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The use of THC (marijuana) and the VA

So I wanted to throw a little something in about marijuana and how that all fits in with the VA since it's being state approved but not federally(and the VA as we all know falls under federal guidelines).

Over the years states have begun to decriminalize marijuana and allow medicinal use. There is still quite a bit of stigma attaches to marijuana in general. For instance, many don't even realize that you don't have to smoke it. It comes in different forms from the dispensary. There are capsules and tinctures are available for those non smokers that prefer not to use the vape. This is a great alternative to opiates or to use in conjunction with opiates to reduce the amount of pain meds taken any given day.

Several years ago, when I was seeing an outside pain management doc, I was increased and increased on medications until they weren't working anymore. He suggested getting a marijuana card to use along with my medications. That was fine and dandy at the time but I personally ran into some issues along the way. First off, I didn't realize the expense each month (it can get very expensive because everyone's tolerance is different). By the time I found what worked for me it was roughly 400-600 dollars a month! This was just for the capsules each month that seemed to work best for me. The next issue I encountered was the VA. When I moved during that time frame, I needed to transfer to the closest VA for my other needs. I had a great primary care doctor at first that, unbeknownst to me, was only a temporary thing. He had no problem with the whole marijuana card but he said I may run into a problem down the road. He transferred all my other meds to the VA I was on so that I wouldn't be paying out of pocket anymore. Sounds perfect right?.......Boy was I wrong!

When that doctor was replaced by this freaking idiot, I use the term idiot when there is whole list of things I could call him. He cut off the meds and sent me to the pain clinic(bad move) and didn't really mention the use of the THC. Well the pain clinic did! That new doctor passed me off to the pain clinic with annotations that I was a drug seeker! Yea, I had no idea until much later. I was informed at that appointment(with pain clinic) that the not only VA does not recognize marijuana as a useful or legal under their guidelines, but I was also told that if I chose to continue the THC regiment that I would be denied care at the VA. After years and years of being on specific medications they also decided that they weren't going to allow that anymore either...cold turkey. How does any of this sound ok? Fortunately, I fought my way into seeing a pain anesthesiologist who helped me get to where I am now with an intrathecal pain pump and I have nothing to do with that sorry excuse of a pain clinic. I am very fortunate to have the doc now that manages and fills my pump. There is no happy medium or any patient/dr relationship with the VA pain clinic. They think anyone in pain are drug seekers and don't try to assist with anything other than holistic methods(which btw I had done them all).

I am sidetracking off what I originally wanted to post about. I wanted to give a little backstory as to how it was handled with me. I have found that, as a veteran, the VA cannot take away benefits nor can they deny you care (with one exception). The exception is "If the VA is prescribing opiates, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance". I find this hilarious that it is in the same category of LSD, ecstasy, heroin, etc! It states that they are "Substances with currently no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse". Really?? So.... basically opiates are synthetic heroin and have been used for ages and their side effects are lengthy. Not to mention the withdrawal from opiates is horrible..just horrible. I haven't heard of marijuana withdrawal nor have I ever heard of a marijuana overdose.....but you know everyone has heard of opiate overdose.

VA clinicians are not allowed to prescribe any products containing THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoids. You will not have your THC or CBD products paid for or dispensed by a VA pharmacy. Therefore, if one is interested in a medical marijuana card you would have to do it on your own. There are plenty of ways outside of the VA to apply for a card because your primary doctor at the VA cannot, due to the federal regulations, sign any paperwork in regards to such.

With that being said I have read that the VA Secretary claims they are looking into allowing use of it for I believe PTSD veterans. I wouldn't bet on it happening soon though. 5 years ago a VSO told us that marijuana was being legalized and we could use it within the year. Well, they weren't completely wrong. It took a couple more years and it was passed for NY state medicinal use...not federally nor by the VA.

Some things Veteran need to know about marijuana and the VA:

  • Veterans will not be denied VA benefits because of marijuana use.

  • Veterans are encouraged to discuss marijuana use with their VA providers.

  • VA health care providers will record marijuana use in the Veteran's VA medical record in order to have the information available in treatment planning. As with all clinical information, this is part of the confidential medical record and protected under patient privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.

  • VA clinicians may not recommend medical marijuana.

  • VA clinicians may only prescribe medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use. At present most products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), or other cannabinoids are not approved for this purpose by the FDA.

  • VA clinicians may not complete paperwork/forms required for Veteran patients to participate in state-approved marijuana programs.

  • VA pharmacies may not fill prescriptions for medical marijuana.

  • VA will not pay for medical marijuana prescriptions from any source.

  • VA scientists may conduct research on marijuana benefits and risks, and potential for abuse, under regulatory approval.

  • The use or possession of marijuana is prohibited at all VA medical centers, locations and grounds. When you are on VA grounds it is federal law that is in force, not the laws of the state.

  • Veterans who are VA employees are subject to drug testing under the terms of employment.

My whole point of sharing this was for a few reasons. I hope to reduce the stigma that most have about medical benefits of marijuana/THC, as well as help some veterans that were a lot like me(being told I'd lose benefits and care). They cannot take anything related to your benefits away. They can however boot you from pain management, which honestly they find any excuse nowadays to do that. I really feel that whole "pain management team" should be thrown out, as they do about as much as a acupuncturist.

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The VA is unsafe for veterans. Go anywhere else for treatment. Most VA doctors are incompetent, don’t take responsibility, or accountability. They Don't have to bcuz you can’t really sue the VA, or VA doctors. No malpractice insurance. They REALLY DO NOT CARE about veterans. They are about $$$ and their budgets.

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