For decades, proponents of medical marijuana have been asking for a chance to test the plant’s ability to provide support for veterans with PTSD. Although the medical properties of marijuana have long been acknowledged by the greater scientific community, research opportunities were dramatically limited by the federal government’s classification of the drug as a Schedule 1 narcotic.

However, with many states passing their own measure legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, the social and legal stigmas associated with marijuana have begun to relax. PTSD support seekers and researchers have taken advantage of this loophole, and in February 2017, their efforts finally came to fruition.

As the Phoenix New Times reported, “The first-ever clinical study of smoked cannabis for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder took place in Phoenix… making medical-marijuana history.”

“The California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), founded in 1986, is conducting the study with the help of a $2.16 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” reports the New Times.

The goal of the study will be to “evaluate the safety and efficacy of four different potencies of marijuana to manage symptoms of PTSD in 76 U.S. veterans,” a MAPS news release states.

So what does this mean for those suffering from PTSD and providing PTSD support? Keep reading to find out.

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Even though the MAPS endeavor is the first official study exploring the efficacy of marijuana in treating PTSD, it certainly isn’t the first time military members have attempted to use pot to ease the symptoms of critical incident stress exposure.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “[s]ome Veterans use marijuana to relieve symptoms of PTSD and several states specifically approve the use of medical marijuana for PTSD.”

Understanding why veterans are so interested in using marijuana for PTSD support stems from the plant’s active ingredients (cannabinoids) and the way they interact with receptors in our nervous system.

In marijuana, the two most active cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

  • THC, the most commonly know cannabinoid, is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use, along with other beneficial side-effects like pain relief, appetite stimulation, treating asthma and glaucoma, and yes, helping PTSD sufferers to temporarily forget painful experiences.
  • CDB, which has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years, is the non-psychoactive counterpart of THC. It is capable of delivering even more medical benefits than THC, and without the “high.” Certain strains of marijuana have now been developed to be CDB dominant, meaning they’re rich in medicinal benefit and do not alter the mental state of the person consuming them.

Using Marijuana For PTSD Support

The study in Arizona will build upon a foundation laid by previous research. Several recent studies confirm that “oral doses of THC can help relieve a variety of PTSD-related symptoms including flashbacks, agitation and nightmares,” reports Leaf Science. But the researchers at MAPS are interested in more than just THC.

“We’re just so grateful to finally enroll patients,” Dr. Sue Sisley, the study’s co-investigator, told New Times. “This has been our dream that started seven years ago, to study whole-plant cannabis in this most-deserving population of veterans … The government thought they could stonewall us until we got tired or walked away. But we’re committed to doing this.”

If the experiment, which received over 100,000 applications from veterans who wanted to participate, is successful it could lead to Federal Drug Administration approval of whole-plant marijuana as treatment for PTSD.

PTSD Support Needs As Many Tools As Possible

As proponents of peer support programs and non-traditional critical incident counseling, we understand what it feels like to be viewed with an air of skepticism from those in the traditional therapy communities. We are encouraged by the fact that so much time and effort is being put into research that will help to create better PTSD support for our veterans.

If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, you may be able to land a spot as a participant in this two-year study. More than 1,000 volunteers will ultimately be needed. MAPS asks anyone interested in being a volunteer with the study in Phoenix to email arizona@marijuanasites.org. For the Baltimore location, call (410) 550-0050.

You can talk to your local peer support counselor for more information about this study and what it means for PTSD support.