By Roger B. Martin, Founder and Executive Director, Grow for Vets USA
Living in constant pain is something I have dealt with for more than 40 years. Pain is actually the reason I became involved with cannabis. In fact, were it not for the prescription drugs doctors prescribed for the treatment of my chronic pain, Grow for Vets USA would probably not exist.
Since founding this tax-exempt organization in January 2014, I have insisted that the focus of any discussion be not on me, but on the American heroes I am honored to serve every day. As far as my personal relationship with cannabis and pain goes, I will be brief.
I was prescribed Oxycontin shortly after it hit the market. Cannabis saved my life in 2010 by allowing me to break a 10-year, 180mg-a-day addiction to “OxyPoison.”
A legal “pill mill” in the Veterans Administration Healthcare System
Thanks in no small part to federal restrictions on research, I can’t site a litany of medical studies pertaining to cannabis and the treatment of pain. Valid clinical study data is scant. The best I can do is share with you what I have personally witnessed while serving thousands of veterans across the United States.
Thousands of veterans who have joined our ranks were once taking 20 or more prescription medications a day. And, despite the fact that virtually all physicians now recognize that opiates are not always worthwhile for the treatment of chronic pain, almost all veterans are taking at least one opiate.
Pain is a topic that has rarely been openly discussed in the military. Until very recently, those complaining of pain were told to suck it up—to be strong. It is a little-known fact that large numbers of our warriors are fed dangerous drugs simply to keep them in the fight.
Once separated from the military, they find themselves at the mercy of the Veterans Administration (VA) Healthcare System. Unfortunately, many vets find the VA to be nothing more than a legal “pill mill.” The prescribing of pills has reached epidemic proportions at the VA, just as it has in the civilian healthcare market.
One of the most startling pill-popping “facts” I have personally witnessed is the obscene number of male Veterans under the age of 30 who are being prescribed Viagra. Viagra is most often prescribed because the poisonous drug cocktails being shoved down their throats have rendered them impotent.
A dangerous epidemic of suicide
The VA’s policy seems to be to keep Veterans in a drug stupor until they either die from a prescription drug overdose, or worse yet, give up all hope and take their own lives. The VA seems almost proud of their claim that 22 veterans take their own lives every day. That number is completely bogus and was derived from a 2012 VA study that included only 21 states. Twenty-three percent of the deaths reported had no cause of death listed and a few states were left out of the study, including populous states like New York, Texas, California.
Even the researchers who conducted the study stated that the number 22 was probably not accurate. Personally, I believe that we lose more than 50 veterans a day to prescription drug overdose and suicide.
Many overmedicated veterans find themselves feeling like their lives are not worth living. In a prescription drug haze, they can’t be the loving spouse, father, mother, sister, brother, son, or daughter they were before serving in the military and that they so desperately want to be once again. For these men and women, prescription drugs have turned their lives into a 24-hour-a-day nightmare.
Turning to cannabis as a safe alternative
However, with each passing day, more veterans are utilizing a safe alternative to deadly drugs: cannabis. Thousands of veterans tell me cannabis is the only thing that has ever helped them cope with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress, and numerous other medical conditions. Thousands more are using cannabis to reduce or eliminate pain medications.
I don’t need a controlled medical study to convince me cannabis is a safe alternative to deadly prescription drugs. In most cases, it should be the first treatment option offered to any veteran wishing to use it.
More brave men and women will die this year from prescription drug overdose and suicide than have died in combat between the years of 2001 and 2015 combined. I trust you will find this fact as shocking and disgraceful as I do.
Grow for Vets USA will soon launch The American Hero Cannabis Tour. This tour is designed to provide veterans with safe access to free cannabis and to educate the public regarding the fact that prescription drugs are a contributing factor in the deaths of over 50 American heroes a day.
Since its founding in 2014, Grow for Vets USA has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cannabis to veterans across America. There are currently chapters in six states, with plans to open many more. Learn more at GrowForVets.org.