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HEALTH / WELL-BEING

Perceptions and Use of Alcohol and Medical Cannabis among Canadian Military Veterans Living with PTSD

March, 2021
Article:

This paper investigates the perceptions of 5 veterans on the use of alcohol and medical cannabis to cope with  PTSD symptoms and outlines key implications.

Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common psychiatric diagnosis among Canadian military veterans, and alcohol and medical cannabis are commonly used by this group to cope with PTSD symptoms. This paper is part of a larger study that examined a cohort of 5 veterans, over a 1-year period, who used both medical cannabis and alcohol and were matched with a PTSD service dog. This paper compares the perceptions and use of alcohol and medical cannabis among the veterans to cope with their PTSD symptoms and outlines key implications. Semi-structured interviews offer insight into similarities and differences between the veterans’ perceptions and use of the two substances. Both substances are used by the veterans to manage their PTSD symptoms, typically worsening them if used in excess. Medical cannabis is a prescribed medication; however, it is perceived by the veterans to be associated with a negative discourse and in particular stigma. This is not the case for alcohol. The veterans identified alcohol use as more influenced by social norms and perceived it as more of a concern for addiction compared to medical cannabis. This did not, however, appear to impact the level of alcohol use. These findings offer unique insight into the military culture’s general acceptance of alcohol but not medical cannabis use. This has possible implications for veterans’ use of alcohol and/or medical cannabis to help manage their PTSD symptoms.

Full Reference

Gibson, M., Williamson, L., Henwood, G., Chalmers, D., & Dell, C. A. (2021). Perceptions and Use of Alcohol and Medical Cannabis among Canadian Military Veterans Living with PTSD. Journal of Veterans Studies, 7(1), 59–70. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/jvs.v7i1.200

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