Canadian veterans use much less prescribed opioids, far more medical cannabis

Canadian soldiers, including those from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, salute during a ceremony for fallen comrades at forward operating base Masum Ghar in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. (File image via Reuters)
Canadian soldiers, including those from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, salute during a ceremony for fallen comrades at forward operating base Masum Ghar in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. (File image via Reuters)

Data from the Veterans Affairs Canada show that the country’s veterans are using far more medical marijuana as opposed to prescribed opioids.

The Globe and Mail released on Monday the information it received from Veterans Affairs Canada to compare veterans’ use of cannabis and opioids in the past six years.

The Canadian daily reported that since 2012, the number of veterans prescribed benzodiazepines – with brands such as Xanax, Ativan, and Valium – decreased 43 percent to 4,702 people last fiscal year.

Meanwhile, opioid prescriptions also shrank 31 percent during that same period to 10,130.

The daily said two years ago, when The Globe first obtained these data, those declines were not as significant. 

Almost 70 percent jump on cannabis

The number of veterans receiving reimbursement from the department for medical marijuana skyrocketed from just 68 to almost 7,300 last fiscal year.

In addition, the costs of cannabis prescriptions jumped to $63.7-million in 2016 before bureaucrats reined in the amount allowed per month, dropping costs slightly to $50.9-million last fiscal year.

The data also shows that only a fraction of Canada’s estimated 658,400 veterans is registered by doctors to use opioids, benzodiazepines or medical marijuana.

Recent studies have shown that the availability of medical marijuana dispensary in the United States has lowered the use of opioids.

Cannabis advocates have long touted marijuana as a better natural alternative to relieve pain than opioid-based medications, which can be addictive and at times deadly.

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