Adam Smith spent 17 years as a Green Beret in the US Army and special forces fighting terrorists and drug cartels in the most dangerous places on earth.
Brushes with death were common during his operations in volatile countries like Afghanistan and Guatemala where he was training soldiers to fight the Taliban and cartels.
But it was in a small cab in Lexington, Kentucky, where he came closest to dying – surrounded by empty bottles of booze, a suicide note and with a pistol in his mouth.
The only reason he didn’t pull the trigger was because he was so drunk he passed out, and his fiancee came in and took the gun away. She had no idea what he was planning, and he had a good way of hiding it.
At that point, alcohol was his medication and a way of coping with the side effects of his military career, which ended in 2016.
He struggled to adapt to civilian life and felt disconnected to the community where he was trying to reintegrate.
‘Thoughts of suicide were a daily occurrence. The constant feeling of failure, having no purpose, and being lost in the world was a daily battle, he told DailyMail.com
Adam Smith spent 17 years as a Green Beret in the US Army and special forces fighting terrorists and drug cartels in the most dangerous places on earth. But it was in a small cab in Lexington, Kentucky, where he came closest to dying – surrounded by empty bottles of booze, a suicide note and with a pistol in his mouth
He was lost, earning just $19,000 a year, gained about 50lbs and his body wasn’t functioning correctly.
‘I was in a deep state of hopelessness and had no mission or purpose’.
That was when he realized he could no longer use drinking to try and combat the crippling PTSD and impact of head injuries he suffered in battle zones.
He mostly avoided the powerful medications often prescribed by the VA that help soldiers in the short term – believing they caused long term harm and often led to addiction.
The VA said in 2017 that 68,000 veterans are hooked on opioids, many of them taking 32 pills a day for 57 different symptoms.
The day after his suicide attempt he arranged to get a beer with a Navy special warfare friend who offered him a chance to train law enforcement in Ohio.
He joined a tactical training company, joined a CrossFit gym and saw his life turn around.
Then he found a solution to ease his trauma in a place he hadn’t thought possible – a cannabis dispensary in Washington state.
He was on a cross-country cycling trip with a friend who had issues with panic attacks and they stopped in.
‘I bought a little, and that night I smoked for the first time. You want to talk about eye opening? I slept better, had less anxiety, felt more at ease, didn’t have any nightmares and seemed to have an extra tick in my anger clock.’
He mostly avoided the powerful medications often prescribed by the VA that help soldiers in the short term – believing they caused long term harm and often led to addiction. Instead he found his solution in a place he hadn’t thought possible, in a cannabis dispensary in Washington state
He stopped using cannabis to self-medicate when he went home to Kentucky, because it had not been decriminalized and he was working training law enforcement.
But when hemp products were legalized (when and by who), he saw a way to help veterans like him combat the physical and psychological damages from their overseas tours.
Smith told DailyMail.com: ‘I used prescribed opioids for post-surgery pain a couple of different times.
‘I didn’t like the way they made me feel, and usually I just went to sleep after taking them. Once the prescription was out I didn’t look to refill it.
‘As I was making my transition out of the military, alcohol was the one thing I used regularly. I didn’t realize until I look back now that I used alcohol as a means to cope.
‘Unfortunately, it didn’t help and only made things worse. Alcohol made my sleeping habits worse, made me feel terrible the next day and played right into my downward spiral.’
Smith served 17 years in the Green Beret and now helps veterans and law enforcement with training and advice on how to deal with trauma when they leave active service
The 5,000-mile bicycle ride across the country was to raise money and awareness for PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries) for the Task Force Dagger Foundation.
He was riding with a friend, a Green Beret from 7th Special Forces Group, who had an epileptic episode while deployed.
‘He found that the meds the VA were prescribing him were turning him into a zombie, and so he decided to self-medicate with cannabis,’ Smith said. ‘He was having huge success with it and told me all about it.’
At the time, states around the country were signing legislation that either decriminalized or legalized marijuana. PTSD was also added to the list of qualifying conditions for medicinal marijuana use.
In 2019, President Trump signed the Farm Bill and vastly expanded the production of hemp and how it could be sold because of the subsidies farmers could generate.
Hemp is a strain of cannabis plant that cannot contain more than 0.3 percent THC – the compound in marijuana that gets the user higher.
