Military Connection: New Funding for Medical Marijuana PTSD Study

medical marijuana

On December 17, 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment approved a $7.6 million measure to provide for eight medical marijuana studies.

Included in the eight studies is a $2 million grant to research the effectiveness of marijuana to treat Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was co-sponsored by the California-based nonprofit, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The founder/executive director of MAPS, Rick Doblin, called the award a “big step forward for cannabis science and medicine.”

The research for a PTSD marijuana treatment study initially received approval last March from the federal Health and Human Services Department. The study was scheduled to get underway at the University of Arizona and other locations within a year. But the program was delayed after the school terminated the contract of the primary researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, in July. Sisley and MAPS have worked for over four years to develop and win federal approval for the study.

The funding provided by the state of Colorado will help support the study, consisting of 76 Veteran volunteers, at two different sites. One site will be in Arizona with Dr. Sisley, although the exact location has not yet been determined. The other will take place at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, under the direction of Ryan Vandrey. The coordination and scientific integrity of the study will be managed by Dr. Paula Riggs from the  University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Marcel Bonn-Miller from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

The protocol for the study calls for Veterans with PTSD to be divided into groups, and receive the equivalent of two joints a day to either smoke or inhale by vaporization. Each participant will then submit weekly observations, and confirm that he or she had followed protocols.

As part of the federal government’s requirements for the study, MAPS must buy Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-licensed marijuana, which is controlled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and that the marijuanais of the correct potency of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol needed for the research. Also, MAPS will need DEA approval, once it receives a delivery date for the marijuana.

The approval of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use has been a staple of political debates for decades. There have been strong opinions and points made for both sides of the argument. But the use of marijuana as a treatment for PTSD could sway those who were previously opposed to its use, as the alternative, use of opioids, have done little to nothing to combat the disorder. Much like drinking whiskey for a toothache, the opioids just numb the pain temporarily and don’t fix the problem. Medical marijuana may, or may not, be the answer. But Veterans who suffer from the service-connected disorder deserve the chance to determine whether it is or not.

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Military Connection: New Funding for Medical Marijuana PTSD Study: By Debbie Gregory