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The University of Arizona PTSD Study Is the First of Many Medical Marijuana Studies

A silhouette of a soldier patrolling.


The University of Arizona PTSD Study Is the First of Many Medical Marijuana Studies

Growing up on military bases, post-traumatic stress disorder is something you just get used to seeing. I’ve seen PTSD triggered by music, storms and even darkness, causing honorable men to attack their spouses, scream, or crumble into a ball. Mental and emotional scars aren’t as easy to see, but to the people afflicted by them, they’re as tangible as anything else.

This month, the Obama administration and the University of Arizona have taken important steps toward the medical treatment of PTSD by approving a medical marijuana study on the subject.

The First Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Study

According to the Associated Press, the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision surprised marijuana advocates who have struggled for decades to secure federal approval for research into the drug’s medical uses. The proposal from the University of Arizona was long ago cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, but researchers had been unable to purchase marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This is a huge step toward quite a few victories that marijuana activists and researchers have been pursuing for over 20 years, most important of which, this decision marks the first time the U.S. government has approved medical research involving smoked or vaporized marijuana. Although there are over 1 million registered medical marijuana patients, detailed medical research has been hindered by restrictions on the drug.

The Positive Effects of Cannabis and Other Schedule I Drugs

The medical marijuana study is being conducted by Suzanne A. Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at UofA Medical School. Her team will be measuring the effects of five different potencies of smoked and vaporized marijuana on PTSD symptoms in 50 veterans.

Previously, the government only allowed research into addiction and the negative effects of Schedule I drugs (with the exception of one UC San Diego study on the effects on HIV and AIDS patients). This landmark decision marks a shift in policy toward studying potential benefits of these drugs.

This is hardly the first time the academic world and medical community has explored the benefits of drugs, though. Even LSD therapy has recently been gaining popularity after a recent study in Switzerland found the permanent mental changes triggered by hallucinogens can alleviate anxiety attacks in patients.

Baby Steps to the Cure

While many medicinal benefits of cannabinoids are known, the full spectrum of ailments that can be treated with marijuana are not yet known. Scientists are hoping this acceptance will open the floodgates toward the precise research necessary to get marijuana approved as a prescription drug by the Federal Drug Administration. This would help relieve the anxiety of many patients whose options are currently limited to temporary treatments such as Xanax.

This couldn’t have come at a better time – according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 10 percent of U.S. soldiers who return from deployment have PTSD. The number among Vietnam-era and older soldiers is 30 percent. Detecting and diagnosing the symptoms as early as possible is vital to ensuring the men and women serving our country remain both healthy and emotionally stable.

Remaining Hurdles

According to the LA Times, marijuana needs to be rescheduled in order for science to proceed uninhibited. The Obama administration could reschedule the drug without congressional action, but, although he’s taken several positive steps, POTUS hasn’t given any indication he’s ready to end America’s stigmatizing war on drugs yet.

The DEA is still in the battle, and their approval is still needed for the UofA research to continue. Sisley does not foresee any issues with this – she’s confident the study will be completed with little to no interference in the remaining paperwork.

The marijuana movement is gaining steam. Whether you’re interested in the many medicinal benefits, the business, or just recreational use, there’s no better time than now to learn more and get involved.

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