Canadian veterans using cannabis to treat chronic pain and PTSD in record numbers

Zej Moczydlowski
Oct 17, 2018 1:18:55 PM

Canadian veterans are taking advantage of their nation's medicinal cannabis program at notable rates, with the Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs currently reimbursing over 8,000 people for daily cannabis consumption. As noted in the article linked below, a recent survey quoted in an editorial by James MacKillop, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at McMaster University, found that "41 per cent of Canadian veterans reported constant chronic pain and rates of PTSD range from 7.5 to 13 per cent — more than tenfold higher than the general population."

MacKillop went on to note that "Their service can lead to pain … trauma … other risk factors around substance use disorders and other psychiatric conditions.” With that in mind he and Jason Busse, an associate professor of anesthesiology at McMaster, became co-directors of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research. They're advocating for a comprehensive research program on both medicinal and nonmedicinal cannabis use in veterans.

Canada's government, through their Department of Veterans Affairs, notes that when they began covering the cost of veteran usage of cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain or PTSD in 2011-2012, they only had 37 veterans asking for reimbursement. The jump to over 8,000 began after changes in medicinal cannabis regulations a few years ago. Because of this increase, the Department is working "to fund a research grant through the Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research." They want more data on how cannabis affects individuals and why it helps certain patients more than others.

The Canadian approach to medicinal cannabis, and their nation's dedication both to providing access to veterans as well pushing for more research, is laudable. Their country is setting an example of how, once cannabis is destigmatized and accepted, it is simply another treatment option that patients and physicians should have at their disposal. Hopefully other nations will follow their lead.

Link to Nicole O’Reilly's piece for The Hamilton Spectator

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