Four years ago, the federal government blocked a proposal to conduct clinical research on the use of marijuana to treat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. But in March, after protocol modifications and a second review by an independent agency, the study’s sponsor received approval from the Department of Health and Human Services. With the approval of the Drug Enforcement Administration—a final step expected soon—the research could begin early next year.
Federal permission is coming none too soon for the nonprofit organization that is sponsoring the study, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz, California. “Marijuana is the linchpin of the rapidly crumbling war on drugs,” says Brad Burge, a spokesman for the association. “By blocking research that could definitively show the benefits of whole-plant marijuana for specific medical conditions, federal agencies and university administrations protect the public image of marijuana as a drug of abuse with no medical uses.”
The study calls for a placebo-controlled, triple-blind test of 70 veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress, men and women who have not shown improvement after undergoing medication or psychotherapy. “The drug has enough merit to deserve being studied in a rigorous, controlled environment,” says psychiatrist Sue Sisley, the principal investigator for the planned study. For the veterans participating in the study and many others tormented by war-induced depression, medical marijuana holds a measure of promise.
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