Why Marijuana Is Critical For Research in Treating PTSD

U.S. Drug 'Czar' Says Addiction, Health Concerns With Pot as Legalization Continues
U.S. Drug ‘Czar’ Says Addiction, Health Concerns With Pot as Legalization Continues
Arizona psychiatrist Sue Sisley has been battling for years to conduct research to demonstrate cannabis as an effective PTSD treatment.

The use of medical marijuana to treat patients with treatment-resistant, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is supported by a number of sources, including research in lab animals, functional MRI imaging in humans, and anecdotal reports from countless health practitioners and patients. Additionally, clinical research in Israel1 evaluating medical marijuana as treatment for PTSD has been promising. 

I will also be conducting my own study of cannabis in PTSD in the hopes of helping to get this valuable therapy available those who need it. It will test four strains of smoked marijuana, each containing different concentrations of tetrahydrocannbinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), two compounds in marijuana with therapeutic effects, in two three-week stages, as a pharmacological agent to manage PTSD symptoms in 76 U.S. military veterans. 

The primary measured outcome will be the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5), alongside extensive secondary outcomes including sleep patterns, depression, withdrawal symptoms, metabolic and inflammation panels, and self-reporting by the patients.  

The study is a collaboration between the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), me, and researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

One reason to be confident that marijuana is an effective PTSD treatment are the results of New Mexico psychiatrist George Greer’s 2014 study, published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.2 

Greer collected data from 80 military veterans who met DSM-V criteria for PTSD, including the symptoms of re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Measured using the CAPS-5, the results indicated an average 75% reduction in all three areas of PTSD symptoms while using cannabis.

However, medical marijuana is hampered by current U.S. federal policies obstructing Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved research. This includes a redundant multi-agency review process that creates unnecessary red tape and wasteful government spending. 

Like other drugs, cannabis should undergo a rigorous FDA-approval process. But unlike studies of other Schedule I drugs, only cannabis research must pass an additional review process called the Public Health Service (PHS) Protocol Review before the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will release the research material (marijuana).

NIDA is currently the sole monopoly supplier of cannabis for use in privately funded drug development research.