Could marijuana help veterans experiencing PTSD?

A study has begun into whether marijuana could be an effective treatment for war veterans afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research commenced earlier this month, when the first veteran in the trial was administered cannabis.

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Potential benefits

This research is the first attempt to discover the worth of treating returned soldiers with marijuana. A growing body of evidence has suggested that cannabis can be helpful in alleviating PTSD. The clinical trial services are being conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a not-for-profit organisation that conducts research in California. The trial will examine the effects of cannabis on more than 70 returned soldiers who have experienced trauma, and it will provide data on the benefits of using marijuana, along with important data on side effects and dosages. The results will be studied by physicians and lawmakers.

War veterans generally appear to be happy that this study is underway, as some have long felt that marijuana would help with the conditions that many soldiers face after being in a war zone. The largest combat veterans’ group in America, The American Legion, took an official stance on the issue last year, as detailed in this report from The Guardian. In the US, marijuana is classed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule 1 substance, along with cocaine and heroin. Members of the Legion have expressed support for the use of medical marijuana. Scientists have found that there is a series of endocannabinoid structures in the brain that are activated by around 60 chemically active substances in marijuana.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)[note 1] is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or other threats on a person's life. Symptoms may include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and increased arousal. These symptoms last for more than a month after the event. Young children are less likely to show distress but instead may express their memories through play. Those with PTSD are at a higher risk of suicide.

Most people who have experienced a traumatic event will not develop PTSD. People who experience interpersonal trauma (for example rape or child abuse) are more likely to develop PTSD, as compared to people who experience non-assault based trauma such as accidents and natural disasters. About half of people develop PTSD following rape. Children are less likely than adults to develop PTSD after trauma, especially if they are under ten years of age. Diagnosis is based on the presence of specific symptoms following a traumatic event.

Increasing options

A representative from the Marijuana Policy Project, which aims to change cannabis laws, said that medical marijuana was effective against PTSD and the long-term pain frequently seen in returned soldiers. The representative said that medical marijuana could help war veterans lead a more rewarding and healthier life and they deserved access to medical marijuana as a treatment option.

If you are interested in clinical trial services, it would be a good idea to consult experts in the field such as, who could assist with any queries you might have.

A survey that was conducted last year among members of one of the largest US veterans’ groups indicated that nearly 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of legalising marijuana for medical use.
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