Prevention, Practice, and Policy: Older US Veterans’ Perspectives on Cannabis Use

Julie Bobitt, Kelly Clary, Michael Krawitz, Laura Quintero Silva, Hyojung Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objective: Veterans often struggle with disabling physical and mental health conditions that tend to worsen as they age. Current medications used to treat these conditions include opioids and benzodiazepines though they can have negative side effects. Looking for alternatives to these medications, many older Veterans use cannabis for medical purposes. We aimed to develop a deeper understanding of older Veterans’ cannabis use. Methods: We used maximum variation sampling to select 32 Veterans who had completed baseline and follow-up surveys to participate in semi-structured interviews. Results: After applying a thematic analysis, results show older Veterans are using medical cannabis as a means of harm reduction as an adjunct or substitute for other medications and substances with limited guidance from their healthcare providers. Veterans also reported that there exists an inconsistency across the Veterans Health Administration system regarding the interpretation and application of cannabis policies. Conclusions: Drawing from these findings, we explore medical cannabis as a harm reduction technique and discuss how a lack of physician engagement and current Veterans Health Administration policies discourage older Veterans from discussing and potentially benefiting from the use of medical cannabis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-70
Number of pages12
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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