Medical Marijuana Could Help End Canada's Veteran Suicide Crisis

Sadly, many soldiers come home from war and are not able to forget the horrific images they have seen, which can cause them to have symptoms that include depression, suicidal thoughts, confusion, and more. These are only a few symptoms of a condition that is known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One Canadian veteran living with PTSD is Fabian Henry. He formerly served in the Canadian military as a combat engineer for 12 years. To treat his PTSD, Mr. Henry uses medical marijuana, which helps ease the stress that is caused from memories of combat.

According to Mr. Henry, medical marijuana is what keeps him sane and saves veterans lives. Prior to smoking medical marijuana, his post traumatic stress caused depression and suicidal thoughts. Because of medical marijuana, Mr. Henry's quality of life has improved and he feels like his former self again.

Mr. Henry served in Afghanistan for two tours of duty where he diffused roadside mines. Although Mr. Henry made it home safely, thoughts of war and images of soldiers killed in action still plagued his mind.

Henry is not the only veteran to suffer from PTSD. There are many soldiers who suffer from this condition when they return home from a tour of duty and experience anxiety, night terrors, loss of memory, low libido, poor sleep, and social isolation.

Because the psychological effects from PTSD can be severe, the number of veterans who commit suicide has greatly increased. According to statistics, one veteran has committed suicide for every three causalities of war, which is primarily due to PTSD. There were 31 veterans who committed suicide after returning home, and their families stated they all showed symptoms of PTSD.

According to Henry and other members of Marijuana for Trauma, which is a support group for those with PTSD, Canada's federal government should finance research studies that will determine the effectiveness of medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD. The organization has 12 locations and typically serves an average of 4,000 veterans who suffer from PTSD.

These clinics serve as a safe way to help veteran wean themselves off prescription medication and provides them with educational resources about medical cannabis. Henry believes that medical marijuana is more effective and safer than anti-psychotics and antidepressants. Henry explained that antidepressants and anti-psychotics can spark suicidal thoughts, which happened when he treated his condition with prescription pills. Other side effects from antidepressants and anti-psychotics include erectile dysfunction, mental grogginess, and possibly chemical dependence. He stated the federal government must take action and finance medical marijuana studies because veterans are also highly susceptible to opioid addictions from

pain pills.

The promising benefits of medical marijuana have caused a 15-fold increase in veterans seeking cannabis for treatment. However, Veterans Affairs Canada is known to discourage veterans from using medical marijuana and is reluctant to pay for the treatment.

The federal government has recently announced the former 10 gram limit will be reduced to three grams, which is primarily due to the increasing cost. Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr explained that in 2016, about $75 million was set aside for medical cannabis because of the increase of veterans who want to use medical marijuana to treat PTSD. Henry believes the Canadian government's unwillingness to provide medical marijuana to veterans is also because of the government's official position on cannabis, which was made known in a report by Michael Ferguson, Canada's Auditor General.

It is thought the government's stand on medical marijuana may make it difficult for veterans to get a prescription, which is because doctors are now more reluctant to prescribe medical marijuana. This can cause serious problems for those who suffer from PTSD and are not able to get a prescription, which could include suicide and arrest from trying to illegally obtain cannabis.

There must be more studies and research on the effects of medical marijuana for treating PTSD. Currently, there is a government-approved medical marijuana study being conducted in the United States. According to lead researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, there is a critical need for medical marijuana studies that examine the effectiveness of PTSD treatment.

The Canadian government started a clinical trial to examine the effects medical marijuana has on individuals with PTSD. The study is currently being carried out at the University of British Columbia and Tilray, which is a company that grows medical marijuana. Zach Walsh, a professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the study's leads, explained that it is known there are many veterans who use medical marijuana to treat symptoms of PTSD. These studies may be able to prove veterans with PTSD symptoms can be treated with medical marijuana.

Although medical marijuana provides many benefits to those with PTSD, there are still studies that need to be done, which will determine how effective different strains are how well they treat the symptoms of PTSD. Henry is pleased the Canadian government and others may soon accept the benefits of medical marijuana and how effectively it treats PTSD.