Rather than allow veterans to participate in medical marijuana programs in states where it is legal, the United States government has continued to encourage active and retired members of the military to self-medicate with dangerous prescription drugs. Sadly, a new study finds that this policy may actually be causing more of America’s soldiers to commit suicide.
The latest research shows that veterans with drug or alcohol dependency issues are twice as likely to kill themselves than the ones not plagued by those demons.
The study, which was published in the latest issue of the journal Addiction, suggests that medical marijuana could be a salvation’s wing for a number of vets who mostly rely on sedatives and opioid medications to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain.
Unfortunately, without access to a safer, less addictive alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs, veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide than the average citizen. For women using these drugs, the situation is even worse. They are around five times more likely to commit suicide, the study finds.
Some of the latest data shows around 50 percent of veterans suffer from chronic pain. Sixty percent live with PTSD. Incidentally, it is believed that around 68,000 of these men and women are currently living with an addiction to opioid medications.
For years, veterans have come forward in support of medical marijuana as an effective treatment for pain, as well as for the severe anxiety disorder known as PTSD. Many of them say the herb has allowed them to go on to live somewhat normal, productive lives at a time when they are haunted by some of the most savage images of wartime drama.
But because marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, it is against the law for doctors employed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to even discuss cannabis medicine with their patients as part of their overall treatment plan. Instead, Uncle Sam unapologetically gives these so-called medical professionals permission to pour pain pills and other addictive medications down their throats.
Because of this, 20 veterans are dying every day from suicide, according to the latest Veterans Affairs data.
In 2014, somewhere around 7,400 vets killed themselves, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the suicides for the entire nation.
Shockingly, researchers involved with the latest study found the suicide rate to be right around 76 percent for those veterans suffering from an addiction to substances like alcohol and opioids. But it is those vets who rely on tranquilizers and other drugs commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, like PTSD, that are at the highest risk.
In contrast, an extensive study from 2014, which covers nearly two decades of suicide, discovered a more than 10 percent decrease in self-inflicted deaths in states where medical marijuana was legal.
Considering the evidence, it makes sense that by allowing soldiers to medicate with cannabis rather than prescription drugs, fewer would die by their own hand.
But Congress simply cannot seem to come to terms on the issue. Most lawmakers believe that, in a nation where marijuana is considered one of the most dangerous substances in the world, it would be a poor reflection to give our veterans permission to use the drug.
Note: It should be pointed out that the federal government funded the study outlined in the journal Addiction, and it in no way confirms medical marijuana as a solution to ending veteran suicides.
It doesn’t have to.
There are plenty of testimonials and case studies floating around out there that clearly shows the nation has the power to significantly diminish these casualties by giving veterans access to cannabis medicine as opposed to highly addictive drugs.