In a previous post, Testing Marijuana for PTSD, I discussed some of the obstacles facing firms who are working toward testing marijuana as a treatment for PTSD. Many of the research studies used today come from other countries because of the problems facing research firms here in the United States, such as the difficulty in getting approval to purchase marijuana for the studies.
To legally obtain and use medical marijuana, your condition must be on the “accepted conditions” in the state you live. New Mexico authorized medical marijuana for PTSD in 2009. However, having PTSD is not enough, you must also obtain a recommendation from a doctor. Shortly after the ruling in New Mexico, some people with PTSD started looking for doctors willing to complete an evaluation and provide a recommendation for medical use of marijuana if the evaluation showed it might help. One doctor decided to use this as an opportunity for a research study on the effects of marijuana on PTSD symptoms.
Based on telephone interviews, the researchers determined eligibility for the study. Each participant needed to meet certain criteria:
- Symptoms that met the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD
- Presence of major symptoms, such as avoidance, hyperarousal and reliving the traumatic event when not using marijuana
- Significant relief of symptoms when using marijuana
- Use of marijuana did not cause any limits in functioning or did not cause harm to the participant
The participants responded to questions about traumatic events and their emotional responses to them, including the frequency and intensity of their symptoms. This information was gathered before and after use of marijuana. According to the results, the participants showed a 75 percent reduction of symptoms in all three major areas - avoidance, hyperarousal and reliving the event.
The authors of the study believe that more stringent clinical studies are needed to confirm that marijuana is an effective treatment for some people with PTSD. While the study results are promising, the study isn’t large enough to provide certainty. Even so, medical professionals from other states are using the information to have PTSD added to the list of acceptable medical conditions for marijuana use.
In Vermont, Dr. Sue Sisley submitted testimony to the committee reviewing medical conditions for marijuana using statistics from the report and stating, “There is extensive evidence that cannabinoids may facilitate extinction of aversive memories...To date, there have been no incidents or adverse events.” She concludes, “New research is showing the value of medical marijuana, not only in the treating of symptoms, but possibly treating the root cause of PTSD...the inability of some people to extinguish traumatic memories.”
There are currently 20 states plus the District of Columbia that allow medical marijuana but only eight of those states recognize post traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying medical condition and doctors employed by the VA are banned from prescribing or recommending it as a treatment. Studies such as the one in New Mexico will help but until larger, clinical studies are performed, the medical community might not accept marijuana as a legitimate treatment for PTSD.
“ ‘Out of Options’: Veterans With PTSD Hit Pot Underground, 2014, Bill Briggs, NBCNews.com
“Symptom Reports of Patients Evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program,” March, 2014, George R. Greer, Charles S. Grob, Adam L. Halberstadt, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs