Two common but unseen wounds of war — chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder — are notoriously difficult to treat. Both can linger long after a return to the homefront, affecting a veteran’s ability to successfully readjust to life stateside.
With the deadly risks of frequently used pain relievers called opioids now exposed, it’s understandable that many veterans are turning to an alternative — medical marijuana. Despite legality that varies by state, an October 2017 survey by the American Legion found that nearly one in five veterans were “currently using cannabis to treat a medical condition” in lieu of opioids and were reporting better outcomes. It’s surprising the number isn’t higher given how many aging veterans or those returning from combat suffer from chronic pain — 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively, compared with 30 percent of Americans.
These data from one of the nation’s best-known veterans service organizations offer a compelling look at how an old and sometimes demonized drug could ease the suffering of those who have served. But far more rigorous study — meaning research that involves doctor-led trials and rigorously measured outcomes — is necessary before marijuana fully earns its spot in the medication tool box that providers can tap to help wounded warriors.