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PTSD Researcher: More Than Rescheduling Is Needed

PTSD Researcher: More Than Rescheduling Is Needed
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PTSD Researcher: More Than Rescheduling Is Needed

Like you and a sizable contingent of members of Congress, Dr. Sue Sisley was disappointed the Drug Enforcement Administration bucked both science and public opinion when it ruled last week that cannabis would remain a Schedule I controlled substance.

But the researcher, whose long-awaited study into whether cannabis is indeed a help to combat veterans suffering from PTSD is scheduled to begin this fall, says much more than removing marijuana from the government’s list of the most dangerous and least useful drugs is needed to make real progress, on both drug policy and on our understanding of the plant.

Sisley made news in 2014 after years-long efforts to acquire funding and study-grade marijuana in order to conduct new research were finally green lighted by the federal government.

Both the DEA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) must approve any applications from researchers to study marijuana, which is then supplied from a government-run garden at the University of Mississippi. (Researchers looking into cannabis’s detrimental effects, on the other end, seem to have no problem gaining government approval.)

She made even more news when, after the state of Colorado gave $2 million to fund the study, she was suddenly and summarily dismissed from her position as a professor at the University of Arizona, leaving the funded study without a place to conduct it.

This fall, the first of 76 combat veterans will be selected to participate in the study, which will be conducted at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and at Sisley’s own Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.

Vets who have already been treated for PTSD will be given a small amount of cannabis — 1.8 grams per vet per day — to smoke in the amount they see fit. There will be four research groups, given four different strains: high THC, high CBD, a one-to-one blend, and a placebo.

Participants will be monitored over a three-week period, at which point they’ll stop for a few weeks to cleanse their bodies of cannabinoids — and then begin again with another randomized strain.

If the study is successful, “smoked botanical marijuana” — a fancy way to say “flower” — could be on its way toward becoming a federally-accepted prescription drug.

More than 100 veterans have already applied to be participants. Yet some other vets are already voicing misgivings over the study.

And it’s the government’s fault.

Most veterans who are self-medicating with cannabis to treat their PTSD symptoms are using powerful strains of up to 20 to 25 percent THC, or high CBD strains with similar strong rations, Sisley said. And how effective these widely-available cuts of cannabis are in handling PTSD will not be studied — because the government can’t provide it.

Instead, the cannabis supplied by the government is no stronger than 12 percent THC or CBD, Sisley told Cannabis Now, and the “1-to-1” strain is a “7 percent THC, 7 percent CBD blend,” she said.

Since what the government supplies is the only cannabis available, that’s all that can be studied.

“It’s just not good enough,” she said Tuesday. “Veterans are arguing that they are using 20 to 25 percent on a daily basis and apparently using it successfully.”

Baked into the Controlled Substances Act is a provision that the DEA and NIDA are the sole suppliers of cannabis for research. That, too, may be changing: while stating that marijuana would remain Schedule I, the DEA also announced that it would consider more applications from those seeking to grow it.

Both private growers as well as research universities are encouraged to apply for grow licenses, but as Sisley says, there’s a catch: Applicants must be sophisticated and talented growers, but they also must be law-abiding. And under federal law, there’s no way to grow cannabis without violating the law. It’s a Catch-22 with no easy solution in sight.

There’s still hope that the White House could step in and fix things, though that hope took a huge hit after the DEA’s announcement. Barack Obama has proved more likely than not to let states do their thing on cannabis.

“We were hoping Obama would end the DEA monopoly before he left, but it’s looking grim,” she said. “The end of his term in office is rapidly approaching, and we don’t see him asking questions as if he might do that. That would be tragic.”

Even more tragic is the political struggle on Capitol Hill to merely allow doctors at the Veterans Administration to talk to their patients about cannabis. Several pushes to allow such a moderate first step have been stymied — by Republican lawmakers who are often the first to claim to support the troops.

Recently, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) dismissed the necessity when he said that he did not think, “we have too few high veterans out there.” That led to a blistering critique from U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), but no policy change yet.

“In my mind, this is one of the most politically safe positions you can take,” Sisley said. “No one is going to fault a Republican for saying, ‘We need more science.'”

Will America ever get the chance to really study the medical effects of marijuana? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Michael Armstrong

    August 26, 2016 at 6:33 am

    I know for a fact that legalizing marijuana would benefit millions of people suffering from all types of ailments, I myself have smoked it 40 yrs now & it has helped me more than any prescription ever prescribed to me & believe it, or not, I haven’t had any for about a week now & NO WITHDRAWLS. It would be nice to be able to smoke it without breaking the law, but either way I refuse to let spineless POS in our Government tell me what I can & can not do, my family has fought & died defending our rights & enough is enough

  2. Jayme

    August 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    It has cured my PTSD. I’d nearly lost my life, I’m thankful every day for cannabis.

