Denied access to veterans and provided with subpar cannabis, Dr. Sue Sisley continues to pursue the first study of its kind on cannabis and PTSD.
Rocky Mountain PBS recently released a detailed report into what’s going on with Colorado’s desire to find out what cannabis can do for treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. There was enough evidence that the state of Colorado allotted $2,156,000 to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, for research into cannabis for treating PTSD that was resistant to other types of treatment like pharmaceuticals or therapy.
While we currently list 22 studies on cannabis and PTSD, this study aimed to be a tightly controlled study on a specific population entitled: “Placebo-controlled, Triple-Blind, Randomized Crossover Pilot Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Four Potencies of Smoked Marijuana in 76 Veterans with Chronic, Treatment- Resistant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”
Unfortunately, the population that would benefit most from this has been made off limits to Dr. Sue Sisley and her team. The Phoenix VA hospital treats upwards of 91,000 patients. She says, they need to screen another five to six thousand veterans and most of them are right there.
“I worry that we won’t be able to complete this study because the absolute highest density of treatment-resistant PTSD patients is in that hospital.”
The other big issue, which has been brought to the government’s attention before, is that the quality of government-provided cannabis is dreadful and not comparable to what patients are actually using.
“It doesn’t necessarily represent the cannabis in the real world. Real world cannabis can be 20 to 30 percent THC. Ours is about 10 to 11 percent.”
Dr. Sisley also opened up about her initial reluctance to even consider cannabis medicine:
“I was highly judgmental because I didn’t believe that cannabis was a medicine. I’d never been trained to believe that cannabis was anything except a deeply dangerous, highly addictive drug.”
She stresses the importance of doing good science and studies like the one MAPS has received funding for:
“I certainly believe all these veterans when they tell me that their subjective experience is that cannabis helped them. But until we put it through the rigors of a controlled trial, I will never be able to fully embrace the idea that cannabis is a legitimate medication.”
When one of her patients became a victim of the opioid crisis, she realized something had to be done.
“He was in great shape when he was using the cannabis. And then, I had actively discouraged him. He was already getting a massive amount of opioids from the VA, and he graduated to heroin. And then, his mom called me when she found him the next morning with a needle in his arm and he was dead. And I couldn’t help but feel completely responsible for that.”