The Drug Enforcement Agency has just given approval for the first-ever gold standard study in the United States on the relationship between medical marijuana and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
With DEA approval in hand, researchers will now be able to purchase marijuana for the proposed study. Previously, studies relied on oils or synthetic cannabis, but this study is remarkable because it’s the first randomized controlled trial in the United States using actual marijuana.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the non-profit group sponsoring the study, said researchers will start bringing in study participants hopefully by June. MAPS received around $2 million from Colorado to fund the endeavor.
The effort has been a long time coming, mostly because the regulatory barrier is so extensive. Initial approval was granted by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2014.
Researchers plan to enroll 76 veterans whose PTSD has not diminished after a battery of standard treatment options.
To assess the effects of marijuana on PTSD, researchers will test four different cannabis strains with different levels of THC and CBD, the latter of which is the compound thought responsible for many of marijuana’s medical benefits.
While there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence indicating that medical marijuana is a reasonable treatment for service-induced PTSD, the study pioneered by MAPS will fill an important gap in the scientific literature. The Department of Veterans Affairs website states, “there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.” This position will not change without new additions to the scientific literature showing a significant benefit from marijuana.
Even without the study, however, many desperate veterans suffering from PTSD have dumped traditional treatments involving opioids and opted for medical marijuana, even if they have to front the cost themselves.
Veterans cannot access the drug through the Department of Veterans Affairs, as physicians are prohibited from recommending cannabis to patients, or even issuing an opinion on its use. This policy still holds in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Once a study has been completed, legislators and the medical profession will be able to much more confidently move forward with reform proposals.
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