More than 9 in 10 U.S. military veterans say that medical cannabis helps improve their quality of life, according to a new study.
The study, “Self-reported Medicinal Cannabis Use as an Alternative to Prescription and Over-the-counter medication Use Among US Military Veterans,” was published last month in the journal Clinic Therapeutics. The study’s results found the majority of its veteran respondents reported a range of benefits from consuming cannabis.
Respondents answered a cross-sectional, self-reported, anonymous survey about their health conditions – including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and more – as well as medical treatments, self-reported cannabis consumption, and its effectiveness in dealing with health issues. The study also sought to assess the effectiveness of cannabis consumption as a substitution for over-the-counter or prescription medications.
In addition to improved quality of life, the large majority of respondents (80%) said cannabis helped them achieve fewer psychological health symptoms, while nearly three-fourths (73%) reported fewer physical symptoms after consuming cannabis.
Relatedly, nearly half of respondents reported using less alcohol (46%) and using fewer medications (45%). About one-quarter (24%) of respondents also reported using less tobacco, while 21% said they used fewer opioids – both as a result of medicinal cannabis consumption, according to the report.
For context, more than half of respondents (52%) said they had served in active combat – including the Vietnam War (31% of respondents), Operation Iraqi Freedom (31%), the Persian Gulf War (19%), the war in Afghanistan (13%), Operation New Dawn in Iraq (<1%) and the Korean War (<1%). The study’s participants reported having experienced a variety of workplace hazards during their service, most commonly burn pits (32%), asbestos (25%), location-specific environmental hazards (19%), agent orange (12%), Gulf War illness (10%) and radiation (10%).
Approximately two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they use cannabis daily, with 52% saying they consumed cannabis numerous times per day. Fifteen percent of respondents reported using cannabis once per day.
“Medicinal cannabis use was reported to improve quality of life and reduce unwanted medication use by many of the study participants,” the report states. “The present findings indicate that medicinal cannabis can potentially play a harm-reduction role, helping veterans to use fewer pharmaceutical medications and other substances.”
The study was conducted by a group of authors from the Cannabis Center of Excellence in Boston, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Utah, Rider University, and Joint Venture & Co. in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Self-reported data was collected from 510 U.S. military veterans between March 3, 2019, and December 31, 2019.