Veterans Guide to CBD

When you serve in the armed forces, you face challenges of the body and mind. But when your service is over, those challenges don’t necessarily end.

U.S. military veterans face many unique mental and physical hardships in their daily lives. On average, veterans are more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, and substance abuse.

The increasing popularity of cannabidiol or CBD has many veterans asking, “Can CBD help me?” Let’s take a look at the basics of CBD, how CBD can help veterans, and programs that give veterans access to affordable CBD.

What is CBD?

CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. Humans have been using cannabis for thousands of years. It may even be one of the oldest plants cultivated by man.

Cannabis has many unique properties that make the plant incredibly useful to humans. It grows quickly and its fibrous stalks are useful for making hemp fiber. Hemp fiber has countless industrial uses including paper, textiles, and clothing.

Humans have also used the cannabis plant as a medicinal herb throughout history. From ancient Egypt and India to 19th-century healers, cannabis was considered an effective remedy for pain and nausea and even used as an antibacterial agent.

CBD Is a Cannabinoid

But what gives cannabis its healing properties? Cannabis produces over one hundred unique compounds known as cannabinoids. The cannabinoids CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

Although they’re both cannabinoids, CBD and THC have very different properties. THC is mainly responsible for the psychoactive, intoxicating effects of cannabis. In contrast, CBD is non-intoxicating and can even balance out the intoxicating effects of THC.

Medical Benefits Without the High

That’s why researchers and consumers have been paying so much attention to CBD in the last few years. CBD has many of the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high. So far, the evidence points to CBD as being a potential remedy for:

But how can you separate the intoxicating effects of THC from CBD? When CBD producers use a low-THC variety of cannabis called hemp, the end result is a non-intoxicating CBD product with less than 0.3% THC.

How CBD Works

CBD offers many of the benefits of cannabis without the high, but how does it work? When you ingest CBD, it enters your bloodstream and interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system is a biological system present throughout most of the human body. Scientists discovered this system while trying to better understand the physiological effects of cannabis.

The endocannabinoid system acts as a biological master regulator and works to maintain homeostasis or a sense of balance in the body. It helps to regulate our appetite, metabolism, sleep, mood, immune system, stress response, and more.

The endocannabinoid system is made up of three components. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoid compounds made naturally in our own bodies. Anandamide is one of the most well-known. Certain enzymes are responsible for creating and breaking down cannabinoids to help regulate their effect.

Lastly, cannabinoid receptors located on the surface of cells throughout the body bind to cannabinoids. This binding sends a signal that can either activate or turn down the activity of the endocannabinoid system.

Receptors CB1 and CB2 are the most cannabinoid-specific receptors that scientists have discovered. CB1 receptors are located mainly in the central nervous system which includes the brain and the spinal cord. CB2 receptors are located mainly in the peripheral nervous system (especially the immune system) which acts to relay messages from the limbs and organs to the brain.

We know that CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system like other cannabinoids. But researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how it works. For example, researchers found that THC binds and stimulates CB1 and CB2 receptors, but CBD only binds weakly and actually blocks the actions of these receptors. There’s also evidence that CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system indirectly by increasing levels of anandamide.

How Can CBD Help Veterans?

CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system but how can it help veterans? Research shows that CBD may be effective for treating several conditions that commonly affect veterans.

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a psychiatric disorder. Some people develop PTSD after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Those who suffer from PTSD are unable to process and cope with the negative memories.

Symptoms include:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms: flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories and thoughts of the traumatic event
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms: trouble sleeping, being easily startled, angry outbursts, and feeling on edge
  • Cognition and mood symptoms: negative feelings about life or yourself, feelings of guilt and blame, the inability to enjoy your favorite activities
  • Avoidance symptoms: avoiding places, people, thoughts, and feelings that are related to the traumatic event

When serving in the armed forces, veterans are more likely to be exposed to life-threatening situations or other traumatic events like sexual assault and harassment. As a result, PTSD is common in veterans with estimates ranging from 10 to 30 percent. And unfortunately, there aren’t any medications that specifically target PTSD and its symptoms.

But CBD represents a promising treatment for PTSD because it appears to target the root cause of the disorder.

At its core, PTSD is a memory disorder. Researchers think that PTSD is caused by impaired memory pathways in the brain. This means that people with PTSD tend to ‘over-remember’ their trauma.

CBD may actually help bad memories fade, making it a relevant treatment option for PTSD. One small 2019 study showed that 91% of patients decreased their PTSD symptoms with 8 weeks of CBD treatment.

Substance Abuse

Military populations in the U.S. have higher rates of substance use disorder than civilian populations. And for veterans, PTSD and substance abuse issues are strongly intertwined.

Nearly one-third of veterans seeking treatment for substance use disorder also have PTSD. That’s because some people try to self-medicate away their PTSD symptoms by drinking and smoking heavily or using drugs.

Substance abuse—referred to substance use disorder (SUD) by doctors and researchers—occurs when a person uses a substance compulsively despite negative consequences like fractured relationships or poor work performance. Eventually, substance abuse can lead to addiction and chemical dependency.

