The M Word

This blog was written by a veteran who wishes to remain anonymous because the writer is currently a patient under the guidance of the VA. The blog is shared for discussion purposes only and reflects the personal views of the author. It does not represent the views of Project Sanctuary which neither endorses nor disapproves of the use of cannabis.

Das ist verboten! Well, not anymore in most states. It was one of the reasons I moved to Colorado. Can you guess what I’m talking about yet? That’s right: marijuana, also known as cannabis. This topic is HIGHLY taboo with the military and especially a forbidden topic among the federal government, especially the VA. You more than likely have seen several articles and different civilian studies about the effects that cannabis has on veterans. In all honesty, I believe it takes personal attention to this matter to see how cannabis and veterans mix. Personal attention as in knowing someone – anyone – who has tried cannabis to counter the effects of PTSD, pain, anxiety, etc.

If you don’t live in a state where cannabis is legal or if you haven’t been following the news in veterans circles, then this article may seem foreign to you. There has been lots of reporting lately on the numbers of veterans who have gone off their pain medications and switched to cannabis. I am one of those veterans.

Why am I writing this anonymously then and not shouting it from the rooftops? Because the VA still does not accept cannabis as a treatment for anything. The news references all these studies about veterans, PTSD, and cannabis, but nothing seems to get off the ground with the VA. There are even rumors that some VA doctors are loosening their rules, but I have yet to hear any actual confirmation that they allow it.

The VA states that anyone who uses cannabis has a cannabis disorder. That’s right, a disorder. However, they say that VA providers can discuss cannabis use with veterans as part of the “comprehensive care planning.” Yeah, right. If I ever get asked by the VA, I know the correct answer is “NO. I do not use cannabis.” I actually just recently started telling my civilian doctors that I use cannabis at night, and they agreed not to put it in my charts.

Why do I use cannabis? I switched to it because I needed a natural alternative to my previous addictions. There were days when I laid in bed, popping pills for pain, sleep, and anxiety. All of these medications were prescribed by a VA doctor. So it was okay, right? With these medications, there were days I don’t remember. DAYS. There were days where I was a zombie at work, and my short-term memory was gone. I don’t know how I got to work, let alone how I drove home. Toward the end of my last job, I was barely functioning. This alone helped push me to move to Colorado.

It wasn’t until I had moved and lived in the middle of nowhere Colorado that I had to use the VA Choice Program. During this program, I realized that Colorado doctors weren’t as narcotic friendly as the VA. The new doctors looked at my medication list and said “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” They flat out refused to give me anything the VA had prescribed. The strongest pain meds they would give me was Motrin. I thought to myself, “I’m screwed.” No narcotics, no anti-anxiety meds, and a prescription simply to #getoutside. With my closest VA being 2.5 hours away and the fact it takes months for them to fill my prescriptions, my only choice was to try cannabis. It’s been over a year since I tried it, and I have decided to use it primarily at night. With my restless legs, anxiety, and nightmares, sleeping wasn’t happening until cannabis came along. 

I know there are many people who still don’t support cannabis use and see it as a gateway drug. To me, those are the people who don’t have the personal connection with it. They don’t see us keeled over in pain at 2a.m. They don’t see us curled up in bed with depression, not wanting to leave the house for days. They aren’t having to drive us to appointments because we have too much anxiety in traffic. Cannabis literally saved my life and helped me control what I can without narcotics. Judge me if you want, but I’m alive and the happiest I’ve been in awhile.