After ten years of recruitment challenges, federal bureaucracy, and legal issues, researchers at the Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix have finally completed their study of marijuana on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in U.S. veterans. They have yet to publish their results but most likely will be by next year. The researchers, led by Sue Sisley, are currently combing through tons of data in a first-of-its-kind, federally-funded research ($2.2 million in grant funding from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) effort to determine the efficacy and safety of marijuana on treating symptoms of PTSD.
Photo source: UnSplash.com
“I don’t think we would be at the finish line without the dedication of all these veterans organizations and individual veterans who stood by us all these years,” Sisley told the online newsletter, Stars and Stripes, who broke the story on March 1st. “Over the past decade, we had all these veterans standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us, helping to kick down doors. They never relented, and they knew we were determined to persevere.”
Why was this study take so long to accomplish? It only enrolled 76 veterans, roughly the size of a small Phase I study in clinical research, yet it took 10 years to do so. A study that was conceived 10 years ago finally reached its recruitment goal in November of last year. One hurdle was their ability to recruit a large enough sample of veterans to produce meaningful data. It largely had to do with federal restrictions on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital's involvement in studies researching medical marijuana and/or referring veterans to projects involving the drug.
The research team was depending on access to the VA hospital in Phoenix where Sisley saw a potential to find a large group of veterans. In particular, the researchers were interested in recruiting veterans who might be resistant to other PTSD treatments and looking for an alternative. They even considered widening their scope in order to fill recruitment requirements for the study. However, the team wanted to focus on veteran's because, as Sisley said, "we just couldn’t do that...We’ve been feeling the weight of these veterans on our shoulders for this entire time.”
Photo source: UnSplash.com
Many combat vets anecdotally report using marijuana to successfully treat symptoms of PTSD. Nevertheless, it takes objective data from a controlled study to determine marijuana's efficacy while also convincing mainstream medicine to accept marijuana as a treatment. This reluctance remains even despite pressure from Trump Administration officials who suggest marijuana may be effective. The American Legion, a U.S. war veterans organization, even came out in support of the study. They also support for the removal of marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Schedule I drug list. Schedule I drugs are declared to have no medicinal value.
The current study involved administering 1.8 grams of marijuana each day of differing potencies. They chose how much to smoke and were asked to keep a daily journal. The full results of the study, including all the data, will be publicly released. “We know the public has been waiting on this data for so many years,” Sisley said. “We’re committed to putting everything out there, the good and bad of cannabis, for everyone to scrutinize.”