Recovery can be difficult and mired by relapse. And the risk of relapse is influenced by a person’s stress and anxiety levels, context-dependent cravings, and impulse control.

The endocannabinoid system affects motivation and seeking behavior. This means CBD could be able to block cravings, making it a good drug candidate for treating the root cause of substance abuse.

And emerging evidence shows that this may be the case. In the context of alcohol abuse, one comprehensive review showed that CBD may help fight relapse. In animal studies, CBD reduced alcohol-seeking behaviors, withdrawal symptoms, and anxiety. When relapses did occur, animals treated with CBD consumed less alcohol and showed less motivation to drink.

And a 2019 clinical study in humans showed that CBD significantly reduced both craving and anxiety in patients with heroin use disorder after being tempted with a drug cue. This means CBD’s effects could also be relevant for opioid addiction.

Chronic Pain

Veterans are also more likely than civilians to experience chronic and severe pain. For combat veterans dealing with life-changing injuries, coping with chronic pain can be a significant challenge. However, veterans are also more likely to experience run of the mill aches such as joint pain, back pain, and migraine headaches.

Humans have been using cannabis as a pain reliever for hundreds of years. And studies show that both THC and CBD may help treat hard to manage pain.

But CBD on its own may also help ease pain. There’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence for this effect and the research agrees. CBD may be an effective treatment for chronic and acute pain.

Moreover, CBD represents a lower-risk alternative to opioids which have more negative side effects and are highly addictive.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a common secondary symptom of PTSD. But even veterans who don’t suffer from PTSD can be affected by intrusive, anxious thoughts that affect their quality of life. Moreover, anxiety is on the rise among veterans.

Again, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from people saying that CBD helped them treat their anxiety. And the research shows that CBD may have a positive effect on anxiety. One 2015 review concluded that CBD has great potential as a treatment for anxiety disorders.

Sleep

We all need sleep to be at our best. A solid 8-9 hours of sleep each night helps improve our mood, learning, and memory and wards off chronic illness like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even cancer. Unfortunately, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by if you’re suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, or anxiety.

But CBD might offer some relief. Not only can CBD potentially relieve symptoms associated with PTSD, chronic pain, and anxiety (see above), but it can also target sleep directly.

Endocannabinoid signaling helps regulate sleep. In rats, researchers showed that CBD increases total sleep time. A 2017 review concluded that CBD has the potential for treating insomnia. And a 2019 study demonstrated that CBD improved sleep quality in a group of 48 patients with sleep disorders.

CBD Safety

CBD is made from hemp, a type of cannabis strain that produces low levels of THC and high levels of CBD. Unfortunately, there’s still a significant stigma attached to cannabis. As a result, many people are not convinced that CBD is really safe.

We’ve already covered the issue of CBD safety on CannaHealth and so far the research shows that CBD is safer than many over-the-counter medications. In one study looking at the effects of CBD, researchers found it was well tolerated with only minor negative side effects in adults.

As a testament to CBD’s good safety profile, the FDA approved CBD in June 2018 as a key ingredient in the prescription medication Epidiolex for treating rare and severe forms of epilepsy. That means CBD made it through the FDA’s rigorous approval process and the FDA considers CBD to be generally safe, even for those suffering from epilepsy.

The international community is also in agreement. In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a comprehensive review of CBD. In their review, the WHO concluded that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” They also found that CBD has a very low potential for dependence and abuse.

However, there are some side effects you should be aware of. In the FDA clinical trials for Epidiolex, the most commonly reported negative side effects include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea

It’s also important to note that, while all current research points to CBD being safe, we don’t know everything. For example, CBD may interact with other prescription medications. So talk to your doctor before adding CBD to your routine.

Legal Issues

Another common concern is whether or not CBD is legal. After all, CBD comes from cannabis which is illegal, right?

Not necessarily. Laws are beginning to change at both the state and the federal level. Over 30 states in the U.S. have either legalized cannabis for medicinal use or adult recreational use.

And in 2018, the U.S. passed a new Farm Bill which re-classified low-THC cannabis or hemp. Now hemp that contains less than 0.3% THC by weight is legal to grow and consume in all 50 states at the federal level. Since CBD can be manufactured from hemp, that means CBD is also legal

But states can pass their own laws if they wish to ban CBD. Make sure to double-check the laws in your state before buying CBD online.

CBD and the VA

For veterans, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or VA provides comprehensive healthcare services to eligible U.S. military veterans. And while CBD is legal in the U.S., not all government agencies view CBD in the same light.

So what does the VA think about CBD? The VA acknowledges that CBD is legal and has some unique benefits backed by science that can benefit veterans.

However, the VA only prescribes drugs approved by the FDA. While the FDA approved CBD in June 2018, the approval only covers CBD in the form of the prescription medication Epidiolex for treating specific forms of epilepsy. That means, even though the VA views CBD favorably, you won’t be able to get a CBD prescription or have your CBD covered by the VA.

