Older Veterans Using Cannabis for Mental Health Conditions

Champaign, IL: Older veterans are turning to cannabis to treat certain mental health conditions, as well as to mitigate chronic pain and improve sleep, according to data published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

A team of investigators affiliated with the University of Illinois assessed marijuana use in a cohort of 514 older (ages 60+) veterans residing in a state (Illinois) where medical cannabis access is legal.

Compared to non-veterans of similar ages, veterans in the study were more likely to report using cannabis for the treatment of mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and insomnia. 

Veterans in the study typically reported “desirable health outcomes” as a result of their cannabis use. Most subjects said that cannabis reduced their chronic pain, improved their sleep, and led to improvements in their overall quality of life – a finding that is consistent with prior studies assessing the use of medical cannabis in older populations. 

Authors concluded: “The present study contributes needed evidence about motives for and health outcomes of cannabis use by older veterans which may differ from younger veterans. … Veterans reported positive effects of cannabis use for their pain, sleep quality, health conditions, and QOL (quality of life). … Our results may help clinicians to consider [the] motives behind cannabis use by veterans and engage more with veterans about alternative ways to treat their conditions.”

Full text of the study, “Biopsychosocial factors and health outcomes associated with cannabis, opioids and benzodiazepines use among older veterans,” appears in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Additional information on cannabis use among veterans is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Marijuana and Veterans Issues.”