New study to examine use of cannabis to treat PTSD

New research is being launched in Canada to evaluate the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for veterans, first responders and sexual assault survivors.
Pending regulatory approvals, the study, conducted by the University of British Columbia Okanagan and Tilray, a Health Canada licensed marijuana producer, is poised to be one of the first in the world to run a large-scale clinical trial examining medical cannabis as a treatment for a mental health disorder.
The Phase II, placebo-controlled, randomized, triple blind, crossover clinical trial will gather evidence about the safety and efficacy of different medical cannabis strain combinations to manage chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD symptoms resulting from trauma experienced by veterans, first responders and sexual assault survivors. Chronic PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability and changes in sleep and appetite.

“Even with current treatments, many patients continue to struggle with the debilitating effects of PTSD,” said associate professor Zach Walsh, the principal investigator for the study. “There is promising pre-clinical and anecdotal evidence supporting the potential of medical cannabis to alleviate PTSD symptoms. We have an ethical responsibility to examine all possible treatment options to ease their suffering.” 

The results of this study will give physicians and patients more scientific research around medical cannabis, said Ian Mitchell, a co-principal investigator for the study.

“Many patients with PTSD have symptoms that are terribly disruptive to their lives and often poorly treated with current therapies. We need new and better treatment options.” 

Study participants will include 40 Canadian men and women who meet clinical criteria for PTSD due to trauma experienced during military service, as a first responder or as the result of sexual assault. The trial is expected to launch in early summer 2015, pending necessary regulatory approvals, and is scheduled to conclude in late 2016. 

“Tilray’s medical cannabis is already helping Canadian veterans and former RCMP officers cope with PTSD symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety,” said Philippe Lucas, vice-president for patient research and services at Tilray. “This clinical trial will provide physicians worldwide with scientific data to make informed decisions about providing PTSD patients proper treatment.”