The New York Times is reporting on a proposed study from the Santa Cruz, CA-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies and a researcher from the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona which is currently seeking federal grant money.
The goal of the study is to examine the benefits of cannabis in treating post-traumatic stress disorder by offering the drug to fifty veterans of combat situations who have had no response from other treatments.
Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the group in Santa Cruz told the press, “With so many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a widely accepted need for a new treatment of PTSD. These are people whom we put in harm’s way, and we have a moral obligation to help them.”
The FDA said in April that it was satisfied with the way Doblin and Dr. Sue Sisley, an assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine in Arizona, had addressed safety concerns. In a letter to Doblin that confirmed this information, the FDA also pointed out that the study couldn’t actually begin until the source of the researchers’ marijuana was identified, and that can’t happen until the scientific review panel of the Department of Health and Human Services also approves the study.
According to Doblin, once the proposal has been approved, the research team will obtain marijuana from the University of Mississippi, which grows it under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the only source of marijuana authorized for use in federal studies.
While HHS still has the proposal under review, Doblin and Sisley both said that getting an approval to study the benefits of an illegal substance rather than the risks is extremely difficult.
Dr. Sisley said, “We really believe science should supersede politics. This illness needs to be treated in a multidisciplinary way. Drugs like Zoloft and Paxil have proven entirely inadequate. And there’s anecdotal evidence from vets that cannabis can provide systematic relief.”
Of the sixteen states where medical marijuana is legal, only Delaware and New Mexico list post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for obtaining authorization to use the drug. Currently almost a third of the New Mexicans authorized to use medicinal cannabis are doing it to relieve their PTSD symptoms, but no one is certain how many are veterans.
The plan, if the study is approved, is to provide up to 1.8 grams/day of marijuana to the participating veterans, who would be observed for three months on an outpatient basis. During some periods they would not be using the drug, so researchers could compare differences, but the choice to smoke or use a vaporizer would be up to each participant.
In addition to a placebo, the researchers plan to use four different strains of marijuana in the study, each of which would have a different level of THC, and one of which would also have a significant amount of CBD.