Cannabis Use Increases 115% Among Veterans in Past Seven Years

Cannabis use disorders (CUDs) have been the focus of much research in recent years. One of the reasons for this is because several states have legalized cannabis use for medicinal purposes. Individuals experiencing chronic pain are often candidates for this type of treatment. Other conditions that have been treated with cannabis are posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and anxiety. Veterans are more vulnerable to these psychological problems than most individuals and therefore, may be at increased risk for CUD. Although some studies have shown negative impacts of CUD, such as dependency, increased anxiety or depression, bronchitis, and even panic, other studies have demonstrated positive effects. In a recent study conducted by Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, CUD use among veterans was analyzed to determine if rates of CUD were increasing.

Bonn-Miller, of the National Center of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Center for Health Care Evaluation at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California examined data from a 7-year study and found that among veterans, the rates of CUD had increased more than 115% from 2002 to 2009. He categorized the veterans into three groups, those with a CUD only, those with alcohol use problems only, and those with other drug issues exclusive of cannabis or alcohol. Although the rates of CUD increased dramatically in the 7-year study, they were still lower than the rates of CUD in the general population.

The results of this study can be interpreted in several ways. First, Bonn-Miller explains that VA efforts to screen individuals for CUD and other addictions have increased dramatically in recent years. This could be one explanation for the sharp increase in CUD diagnoses among veterans. Even though treatment efforts have increased in VA facilities throughout the nation, they have not increased at the same rate as CUDs. Bonn-Miller believes that the social acceptance of cannabis use could cloud veterans’ perception of dependency and thus cause them to refrain from seeking help. He believes recent legalization influenced these results as well. Bonn-Miller added, “Our findings raise the possibility that legalization of cannabis for medical purposes increases the likelihood of development of CUD among those using cannabis.” Further research is needed to fully understand why treatment rates among veterans are decreasing as substance use diagnoses are increasing.

Bonn-Miller, M. O., Harris, A. H. S., Trafton, J. A. (2012). Prevalence of cannabis use disorder diagnoses among veterans in 2002, 2008, and 2009. Psychological Services. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027622

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  • steph


    June 27th, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    How does one determine who needs marijuana for medicinal purposes and who is pulling one over on you just to be able to obtain pot legally? I am not sure where I stand with legalization, because while one part of me thinks, why not, and that maybe the numbers who use will actually go down if the thrill of illegality is taken away from me; then there is the part of me who worries that once someone uses pot, then that will lead to other drug use and abuse too. I would just like an honest answer of how providers determine who will actually physically benefit from the results of medicinal marijuana. Thanks

  • Astacia


    June 27th, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    kind of surprised that their usage numbers were still lower than those with abuse issues in the general population
    with all of the baggage that the veteran population has to bring home with them and deal with, i would think that there numbers would be higher than the general population

  • Gwen cason

    Gwen cason

    June 28th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    Many veterans that I have met in my lifetime are proud of serving but also looking for ways to silence those nightmares that haunt them. Many of them are changed forever by the things that they see while they are serving in the military, and so it goes without saying that many of them are looking for ways to heal themselves. But their self medicating is only causing more problems for them, as it is now being shown to lead to addiction and abuses that they may not have anticipated. I don’t know the long term effects of marijuana use, but what I do know is that using drugs to hide the pain is not healthy, and that there are better ways to deal with these issues than the ones that we are seeing in the veteran community.

  • Nate


    June 28th, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    If this is something that so many people are using then why not just go ahead and make it legal.

    that way it can be taxed and maybe we could make up some of this deficit that our economy has.

  • Nick Visconte

    Nick Visconte

    June 28th, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    “In 1937 in the United States, the Marihuana Tax Act was passed, and prohibited the production of hemp in addition to cannabis. The reasons that hemp was also included in this law are disputed. Several scholars have claimed that the Act was passed in order to destroy the hemp industry, largely as an effort of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family.” see

    Cannabis prejudice (or ignorance) is as old as 1937. Other than Illinois, CONCEALED CARRY WEAPON permits, when in legislation, were publicized as the eventual gun-blazing paranoia on every street corner in America. It was a very false assumption. A recent shooting in the Seattle area and subsequent shooter driving into a State/Federal Park had the news blazing to legislate concealed carry in parks. I use this analogy as the shooter picked an ESCAPE ROUTE, not a place to carry (not even sure if he had a CHL, anyway) … but people cry out for local, state, and federal help with what they do not fully understand and end up making this nation a confused and bankrupt nation for the sake of selfishness.
     Cannabis is as safe or dangerous as alcohol: DEPENDENT ON MORAL RESPONSIBILITY and a return to “family first” morality (search how Christian churches in the USA started to accept or ignore contraception and what resulted).
     Cannabis WILL become “legal as alcohol” in the near future. What bothers me is, how many families are going to have loved ones incarcerated and marked for life until then? Tax, regulate, be responsible, take away the temptation of its current illegality, abort smugglers and other crime-distributors that add to this nations demise and move on!

