The White House has lifted a major obstacle long standing in the way of studies into the use of pot to treat victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.
The Health and Human Services Department has published in the Federal Register its announcement eliminating Public Health Service reviews of marijuana research projects not funded by the government.
“The significance is that the Obama Administration is making formal a decision that they made informally more than a year ago,” said Rick Doblin, executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which plans to conduct a study whose test subjects include 76 veterans.
The Veterans Affairs Department estimates that between 11 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD. For veterans of the Persian Gulf War, the estimate is 12 percent, and for Vietnam veterans, 15 percent.
Jason Moon, an Iraq War vet, talks to guest host Sean Cole about the seven things people say to veterans that alienate and anger them. Things like: “Glad you made it back home OK,” and “What did you do over there?” While they seem like pleasantries, Moon says these comments can trigger trauma. He tells his story of denying and then facing PTSD, and sharing what he’s learned with veterans through music. He has started a non-profit and calls it Warrior Songs.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) approaches to the treatment of many medical and mental health diagnoses, including PTSD, are in use; the research base to support their effectiveness is improving, but not complete. Acupuncture, a component of traditional Chinese medicine, has been examined for PTSD in a limited number of small Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). Although early results are promising, replication of these results in larger studies is needed. Yoga Nidra, a relaxation and meditative form of yoga, has also been used as an adjunctive treatment for PTSD. Formal studies demonstrating its effectiveness for PTSD are currently being conducted, and further research is needed on Yoga Nidra for PTSD before its effectiveness can be commented on. Herbal or dietary supplements have also been used for the treatment of PTSD. Although there have been some studies of their effectiveness, the results of these small RCTs provide insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions about their effectiveness for PTSD. In addition, the quality and purity of herbals and dietary supplements available in the United States varies widely, further complicating their use. Revisions of the VA/DoD CPGs are currently underway to include a comprehensive review of the evidence for all treatments, including CAM.
Researchers have located genetic biomarkers linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The PTSD markers are also associated with gene networks that govern innate immune function and interferon signaling. Researchers at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say an improved understanding of the gene networks connected with PTSD may help improve diagnosis and treatment of patients. The same knowledge may also help physicians identify patients who are genetically prone to the development of PTSD. The study was published recently in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry.
For more on PTSD, and tips on mental health and wellness, visit the Military.com Mental Health and Wellness section.