The First Federally Approved Study on Cannabis and PTSD in Veterans is Finally Underway
For the past eight years, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) in Arizona has fought to fulfill their FDA-approved mission to determine what role, if any, cannabis can potentially play in the lives of U.S. military veterans suffering from PTSD.
For the past two years, SRI has been trying to recruit Arizona-based military veterans for their research, needing a minimum of 76 vets to participate in order for the study to be viable.
You’d think that it would be fairly easy to find 76 vets who would be willing to give pot a shot, and it’s true, willingness is not the problem. The problem is finding veterans who satisfy the strict list of eligibility qualifiers.
Have PTSD of at least six months duration.
Have PTSD of at least moderate severity at the time of baseline assessment.
Be a military veteran with PTSD.
Be at least 18 years old.
Be willing to commit to medication dosing and delivery method, to completing evaluation instruments, and attending all study visits.
Agree to use only marijuana provided by site staff and agree to required cessation periods for the duration of the study.
Report no current hazardous marijuana use and completely abstain from marijuana during the 2-week baseline assessment period (verified via urine and/or blood cannabinoid concentrations).
Agree to video record all marijuana administrations and provide video to the site staff for review during study participation.
Agree to keep all marijuana provided by site staff securely stored in the provided lock box and not to share/distribute marijuana to any other individual.
Be stable on any pre-study medications and/or psychotherapy regimen for PTSD prior to study entry, agree to notify their physician/clinician about participation in the study, and agree to report any changes in medication or psychotherapy treatment regimen during the study, to site staff.
If female and of childbearing potential, agree to use an effective form of birth control during study participation and may only be allowed to enroll and continue in the study based on a negative pregnancy test.
Be proficient in reading and writing in English and able to effectively communicate with site staff.
Agree not to participate in any other interventional clinical trials during the study
The best source for this information, and for the deepest pool of potential participants, is the Phoenix VA Hospital, located roughly 20 miles from where the SRI study is taking place.
The VA, unfortunately, maintains that until cannabis is legalized on the federal level, they are prohibited from conducting their own research into the medical benefits of cannabis, and they cannot refer their patients to outside research projects that are doing so.
As a result, they were only able to find 26 eligible veterans for the study between February of 2017 and September of the same year. Researchers started to get concerned that they may need to expand their study group beyond just military vets in order to reach their target enrollment, but a spattering of news coverage late in 2017 helped to spread the word, and the roster of eligible veterans slowly grew, and last week SRI proudly announced that they had finally reached their magic number of 76 participants by signing up the final vet - appropriately, on Veterans Day.
They were not the only ones shouting it from the rooftops, however.
The National Headquarters for the Veterans of Foreign Wars tweeted on Monday their support for the study, saying, “Last week, researchers enrolled the final veteran needed for the the first government-approved research study into marijuana’s effects on PTSD. The VFW supports federally funded research of medical cannabis for veterans being treated by @DeptVetAffairs.”
Qualified participants randomly get one of four types of cannabis that vary based on THC and CBD content. During the study period, each participant will smoke two of the four types of weed. They are given 1.8 grams per day, for a 3-week period, and they’re told they can smoke it in whatever increments they choose to feel the optimal, or detrimental, effects.
The first blind sample is weed that is high in THC, and low in CBD.
The second flips the ‘script, and provides high levels of CBD and low levels of THC.
The third sample offers a balanced ratio of THC/CBD.
The fourth and final sample looks like weed and smells like weed, but acts as the incredibly low THC/CBD placebo in the study.
After those three weeks, participants agree to go cold turkey on marijuana for the next two weeks while researchers compile the data.
The Scottsdale Research Institute plans to release their findings from the study sometime in 2019, and they are confident that they will be able to provide conclusive evidence one way or the other regarding the effectiveness of treating PTSD with cannabis.
Posttraumatic stress disorder is an incapacitating ailment experienced by many people following some form of life-threatening trauma. . . like military service.
From our own experience, and from the stories we hear all the time in the cannabis community, we already know that cannabis use can absolutely mute the frightening effects of PTSD.
Clearly, the federal government has not been listening to you or to us so far, but hopefully this FDA-approved study will bear the results we expect and can move the battle lines forward in the war against cannabis prohibition.
Interested in helping our military veterans who have been impacted by their service to our country?
Consider a donation to one of the veteran-run organizations below. They are all doing amazing work and deserve all the support we can give them - thank you in advance.