This week, Australian Medicinal Cannabis Association (AMCA) chair Lucy Haslam hosted a meeting of military veterans, politicians, medical professionals, industry leaders and advocates to explore the creation of a campaign to fight for proper veteran access to medicinal cannabis. Here she outlines the key messages to take to the Government.
Cannabis is safer than PTSD, which often results in dysfunction, lack of productivity, misery and suicide.
It is far safer than opiates, benzodiazepines and anti-psychotics, which are highly addictive and contribute to poly-pharmacy, where drugs are constantly added to try to negate the abundant and dangerous side effects.
In addition to the high dependency associated with these drugs, many also have black box warnings and can lead to suicidal ideation.
It’s true that there is not enough RCT evidence, but that is because the cannabis industry – and clinical research to support it – has been stagnant thanks to nearly 80 years’ of prohibition. And the majority of research that was allowed during this period was in relation to harms – for political not scientific reasons.
In studying these ‘harms’, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system in the 1990s and the fact that vertebrates make the endocannabinoids responsible for maintaining homeostasis in most of the body’s system.
Phytocannabinoids (from cannabis) have a very similar molecular structure, so the relationship between the mechanism of action of cannabis in restoring homeostasis (the reduction of symptoms) across many conditions can be scientifically explained and proven.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) refuses to support medicinal cannabis treatment for mental health issues, even though it has an obligation to promote the health and well being of veterans who are using cannabis to relieve their service-related mental health issues (often manifested as PTSD). The success that veterans are widely reporting should be incentive enough for the Government to want to do more.
The DVA should fund a large-scale cannabis trial for veterans with PTSD.
This would serve many purposes. It would get veterans off illicit cannabis, away from the risk of prosecution and under the care of a doctor. It would build the evidence that the DVA is demanding. It would show veterans they are valued and improve their mental health, where they currently report feeling abandoned, disrespected and at risk. It would make the Government appear to care, rather than lacking intellect and compassion.
Most importantly, it saves the valued and deserving lives of this country’s heroes.
Before medicinal cannabis was legalised in Australia in 2016, we had to fight every step of the way for the medical rights of the terminally ill.
The next fight is just beginning.