Why is the VA punishing veterans who are trying to get off hard drugs?

Photo courtesy Pixabay

I have something stuck in my craw as it pertains to opioids, cannabis, PTSD, booze, and our veterans.

Let’s face it. We have a crisis at hand with service members returning from deployments with PTSD. Why wouldn’t they be coming home with PTSD in today’s world.

If you don’t know what PTSD is, in a nutshell you are pissed off and on edge. All the time. You may think the best way to medicate yourself is by drinking, but you quickly learn that is like throwing gasoline on a fire and makes you even more explosive.

Still, the VA isn’t going to know if you are drinking or not unless you tell them. Also, the VA probably is going to prescribe you benzodiazepines for your PTSD if they feel it cannot be handled with talk therapy or some other means.

Benzodiazepines such as Ativan and Xanax essentially are alcohol in a pill.

I’m sure veterans know the drill. I’m not a veteran, but I have met enough veterans with PTSD through my writing and during my travels earlier this year to know what I describe above is a common scenario.

Now, many veterans who are quick to realize the dangers of the booze decide to self-medicate with marijuana instead. However, since the VA now is drug testing apparently rather regularly, patients are being threatened to have their medications taken away unless they stop smoking pot.

I have talked to wives of service members who are fuming over this. They say the plant is the only thing that calms their husbands down.

I’m sure the same can be said of male spouses of female service members as well.

Of course, the opioid problem affects veterans too, because who other than men and women doing battle in war are going to need opioids more often for painful injuries? That problem runs so deep in the military it’s not even funny.

Veterans expected to meditate withdrawals away

In research published last month in Annals of Internal Medicine, a systematic review of 67 previous studies showed that life gets better for those who taper off opioids.

“Very low-quality evidence suggests that several types of interventions may be effective to reduce or discontinue LTOT and that pain, function, and quality of life may improve with opioid dose reduction,” the authors half-heartedly concluded.

The interventions that might be effective? Things like behavioral modifications, talk therapy and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is great for PTSD, too. It’s how I stayed sober when I wasn’t smoking the plant. But it doesn’t always work. And sometimes triggers can be so severe that some type of medication is warranted to keep from blowing a gasket.

That’s why so many people living with PTSD smoke weed.

It’s not realistic to expect tens of thousands of wounded veterans to just come home from war and taper off their opioids while meditating.

In an accompanying editorial to the Annals research, experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn clinicians that “decisions to discontinue or reduce long-term opioid therapy should be made together with the patient. Clinicians have a responsibility to carefully manage opioid therapy and not abandon patients in chronic pain.”

Meanwhile, research published yesterday showed that cannabis is effective at treating neuropathic pain, even though the cannabis used pales in comparison to what’s commercially available. You can read my blog post here.

It’s one thing to require people to pay large sums of money to get the state-legal medication they need. Both the medical cannabis itself and the certification process is very expensive, at least in Illinois.

It’s another to then punish them beyond the pocketbook by making the transition from one medication to another as dangerous as possible.

Especially after they have served their country.

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