When a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran with stage 4 lung cancer went to pick up his pain medications recently at a Topeka pharmacy, he was surprised to find out that his prescriptions were not renewed, but even more shocked to find out why. Per new VA policies, Gary Dixon was no longer eligible to receive his prescription pain medications because he tested positive for marijuana.
“I hurt, and I hurt from something I got fighting for my country,” said Dixon, who was exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Dixon said the last time he went to his stroke group for therapy he was asked to provide a urine sample and sign an opiate consent form. But Dixon said he knows the time he has left is extremely limited and admits to anyone that he smokes pot to ease his pain. When the lady asked for the sample, Dixon questioned whether she was checking to see if he still smoked, and when she said yes, he told her he did. But according to new VA policies, veterans suffering from physical and/or mental ailments can use medicinal marijuana or prescriptions medications, but not both.
“If you take marijuana and you take pain medication these are two things that decrease your alertness,” explained Dr. Daniel Cline, chief of ambulance with the Kansas VA.
So Dixon curiously asked if he would be eligible to receive his medications again if he stopped using marijuana, but still did not receive a definite answer.
“Everything is done on a case by case basis,” Cline said. “So I can’t say that with 100 percent certainty.”
Meanwhile, Dixon, who requires 10 to 15 pills each day, will continue his marijuana regimen and try to figure out how to come up with the $400 a month needed for his prescription pain medications.