  • knowa


    June 28th, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Its a wonder plant whether you need it to sleep or remove or distract pain. But it is one of the freedoms that make up are basic rights. So if you want to chill out or mow the lawn with a enjoyable buzz on the Government can just but out. These are right that we are fighting for.

  • soDollyomon


    June 29th, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    Many veterans experience issues with depression and anxiety.
    Smiking marijuana causes anything BUT depression and anxiety.
    So why not give then the chance to escape that for a little while?
    And why condemn them for those actions if they do?

  • elliot


    June 29th, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    dependency-cannabis is not addictive.its been proven

    increased anxiety or depression – you can choose to lighten up and feel better or drown in your sorrows when you are high on cannabis

    bronchitis-smoking any plant material is not a good idea. hello vaporizers!

    panic-use too much cannabis when you are not used to it and have a low “tolerance” and you WILL end up being paranoid. this can also depend upon the individual.


  • Matt


    June 29th, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    An increase in cannabis use is a GREAT thing for Vets! Why have them on a plethora of pills that actually harm their body? This article is complete reefer madness.

    Cannabis use is SAFER than ANY pharmaceutical drug. This is not “substance abuse” as you put it. It is MEDICINE. The sooner you accept that, the sooner more veterans can be helped by cannabis. Check out my website for Veteran testimonials to the benefits on cannabis.

    I am at ground zero for cannabis use, and it is doing GREAT things for Vets and other patients.

    PS. Our asthma patients are finding that vaporizing cannabis decreases inflammation in their lungs and helps them breathe easier.

  • Alec


    June 30th, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    115% increase in Cannabis use within the veteran community is profound. 20 vets/ day kill themselves in the US, being more vets that die in 1 yr from suicide than have died in the whole war.

    Obviously the current treatments are not doing any justice to the veterans that have served our county and Cannabis is proving more effective in treating PTSD than most current and prescribed alternatives. SSRI’s oh to often push individuals over the edge to commit suicide and those that deny pharmaceutical alternatives self-medicate w/ alcohol to the point of destruction. Cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) are showing incredible effectiveness in treating PTSD, are NON-PSYCHOACTIVE, and have incredible effects in treating anxiety, depression, chronic pain, psychosis, etc.

    CUD is bullshit and if anything, it is a good thing that more veterans are choosing Cannabis because as one intakes more Cannabis, statistically such individuals tend to decrease their alcohol intake, and virtually eliminate their pill intake. CUD is bullshit.

  • Ric E

    Ric E

    July 1st, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    The things that they want us vets to do to get treatment is ridiculous. I have to drive almost 6 miles to get to the closest VA clinin, and for me that is not so easy when I am trying to hold down a job too. And then when you get there then half the time the doctor that you need to see has to reschedule because of an overworked case load. And they don’t even offer mental health care at the facility that I normally go to so then I have to make an appointment to go to someone else, who is equally far away from where I live. I can’t commit to all of that driving around when I have a family to take care of and a job to try to make work too. It is crazy. You would think that we would be a little mre valued than what we are, but I am finding that they would rather us just go away than even try to address all of our different needs.

  • knowa


    July 1st, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    As long as history’s most golden cash cow continues to give milk the prohibitionist will continue to keep their snouts in the trough. When you research the history of it there are so many dark conspiracy fact to sudsy such as the 1914 US $10 bill showing a Hemp Harvest or the Death of Rudolph Diesel who design his engine to run on Hemp fuel. The American Pharmacopoeia 1936 17 pages on medical cannabis. The list go on and on.

  • Max


    July 2nd, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    So really, we don’t know if the numbers of veterans who use all the time has really been on the rise, or whether it is because now we have better ways of testing for use as well as tracking the numbers. Also it seems like marijuana and other illegal substances are more readily available today than they were maybe seven to ten years ago. More access=more usage.

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