I've enjoyed reading your answers to the questions you've received and I have one for you that I'm sure is on many veterans minds. As a result of a layoff from one of the major corporations in the USA, I've recently lost my medical coverage. I'm on 6 maintenance medications for past heart problems and diabetes. I've just submitted my paperwork to the local VA Clinic and I have a real worry now.
I use marijuana recreationally. I have for several decades. I don't abuse it. Neither do I abuse alcohol. I enjoy relaxing with one or two tokes of marijuana every other night or so, and I'm now wondering if I'll be tested for drugs as a common practice at the VA
If I am tested and marijuana is found in my system, will that result in the VA not providing my medications or health care? The state I'm in does not have a Medical Marijuana allowance. Like most states, it's still illegal. I'd sure like to know what I'm in store for. If it's necessary for me to quit using marijuana to retain my eligibility for VA treatment and medication coverage, then of course, that's what I would do. I'm in my 60's. I'd rather be able to continue doing as I have and not change my lifestyle.
Thank you for any advice you can provide to me and all the other recreational marijuana users that are veterans.
There is no mandated policy for testing of marijuana at VA. In fact, when there is testing it's usually considered a normal finding as there are so many Vietnam era veterans who are recreational users.
There are only a very few occasions when it may hang you up and that's generally in a mental health setting. If your shrink is concerned about the effects of marijuana and other psychotropic drugs you may be advised to cease the use of the pot.
If you are very ill and scheduled for an organ or bone marrow transplant, you will likely be tested for all substance abuse. The transplant people are very concerned about the ability of organ recipients to discipline themselves to the regimen of medications and routines that they must abide by after a transplant.
Organs and bone marrow are in very short supply and the waiting lists are long. If a candidate for transplant can't stop using recreational drugs, he may not have the appropriate mind set to receive a donor organ and that could be wasting the resource.
If you are tested for substance use it's often a standard test for the 5 most often used substances...the SAMHSA-5. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-5)
That would be;
1. Cannabinoids (marijuana, hash)
2. Cocaine (cocaine, crack, benzoylecognine)
3. Amphetamines (amphetamines, methamphetamines, speed)
4. Opiates (heroin, opium, codeine, morphine)
5. Phencyclidine (PCP)
Depending on the facility and the lab itself there may be an expanded testing menu where 4 or 5 substances are chosen from a laundry list;
1. Barbiturates (Phenobarbital, Secobarbitol, Butalbital)
2. Hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin)
3. Methaqualone (Quaaludes)
4. Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Librium, Serax, Rohypnol)
6. Propoxyphene (Darvon compounds)
7. Ethanol (Alcohol)
8. MDMA (Ecstasy)
As an aside, if you're applying for life insurance or a job, you may be tested for nicotine...the most dangerous drug of all of those.
The physicians I know in the VA system have no issue with marijuana but any of the other drugs will probably result in some counseling.
If you are having an elective surgery with anesthesia under any circumstance (civilian or VA) it's very likely the anesthesia folks will ask you about drug use and any over the counter herbal remedies you may take. It's in your best interest to be very open and honest with your anesthesiologist as the interactions of their potent drugs and your own drugs may be deadly.
Even aspirin may cause you some serious problems in an elective and otherwise "safe" surgery so don't try to keep any secrets from those people.
Finally...the VA is a federal system. Our antiquated federal drug laws still see marijuana as an evil illegal drug and according to federal law users deserve harsh prison time in our modern day dungeons. If you're in a more enlightened neighborhood such as California, you may lapse into a mind set that it's legal and as such you can use it as you will.
That's a dangerous trap to fall into.
The VA will always default to the federal law and the VA police will enforce that law while ignoring any state laws you believe may protect you. Don't ever get caught on a VA campus with your stash. Once you're on federal property all the rules change and you may be setting yourself up for a lot of trouble.