Chris Hillier’s life arc bottomed out in a Vancouver back alley, across the country from his Newfoundland home and a world away from the war zone that broke him.
Homeless, penniless, and addicted to crack cocaine, Hillier slept behind a community centre, at the intersection of Hastings and Main, the notorious epicentre of the city’s drug trade.
Three years earlier, Hillier was in the midst of a successful military career, serving his country as an air force firefighter aboard HMCS Preserver in the Middle East in the months after the 9/11 strikes on the U.S.
His tour with Operation Apollo took him to the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. But the constant stress of working in a theatre of war left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition he believes was worsened by conventional pharmaceuticals prescribed by military doctors.
Today, Hillier is off the streets and clean because, he says, of a treatment that few in the Canadian military like to discuss: medical marijuana.
Hillier, 35, is one of just a handful of veterans who are treating their PTSD with cannabis and getting it paid for by Veterans Affairs Canada.
The department says 26 vets are getting support for participation in Health Canada’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) program. Ten use it to treat PTSD, even though the Canadian Forces shun the drug for medical use.
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