CBD Discount Programs for Veterans

If you don’t have a prescription for CBD, you can still buy CBD products online. CBD is only FDA-approved for certain types of epilepsy, but it’s legal to sell and buy in the U.S. as a health supplement as long as it’s made from low-THC hemp. And with CBD’s growing popularity, there are plenty of CBD brands to choose from online.

When you buy CBD from an online retailer, you’ll have to pay out of pocket. However, many CBD brands recognize the important contributions of our military service members and offer discount programs for veterans.

Lazarus Naturals

Lazarus Naturals offers one of the most generous CBD assistance programs for veterans. If you’re a veteran, you can receive 60% off of Lazarus Naturals CBD products (limited to $250 in purchases after the discount is applied each month).

What We Liked:

  • Free 3-day shipping on all orders
  • 30-day no questions asked return policy
  • Full-spectrum and THC-free CBD oil options
  • Products are third-party lab tested
  • Affordable prices
  • CBD Oil: $0.02 to $0.06 per mg of CBD

Lazarus Naturals offers a wide range of high-quality CBD products made from American-grown hemp. With highly affordable prices, a generous discount program, and a broad selection of CBD potencies, Lazarus Naturals is one of the best choices for veterans. In addition to CBD oil, they also offer some unique products like CBD-infused coconut oil and THC-free options. Check out our full review of Lazarus Naturals CBD for more info.

Comfort Leaf

Comfort Leaf also gives a large discount for veterans. The company offers 50% off their CBD products to any U.S. military veteran.

What We Liked:

  • Transparent about their sourcing and production
  • Free shipping on all orders
  • Extensive line of THC-free products
  • Products are third-party lab tested
  • CBD Oil: $0.12 to $0.14 per mg of CBD

Comfort Leaf is the perfect option for veterans who are looking for CBD products that are guaranteed to be THC-free. All of Comfort Leaf’s products contain CBD isolate as the active ingredient. However, if you’re looking for full-spectrum CBD (hemp extract that contains the complete natural array of cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant) to take advantage of the entourage effect, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

We also appreciate Comfort Leaf’s extensive transparency when it comes to their sourcing, manufacturing process, and product testing. Check out our full review of Comfort Leaf CBD for more info.

CBDistillery

Veterans can get a 10% discount on all CBDistillery products.

What We Liked:

  • Broad selection of CBD products
  • THC-free options available
  • Variety packs let you try a little bit of everything
  • Products are third-party lab tested
  • CBD Oil: $0.05 to $0.08 per mg of CBD

The CBDistillery offers another extensive product line up of high-quality, CBD-infused products. They’re also one of the more affordable options when it comes to CBD oils and CBD isolate, although their veterans discount isn’t as generous as Lazarus Naturals. Check out our full review of the CBDistillery for more info.

Charlotte’s Web

Veterans have access to a discount program that gives them 15% off selected Charlotte’s Web CBD products.

What We Liked:

  • Proprietary hemp extract goes into every product
  • Extensive quality control testing at each step of the production process
  • Good range of CBD oil potency for all types of users
  • All products backed with a 30-day customer satisfaction guarantee
  • CBD Oil: $0.09 to $0.19 per mg of CBD

The founders of Charlotte’s Web are CBD pioneers. They were some of the first cannabis growers to experiment with hemp and create a medicinal, high-CBD, low-THC strain. That means Charlotte’s Web really knows CBD and is a trusted source for high-quality CBD products.

Populum

Populum offers 25% off their retail prices to U.S. military veterans.

What We Liked:

  • Transparency when it comes to hemp sourcing and quality testing
  • Free shipping with every order
  • CBD oil comes in a tasty orange flavor
  • CBD Oil: $0.18 to $0.24 per mg of CBD

Populum’s product line up is simple and streamlined. This allows the company to really focus and make their small product line up the best it can be. We also love the taste of Populum’s signature orange-flavored CBD oil. Populum’s CBD oil and other CBD products are ideal for those who value quality over quantity. Check out our full review of Populum CBD for more info.

Medterra

Medterra doesn’t advertise their discount rates, but the company’s military program offers discounts on all full-price retail orders up to $250 to U.S. military veterans.

What We Liked:

  • Broad selection of THC-free CBD products
  • U.S. Hemp Authority Certified
  • Affordable pricing for CBD oil
  • Products are third-party lab tested
  • CBD Oil: $0.04 to $0.07 per mg of CBD

Medterra makes high-quality CBD products from American-grown hemp. The company participates in the U.S. Hemp Authority Certification program. This means Medterra believes in setting a high standard for the CBD industry.

Similar to Comfort Leaf CBD, Medterra is a great option if you’re looking for completely THC-free products. Medterra formulates all of its products with 99% pure CBD isolate with no trace levels of THC. However, if you’re looking to take advantage of the entourage effect, you’re better off choosing another high-quality brand that uses full-spectrum CBD oil. Check out our full review of Medterra CBD for more info.

Closing Thoughts

Life after the military can be challenging for even the toughest veterans. But CBD offers a safe, legal health supplement that may ease the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, chronic pain, and substance abuse.

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