Study: California Veterans Replacing Drugs & Alcohol with Cannabis

A recent study shows that nearly two-thirds of military veterans in California have replaced prescription medications with cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and insomnia.

Full story after the jump.

Nearly two-thirds of California military veterans reported using cannabis to treat chronic pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and insomnia instead of prescription medication, according to a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse outlined by the Mercury News.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Harvard Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania, surveying 93 veterans who received donations of medical cannabis from the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. Seventy-nine percent reported using cannabis to treat both mental and physical symptoms; most of the veterans enrolled in the study – 85 percent male – indicated they preferred smoking cannabis; just 16 percent said they used concentrates. About half said they preferred high-THC cannabis rather than high CBD.

“Given that cannabis use is associated with a much lower dependency potential and risk of overdose compared to other substances with a risk of misuse, this finding could suggest a positive impact of reduced barriers to medicinal cannabis access among veterans.” — Excerpt from the study, published on May 28

Nearly 70 percent of veterans reported using cannabis for chronic pain; 66 percent used it for anxiety; 59 percent for PTSD; 56 percent for depression; and 51 percent for insomnia.

Another 63 percent said they used cannabis to replace “any substance”; while 47 percent said they had replaced prescription medications with cannabis. Thirty percent replaced alcohol with cannabis and 24 percent said they had replaced tobacco with cannabis; another 12 percent of veterans said they used cannabis as a replacement for other illicit drugs.

“Results of the current study suggest that military veterans with reduced barriers to access cannabis could be making both helpful and harmful choices regarding their cannabis use,” the study concludes. “These findings suggest that more guidance on the selection of cannabis-based products in this population is warranted, particularly as barriers to medicinal cannabis access are reduced.”

Seth Smith, Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance’s vice president of communications and public affairs, said the research confirms what the organization has “been seeing on the ground for … coming up on a decade … veterans are not only finding benefits from using cannabis medicinally, but are also using it to replace pharmaceutical drugs that they are being given by the V.A. that they find harmful or more dangerous.”

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