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New Study Looks at Medical Cannabis Use, Health Behaviors Among Canadian Vets



A new, ongoing study of cannabis use among veterans aims to design and test an online health promotion the Canadian Veterans and other medical cannabis patients can use in their disease management strategies to optimize control of their symptoms. Not even a month into the study, by CannCorps and led by researchers at McGill University, there are already some important findings to note, according to the authors in a news release.

It comes in the form of an online survey, which allows participants to anonymously describe their use of medical cannabis. Of the 192 participants to date (65 percent veterans, 27 percent women), a number of respondents reported that they suffered from more than one problem and used medical cannabis to treat it.

The most common reason for medical cannabis use was anxiety or stress (61 percent), followed by post-traumatic stress disorder (40 percent) and arthritis (35 percent). Other highly reported health issues included problems sleeping (72 percent) and chronic pain (67 percent). Pain management was also a major issue for many, with 58 percent reporting they experience regular pain that was severe enough to limit their daily activities.

Of the respondents, just 21 rated their health as “excellent” or “very good,” while 44 percent rated their health as “fair” or “poor.”

The study also looks at frequency of use, with most individuals using medical cannabis more than once daily (54 percent) or daily (33 percent), most commonly embracing oils (61 percent) and edibles (54 percent). Smoking flower was less common, with 28 percent of respondents reporting smoking as their mode of administration.

While the study explores cannabis use, the researchers also confirmed that respondents are additionally turning to a number of other solutions to reduce their symptoms, including regular exercise, mindful relaxation and yoga, healthy eating and massage therapy. The findings in this study are the first to demonstrate that many veterans work to develop customized strategies in dealing with their chronic medical conditions.

Regarding the ultimate aim to help people like the respondents to the survey to establish a unique plan to deal with their symptoms, officials say that many of the online components have been tested among thousands of Canadians through the pandemic and improve sleep, support daily physical activity, improve eating habits and help people to lose unwanted weight.

CannCorps participants will also provide their experience and guidance to customize the program to the needs of medical cannabis users.

The approach follows a recent study, which looked at lifetime cannabis use and cannabis use disorder (CUD) among U.S. veterans specifically, finding that CUD and use disorders as a whole are more prevalent among vulnerable subgroups of veterans, like those with psychiatric disorders.

This new study, perhaps, opens doors for veterans to explore supplementary options, so cannabis use is not the end-all-be-all for their medical treatment of specific symptoms.

Though, in the U.S. at least, even ensuring medical cannabis access to veterans has been a struggle, as Veterans Affairs recently said it would not expand its research, continuing to deny cannabis recommendations to veterans in 36 states that allow medical cannabis.

Canada, on the other hand, has a medical cannabis reimbursement program, and it reached an all-time high in the 2020-21 fiscal year ending March 31, as Veterans Affairs Canada reimbursed 15,369 clients a total of 119.3 million Canadian dollars ($100 million) for medical cannabis products.

The program allows Canadian veterans with a prescription for medical cannabis entitled to a reimbursement of 8.50 Canadian dollars per gram, to a maximum of three grams per day.

Canadians (both veterans and non-veterans) are invited to participate in the anonymous questionnaire and share their personal experiences using medical cannabis. The questionnaire is anonymous and available here. The study is ongoing, and the web-based program that will result from the survey responses is expected to go live in winter 2022.

The release states the program will also be free, secure and private.