  3. Bryan Krumm

    August 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Yes, we will see research soon as well as either rescheduling or De-scheduling. I will be appealing the DEA’s denial of my petition on multiple grounds. I will show the futility of the administrative process and expose the lies perpetuated by the prohibitionists.

    The current DHHS “review” bears many similarities to the “review conducted for DEA in the 2002 Gettman petition. (see: Basis for the Recommendation for Maintaining Marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, Department of Health and Human Services, December 6, 2006). Both of these “reviews” are based on conjecture and opinion, rather than science. Neither review has been subjected to the scrutiny of peer review. Neither of these “reviews” would hold up to the scientific standards DHHS demands of cannabis research. They equate correlation which causation. They rely heavily on reports from other government agencies which are also based on opinion and conjecture, and have never been subjected to the scrutiny of peer review. The last “review” considered only 2 of the 59 reports of clinical studies submitted by Gettman, which proved the safety and efficacy of cannabis. Neither “review” has considered the findings from the clinical studies conducted by the State of California for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, neuropathic pain, appetite suppression and cachexia, and severe pain and nausea related to cancer or its treatment by chemotherapy. Included in the list of ignored studies was a large scale controlled clinical study of cannabis for treating nausea and vomiting in cancer chemotherapy patients conducted by the New Mexico Department of Health.

    Furthermore, glaring misrepresentations and omissions abound throughout the DHHS “reviews”. They both fail to include even a rudimentary discussion of hundreds of studies showing medicinal benefits of Cannabis. They both failed to note that a National Institutes of Health (NIH) report found “the evidence is perfectly clear that smoking is an outstanding route of administration….it’s a very safe drug and therefore it would be perfectly safe medically to let the patient determine their own dose through the smoking route”. National Institutes of Health. Transcript of the NIH Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana. Tab B, Deliberations of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts; February 19&20, 1997. (Ace-Federal Reporters, Inc., Cr66002.0) Ref Type: Transcript, p.28-29. DHHS also fails to note that the executive summary of an NIH report concludes, “Until a nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug delivery system becomes available, we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting. See Joy, Janet E., Stanley J., Watson, and John A. Benson, Jr., (eds) Marijuana as Medicine: Assessing the Science Base,. (National Academy Press 1999), Executive Summary page 8.

    Cannabis is the ONLY medication that’s effective in treating PTSD as I discuss in this peer reviewed article. http://journals.lww.com/tnpj/Fulltext/2016/01000/Cannabis_for_posttraumatic_stress_disorder__A.6.aspx

    • MaryAnne Galban

      August 22, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      My husband has been using cannabis for the last 36 yr with me and way before that. Even used in Vietnam…which probably saved his life. He uses only aspirin otherwise with an occassional drink. If you want to know about LONG TERM care…contact us. STILL fighting the government all that time and just waiting on their bs to stop and thousands they owe us to be paid.

  4. Evidence-based Shaman

    August 18, 2016 at 8:08 am

    It seems your question is really asking if Empire will ever embrace cannabis. Why would they when prohibition works so well in keeping Big Pharma profits flowing?

    I used to believe that the lack of American research was a problem until I started spending time on PubMed.gov.. There are thousands of research papers available in English.

    My med-school studies on cannabis show that PTSD is directly related to the CB1 receptors where cannabis psychoactivity takes place. Our body’s endocannabinoid system when healthy, produces the chemicals anandamide and 2-AG. Both of these chemicals are available 24/7 for homeostatic purposes in healthy individuals.

    PTSD sufferers are not producing anandamide or 2-AG. Their receptors are empty of these naturally produced cannabinoids according to Celia J. Hillard, Director of Neuroscience at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

    The ability to replace anandamide and 2-AG is critical to successful treatment of PTSD. Why does American Empire HATE the troops?

    The American-grown cannabis for research would mostly ALL be laughed at by dispensaries and patients because it’s crap. I looked at the inventory held by the pot farm at Ole’ Miss, and it’s pathetic.

    Sisley’s study that requires Vets to quit for 3-weeks between trials of different strains seems harsh to me. I can understand the reason for clearing cannabinoids, but if you’ve got PTSD and you’re asked to go 3-weeks without cannabis? Harsh treatment, but apparently a necessary sacrifice for scientific research.

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