US veterans are multifaceted and can be considered a population, a culture, a subculture. They have their own distinct values, customs, ethos, selfless duty, codes of conduct, implicit patterns of communication, and obedience to command. Owing to their line of duty and hazards that it carries, US veterans are also a unique population when it comes to medical problems they experience.
- Mental disorders (mostly PTSD, anxiety, and depression)
- chronic pain
- substance abuse
These are some of the most common diagnoses that veterans face. At often times veterans health care is not satisfactory and that invariably leads to some degree of functional impairment, social isolation and a general decrease in the quality of life.
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Chronic pain management
Chronic pain is also a serious problem when it comes to a non-veteran population since more than 11% of the US population has had in some point of life a form of a chronic pain issue.
Managing pain in the Veteran population today is particularly challenging since up to 82% of veterans report chronic pain issues. More often than not they have some sort of mental disorder as well, mostly PTSD. This leads to prescribing opioids at higher doses. Also, they receive opioid painkillers and sedative-hypnotics (for insomnia in PTSD) concurrently. All of these medications are addictive and can lead, which happens at a high rate, to substance abuse.
Being addicted to a certain drug and to know that without it one can hardly cope with the symptoms of their condition, can lead to depression. Depression in itself can decrease the pain threshold and make one feel pain more intensely and suffer more from it. In such a way it is easy to get trapped in a vicious cycle of pain, substance abuse and depression. Ultimately, this kind of vicious cycle can lead to suicide, which is more than twice as common in the veteran than the non-veteran population.
A way out
CBD oil is a promising new therapy in the veterans’ health care that can provide relief to veterans and make it easier for them to cope with their daily symptoms.
What is actually CBD?
- CBD (short for cannabidiol) is one of the natural substances found in the hemp plant (a type of cannabis). Unlike its more famous cousin THC, it is not psychoactive, which means that it does not produce “a high”. On the other hand, just like medical marijuana and THC, it has been proven to be helpful in relieving symptoms commonly affiliating veterans, such as PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain.
- CBD is a chemical compound. CBD oil refers to the oily extract from the hemp plant. This kind of oil is very low in THC (less than 0.3%) which makes it available for purchase and use legally nationwide.
- You can consume CBD oil in many different ways. To inhale CBD oil through vape pens. Ok take CBD edibles like CBD gummies, capsules or drink CBD water. One may apply CBD sublingually, via spray or drops. Veterans using CBD to cope with chronic pain may find CBD topicals effective, as they can apply these directly to the affected area.
Veterans are more likely to experience pain than nonveterans, and also the pain they experience tends to be more severe than nonveterans experiencing pain.
Opioid painkillers are the main therapeutical modality for chronic pain management. Even though they tend to cause addiction and substance abuse problems, they are still being prescribed on a large scale.
Health Care Improvement
However, research shows that CBD can be just as effective at managing chronic pain. CBD receptors are found throughout the peripheral nervous system, immune system, through which CBD can provide significant pain relief. It can also reduce inflammation and further reduce the pain experienced.
One of the ways in which CBD works in chronic pain management is that it changes the way in which the brain responds to pain impulses. In a way, it soothes our pain neural pathways and brain reactivity. CBD makes our brains calmer when experiencing pain thus effectively reducing the suffering we experience.
Besides chronic pain management, CBD is also very effective in managing other states common in the veterans’ population. States like PTSD, insomnia, depression, which are all closely connected with chronic pain syndrome. PTSD, for example, is accompanied by distressing symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, elevated baseline fear or stress, which also leads to one fearing the pain and stressing about it more than a person with a normal level of stress would. CBD has been proven to effectively modulate memory processing while minimizing the negative emotion associated with that memory, which basically means that it reduces the occurrence of nightmares and flashbacks as well as lowering the level of fear associated with them. It also has an anti-depressant effect but with much fewer side effects than the usual anti-depressants as SSRIs.
Insomnia also commonly accompanies PTSD. Also, lack of sleep or irregular sleeping can worsen chronic pain. CBD has been proved to optimize sleep patterns and increase the quality of sleep, which indirectly leads to improvement in chronic pain management.
SUD is a significant issue in the US, and especially among the veterans’ population. According to the “CBD Awareness Project”, nearly one-third of veteran suicides are preceded by alcohol or drug use. Around 11% of veterans receiving veterans’ health care are diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD).
Substance abuse can also develop from opioid addiction. Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from an opioid overdose. In addition to providing relief for the primary symptoms of PTSD or pain, CBD can also aid in addiction recovery accompanying these conditions.
Tobacco use is significantly higher among veterans than non-veterans, with over 20% of veterans smoking cigarettes. Research suggests that CBD can significantly reduce the urge to smoke. In one study, smokers were given a CBD inhaler and observed. After just one week, the smokers reduced the total cigarettes they smoked by as much as 40%.
Every day, CBD is proving to be extremely helpful in managing many medical issues. Especially in conditions that are more prevalent in the veterans’ population. Thorugh many complex internal body systems, it produces a fairly simple basic effect of calming and soothing the body and the mind. It is turning to be the exact thing that the bodies and minds of our veterans need.
However, since CBD oil is not an FDA approved drug, it is not prescribed by VA clinicians or covered by Medicare and Social Security. That could change soon hopefully since VA has recently started its own research on the benefits of CBD in the veterans’ population.
In the meantime, many CBD vendors helping the cause by offering significant discounts for veterans.
- Olenick, M., Flowers, M., & Diaz, V. J. (2015). US veterans and their unique issues: enhancing health care professional awareness. Advances in medical education and practice, 6, 635–639. doi:10.2147/AMEP.S89479
- Nazario M. (November 12. 2018) Challenges & Opportunities for Pain Management In Veterans. Retrieved from: https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/treatments/pharmacological/opioids/challenges-opportunities-pain-management-veterans
- Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s1928