research published on Science Daily also looked at symptom reduction in patients with PTSD. As a result of taking medical cannabis, participants reported a decrease in re-experiencing the trauma, less avoidance of situations that reminded them of the trauma, and a decline in hyper-arousal.
There is more and more anecdotal evidence coming each and every month!
In an interview with the Trauma and Mental Health Report, a patient reported using medical cannabis instead of prescription medication for PTSD, stating that with the cannabis, he can feel his emotions, and experience them properly and safely. Before, he just felt numb.
Medical cannabis strains with the right CBD and THC (psychoactive chemicals in cannabis) levels are assisting Veterans with chronic physical pain, as well as anxiety and insomnia issues.
Medical cannabis for PTSD is still in its infancy and likely to explode in the near future as red tape restrictions are relaxed, making it easier for researcher’s to study the effects medical cannabis has on psychological disorders and to form conclusions on its efficacy.
If this article has raised issues for you or you’re concerned about someone you know, call Open Arms on 1800 011 046 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
At iCannabis we are focused on bringing the purest and most bioavailable medical cannabis to Australian patients and their families.
At iCannabis we are committed to establishing an Australian medical cannabis community comprised of passionate and caring people, focused on the highest quality organic medicine made with integrity.
If you need any further advice or help with PTSD care please contact us. We try to answer all emails within 24 hours and are happy to help guide you on all aspects of possible medical cannabis treatments.