Michael Komorn Posted July 19, 2011 Report Share Posted July 19, 2011 Marijuana May BeStudied for Combat Disorder By DAN FROSCH <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/dan_frosch/index.html?inline=nyt-per> DENVER — For years now, some veterans groups and marijuana <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/m/marijuana/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> advocates have argued that the therapeutic benefits of the drug can helpsoothe the psychological wounds of battle. But with only anecdotal evidence assupport, their claims have yet to gain widespread acceptance in medicalcircles. Now, however, researchers are seeking federal approval for what is believed tobe the first study to examine the effects of marijuana on veterans with chronicpost-traumatic stress disorder. The proposal, from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies<http://www.maps.org/home/> in Santa Cruz,Calif., and a researcher at the University of Arizona College of Medicine,would look at the potential benefits of cannabis by examining 50 combat veteranswho suffer from the condition and have not responded to other treatment. “With so many veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a widelyaccepted need for a new treatment of PTSD,” said Rick Doblin, founder andexecutive director of the psychedelic studies group. “These are people whom weput in harm’s way, and we have a moral obligation to help them.” In April, the Food and Drug Administration said it was satisfied that safetyconcerns over the study had been addressed by Mr. Doblin and Dr. Sue Sisley, anassistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at Arizona, accordingto a letter from the drug administration provided by Mr. Doblin. But the letter also noted that the project could not go forward until theresearchers identified where they would get their marijuana. And that cannothappen, Mr. Doblin said, until the project is approved by a scientific reviewpanel from the Department of Health and Human Services, which includesrepresentatives from an assortment of federal health agencies. If the proposal is approved, Mr. Doblin said, the researchers will usemarijuana grown by the University of Mississippi under a contract with theNational Institute on Drug Abuse. It is the only marijuana permitted to be usedin federally approved studies. A Health and Human Services spokeswoman said the proposal was still underreview. “The production and distribution of marijuana for clinical research iscarefully restricted under a number of federal laws and internationalcommitments,” the spokeswoman, Tara Broido, said in an e-mail. “Study proposalsare reviewed for scientific quality and the likelihood that they will yielddata on meaningful benefits.” An institutional review board must also approve the study, as well as the DrugEnforcement Administration, Mr. Doblin said. Getting final approval from the federal government could prove difficult, Mr.Doblin and Dr. Sisley conceded. They said it was far more challenging to getauthorization for a study that examines the benefits of an illegal drug thanits risks. “We really believe science should supersede politics,” Dr. Sisley said. “Thisillness needs to be treated in a multidisciplinary way. Drugs like Zoloft <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/zoloft_drug/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> and Paxil <http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/paxil_drug/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> have proven entirely inadequate. And there’s anecdotal evidence from vetsthat cannabis can provide systematic relief.” Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia. But onlyNew Mexico and Delaware specifically list post-traumatic stress disorder as aqualifying condition for treatment, according to the Marijuana Policy Project,a Washington-based group that supports legal regulation of the drug. Currently, nearly a third of the 4,982 patients approved for medical marijuanain New Mexico suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, more than any othercondition, according to the state’s health department. It is unclear how manyare veterans. One recent Army veteran from Texas who fought in Iraq for 18 months beginningin 2006, said he used marijuana three times a day in lieu of the painkillersand antidepressants he was prescribed after returning home. He asked that hisname not be used because Texas does not allow medical marijuana. The veteran, who said he had been shot in the leg and suffered numerous headinjuries from explosions while deployed as a Humvee gunner, said marijuanahelped quiet his physical and psychological pain, while not causing the weightloss and sleep deprivation brought on by his prescription medications. “I have seen it with my own eyes,” he said. “It works for a lot of the guyscoming home.” If the study is approved, veterans who participate would be observed on anoutpatient basis over three months, Mr. Doblin said. During two four-weekincrements, they would be given up to 1.8 grams of marijuana a day to treatanxiety, depression, nightmares and other symptoms brought on by PTSD.Researchers would also observe the veterans for periods when they are notpermitted to use marijuana. In addition to a placebo, researchers plan to use four marijuana strains in thestudy, each containing different levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), aprimary component of the drug. One of the strains will also contain cannabidiol(CBD), another ingredient thought to have an anti-anxiety effect. Mr. Doblin said the veterans would be allowed to use the marijuana at their owndiscretion. Half will be instructed to smoke the drug, while the other half willinhale it through a vaporizer. <br style="mso-special-character: line-break;"><br style="mso-special-character: line-break;"> Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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