Men and women serving in the military may face challenges during and after their service. As veterans, they may experience various health issues related to their role in the military, including mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As an effective treatment for a wide variety of conditions including chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, and sleep disorders, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has approved medical cannabis as a medical treatment for veterans of the Canadian Armed forces since 2008. This decision was made to facilitate access to a viable treatment option when other treatments were either unsuccessful or caused unwanted side effects that negatively impacted one’s quality of life.
What is medical cannabis?
Cannabinoids such as CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) are derived from the cannabis plant and act on our naturally occurring endocannabinoid system – a series of receptors that exist throughout our entire body. The endocannabinoid system helps manage a myriad of bodily functions, including pain response, inflammation, hunger, mood, and more.
Over the past decade, the discussion around the use of medical cannabis for PTSD has changed from anecdotal to research-supported results.
Many incorrectly believe that one must smoke cannabis to benefit from it, but that is actually not the case. There are a wide variety of options available including soft gels, oils, topical creams, Health-Canada-approved vaporizers, edibles, concentrates, beverages, and more.
What is the research around symptom relief via medical cannabis?
Various research studies over the last few years have found not just one, but multiple contributing factors as to how medical cannabis helps alleviate unwanted PTSD symptoms. A reduction in anxiety, better sleep, reduced nightmares, and even reduced fear in triggering situations are all positive results found through clinical research.
Researchers from multiple American universities came together for one 2022 study and found that those who suffered from PTSD and used medical cannabis were nearly 3 times more likely to experience symptom relief from their PTSD.
Recent studies that have begun looking into the biological reasons why cannabis is so effective at managing PTSD symptoms have found that cannabis can help reduce activity in the amygdala (the part of the brain associated with fear responses to threats). Medical cannabis, THC specifically, has also been proven to reliably reduce the frequency and intensity of post-traumatic nightmares.
Mental health & PTSD in veterans
In the Canadian veteran community, 1 in 5 will be diagnosed with a mental health condition. The most frequent diagnoses made are Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and panic disorders.
PTSD can affect people of all ages, occupations, sexes, genders and cultures and is a mental illness that develops after being exposed to a traumatic experience. PTSD among Veterans can be provoked following traumatic experiences such as war, combat, training, deployment, peacekeeping, humanitarian missions or non-deployment trauma.
Symptoms of PTSD frequently observed:
- Recurring memories
- Distressing memories
- Mood swings
- Negatives thoughts
- Negative behaviours
- Sleep disturbance
- Hyper reactivity
Veterans with PTSD can experience different symptoms or a combination of symptoms. Other professionals can experience PTSD too, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other first responders. Medical cannabis can help relieve the associated symptoms and improve their living conditions.
How can medical cannabis help veterans and retired members of the RCMP with their PTSD symptoms?
Medical cannabis may be helpful in treating PTSD by inhibiting the retrieval of traumatic memories, reducing the occurrence of distressing thoughts and nightmares, and promoting overall emotional well-being. The cannabis plant contains two primary cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While both of these compounds have therapeutic effects, THC is the psychoactive compound often associated with the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids may help alleviate symptoms of PTSD by working with the endocannabinoid system, which regulates memory consolidation and retrieval. By activating receptors in the nervous system, cannabinoids can help the body produce neurotransmitters that may increase happiness, pleasure, and memory.
In recent research, treatment with medical cannabis in military and police veterans with PTSD who had failed conventional therapy resulted in significant improvements across all PTSD symptoms, as well as social and family impact outcomes and pain severity.
What is Veterans Affairs Canada’s policy on Medical Cannabis?
Recognized as highly beneficial to the veteran community in terms of minimal side effects, a high safety profile, and high effectiveness, Veteran Affairs Canada created a cannabis reimbursement policy for medicinal uses. To qualify, veterans must register and acquire cannabis for medicinal purposes from a federally registered supplier within Canada. This is where a clinic like Apollo can help.
How can I get my medication fully covered?
To be eligible for reimbursement, Veterans Affairs Canada requires the following documents to prove that the Veteran fits the requirements of Health Canada’s Cannabis Regulations:
- The claimant must have an Awarded Condition, recognized by VAC, that can be treated with medical cannabis (e.g. PTSD is acceptable, hearing loss is not)
- Veterans Affairs Canada will only accept authorization from one healthcare practitioner at a time
- Copy of the medical document completed by the health care practitioner
- Copy of the completed and confirmed registration document provided by a federally licensed vendor
- Multiple authorizations may be considered, but they must all come from the same healthcare provider
The Apollo Clinics Veterans Support Team
If you are a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces or a retired member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Apollo Clinics can help you find relief from PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, alongside other conditions.
With our team of healthcare practitioners, educators, veteran care specialists and a dedicated veteran program coordinator, we will ensure that all your questions are answered, and your medical cannabis needs are met. Our patients’ welfare is paramount to us and we prioritize continuous support in-between appointments.
Our Veteran Care team also manages VAC submissions on behalf of our patients, so you won’t have to worry about the stress of handling and following up on paperwork. Instead, you can interact directly with our Veteran Care specialists and learn more about what you can expect from our Veteran Program.
Get your Medical Cannabis coverage with Apollo
Book your free appointment to speak with an Apollo Healthcare Practitioner to discuss obtaining a medical cannabis prescription (also known as a Medical Document). Next, a dedicated Veteran Care Specialist will reach out to assist you in registering with a Health Canada-approved Licensed Producer and facilitate the process with VAC to obtain coverage for your medical cannabis.
Call 1-877-560-9195 or email email@example.com, and we’ll get back to you shortly.