In short, it means you can’t get high while using hemp.
The bill also removed hemp-derived CBD (or cannabidiol) from its Schedule 1 status in the Controlled Substances Act – making it legal and meaning it could be sold more freely.
With the signing of the Farm Bill, people began to look into the health benefits of CBD and how it reacted with the body. As a result, products started popping up in stores.
That is when Smith had the idea of developing products for veterans struggling with prescribed opioids and other side effects from their military careers.
He came up with the idea for Tactical Relief, the company he still runs today, on the back of a napkin. They sell CBD products to veterans and first responders who haven’t found the relief they needed in painkillers and other medication prescribed to them by their doctors
‘I have had long conversations with many of my buddies who also served who have gone through the VA process, gotten diagnosed with PTSD, and then subsequently prescribed a heap of medication that really didn’t treat the patient, but instead only temporarily treated the symptoms.
‘Most of the drugs offered through the VA only provide short term relief. They shut down the brain and block it from healing in this process of giving the patient temporary comfort.
‘When we talk about PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, there are so many other options for those suffering than opioids for pain, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, blood pressure meds, and more. These drugs often do more harm than good.
‘These opioid pain meds can be habit forming. The more you get, the more your body craves the compound. These meds are what veterans know.
‘The idea that it’s as simple as taking a pill and sucking it up is something that is pervasive throughout the military.
‘It is not that a majority of veterans or those serving want to use meds or alcohol to cope and deal with all of the things they have seen, but rather the fear of acknowledging that we are mortal, the fear of possibly being removed from our jobs, and ultimately the fear of being “broken” leads so many in our community to self-medicate and stay silent.’
He came up with the idea for Tactical Relief, the company he still runs today, on the back of a napkin.
They sell CBD products to veterans and first responders who haven’t found the relief they needed in painkillers and other medication prescribed to them by their doctors.
Their line includes bottles of 100MG of CBD oil that start at $79 a piece.
His aim was to help give these people a choice when it came to their treatments.
His company says his products have a shopping list of benefits including helping cope with anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, pain, sleep, gut health, nervous system health and brain chemistry.
Smith insists that using his products are not a cure and won’t simply fix physical and psychological problems, but can help manage them.
Veterans still need a support network to fall back on and a doctor who will tend to the long-lasting side effects. But Smith insists they can help mitigate these issues.
Tactical Relief sells CBD products to veterans and first responders who haven’t found the relief they needed in painkillers and other medication prescribed to them by their doctors. Their line includes bottles of 100MG of CBD oil that start at $79.00 a piece.
‘The number one thing to remember is that bad memories will never go away.
‘Those things will always be with you. However, how those bad memories generate physiological responses can change.
‘It all starts with a choice – the choice to fight against the status quo, to fight against everyone who thinks you’re a victim, and to fight against your own victim stories happening in your head.
‘Further I would ask you this question. If you had an option to save your children, wife, husband, brother, sister, mom, dad, or any of your most loved family members or friends with marijuana or hemp rather than a handful of pills what would you pick? I can tell you firsthand that this is actually happening. This is actually saving lives.’
The VA has faced accusations that doctors over-prescribe medication and are lagging in vital care.
Sergeant William Bee, a Marine in one of the most iconic photos from the War on Terror, waited months at a time to see a VA specialist to deal with results of a brain injury he suffered when caught up in an IED blast in Afghanistan.
Smith had similar experiences when he sought their care.
‘I won’t bash the VA, as there are loads of good people in the organization. Every time I have gone to the VA for any sort of assistance it turned into a long, drawn-out day of not getting anything done’, Smith said.
‘When you walk into the VA and are having chronic pain issues, they usually prescribe pain medication.
‘That pain medication is usually opioid-based. When you’re wounded overseas or have a serious injury in training and you have high amounts of pain, pain meds are prescribed. This is the standard, it’s simply what’s done.’
Congress has also been working on legislation for veterans and cannabis use. There are calls to research how marijuana can impact physical ailments related to active duty.
H.R. 1647, the Veterans Equal Access Act of 2019, is also looking at giving physicians the ability to sign state medicinal marijuana paperwork.
VA doctors are unable to do this, so veterans have to turn to private healthcare networks.