Injured veterans turning to medical marijuana in increasing numbers

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Post by kodiak on Sat 13 Apr 2019, 8:27 am


CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from Annie Bergeron-Oliver
Published Friday, April 12, 2019 10:00PM EDT

The number of injured veterans using medical marijuana has skyrocketed, according to Veterans Affairs Canada, while opioid use has decreased.

A cocktail of pills and prescription drugs was once the only option for struggling veterans dealing with painful, life-changing injuries.

Retired Army Maj. Mark Campbell lost both legs after an explosion during his last tour in Afghanistan. He had been given opioids and other prescription drugs to reduce the pain.


But it was only when his doctor prescribed him medical cannabis that Campbell said he felt real relief. He now calls weed “magic.”

“[It] allowed me to reduce my own opioid [use and] my own consumption of pills by about 50 per cent,” he told CTV News. “Veterans wouldn't turn to marijuana if it didn't work for them. That's the bottom line. No one is looking to get high all the time.”

Campbell is part of a growing number of Canada’s veterans who are turning to cannabis for help.

New data from Veterans Affairs Canada found that around 10,000 vets used medical marijuana last year -- compared to only 1,700 vets in 2015. And that surge is costing the department $65 million in prescription payouts.

Although there is no proven direct link, the increase in medical cannabis use has coincided with a decrease in reimbursements for traditional painkillers.

In the last five years, payouts for veterans’ opioid prescriptions for fentanyl have dropped 85 per cent, while payouts for oxycodone have dropped by 75 per cent.

Riad Byne, CEO and co-founder of the Spartan Wellness veteran wellness centres, has seen this shift happen firsthand.

“Going off opioids numbs you and you become closed and depressed,” he said.

Zachary Walsh, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, said the potential for medical marijuana is encouraging.

“One of the exciting potentials with cannabis is that it can treat several of those symptoms at once,” he told CTV News. “Many veterans report it helps with their pain, their sleeping and their anxiety.”

But as pot use rises, researchers are calling for more studies to determine the full extent of the benefits and risks connected to cannabis use, particularly when it relates to pain relief.

However, despite Veterans Affairs Canada filling out their cannabis prescriptions, veteran advocates said the department is still failing them.

Advocates told CTV News that the department needs to do a better job clearing backlogs for disability benefits and hiring more service providers.







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Post by JAFO on Sat 13 Apr 2019, 11:21 am

How is this a balanced report when a dollar amount for medical marijuana is reported but percentage's are used when it comes to the reduction of opioids and fentanyl?

Not to mention those are only 2 drugs that are going down in consumption. What about nerve blockers and anti-depressants?

Eventually a fair and balanced report on this topic will be done. Right now I don't know if this was a hit piece on the cost of veterans use of marijuana or a positive report on marijuana helping vets?


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Post by Maxstar on Thu 18 Apr 2019, 8:12 pm

Vets using cannabis has doubled but costs drop under reimbursement policy

By Charlie Pinkerton. Published on Apr 18, 2019

Injured veterans turning to medical marijuana in increasing numbers Blur-bud-cannabis-1466335-1200x675

The number of veterans using medical cannabis has more than doubled, though reimbursement costs have fallen since the government implemented its stricter reimbursement policy. This comes even as the amount of cannabis that Veterans Affairs Canada is providing compensation has risen.

There were 10,079 veterans being reimbursed by VAC for medical cannabis from April 1, 2018 to Feb. 19, 2019. Only 4,474 veterans were reimbursed by VAC for medical cannabis in 2016-17, the last fiscal year before this government’s reimbursement policy came into effect.

From April 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2018 — the cost to the department to reimburse 9,447 veterans for 6,412,122 grams of cannabis was $53,996,902, well below its reimbursement costs of $63,703,151 in 2016-17 for 5,726,179 grams of cannabis.

The new policy sets a limit of three grams as the maximum amount of cannabis — dried, or its equivalent in fresh or oil forms — that veterans can be reimbursed for each day. They must have already been pre-authorized to use medical cannabis by a physician. Veterans who require more than the daily amount must pass what VAC describes as an “exceptional approvals process,” in a recent response to an order paper question on the topic. This government’s reimbursement policy also set the max rate of compensation at $8.50 per gram.

Canada became the first country to adopt a formal system to regulate medical cannabis use in 2001.

It was just over a decade ago in 2008 when VAC approved a single veteran for medical cannabis on an exceptional basis. The ensuing year, 2008-09, VAC reimbursed five veterans for $19,000 in medical cannabis.

In June 2013, the government created regulations allowing a commercial industry to be responsible for medical cannabis production and distribution. That year, 2013-14, just 112 veterans were reimbursed $408,809 for 7,012 grams of medical cannabis — an average of $58.30 per gram. The year before, 68 VAC clients were reimbursed more than seven-and-a-half times as much medical cannabis at less than one-tenth of the per-gram cost.

At the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, the government eliminated the system it had introduced in 2001 to regulate medical cannabis use.

The government ordered a review of veterans’ medical cannabis use in 2016 and released its new reimbursement policies later that year. It came into effect in May 2017.

VAC was compensating veterans with $8.42 per gram on average, over the last seven months of last year. Eighty-two per cent of veterans approved for compensation for medical cannabis are authorized to receive three grams or less per day.

The new policy hasn’t changed since being put in place, but VAC says “as more is learned about the efficacy of cannabis as a therapy, Veterans Affairs Canada’s reimbursement policy will evolve,” in the order paper question response that was tabled in the House last week.





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