Arizona is the first state to host FDA trial in the world for veterans looking at cannabis for PTSD

Arizona is the first state to host FDA trial in the world for veterans looking at cannabis for PTSD

Medical marijuana has been a controversial topic in Arizona for a long time. Lately, the discussion around veterans using cannabis to relieve symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been of high interest.

According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, several states have approved the use of medical cannabis specifically for PTSD. Controlled studies have not been conducted, until now.

For the past six months, Suzanne A. Sisley has been conducting the only known controlled study on marijuana treating PTSD.

Back in 2014, Sisley was suddenly fired from her role as clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona. The story of her termination went viral.

Sisley had been researching marijuana for some time before being fired. Soon after her termination, the Los Angeles Times reported she was fired just as soon as she received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to study effects of pot on patients suffering from PTSD.

According to the VA, there are more than 500,000 combat veterans living in Arizona, and about 10 to 20 percent of them suffer from PTSD.

Sisley said it's important to those PTSD patients that this trial be completed.

"This clinical trial is the first and only randomized controlled trial in the world looking at whole-plant cannabis for treatment of PTSD," said Sisley, co-investigator of the clinical trial.

Sisley will be conducting this study at the Scottsdale Research Institute for the next two years.

"We're conducting an FDA-approved controlled trial looking at 76 military veterans that have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," Sisley said.

Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is the official sponsor of the clinical trial.

In 2014, the U.S. Public Health Service approved MAPS's purchase of cannabis to conduct studies and its efficiency in treating symptoms of PTSD for veterans. Additionally, the state of Colorado awarded MAPS a $2 million grant, according to the MAPS website.  

Sisley said she and her research team have already screened close to 3,000 veterans since the trial started. Only 19 have made the cut to be part of the trial. They are in urgent need of veterans, who are suffering from PTSD, to volunteer for the trial in order to complete the clinical trial, Sisley said.

In order for a veteran to be eligible, they need to go through a medical evaluation.

"Many of these veterans we will screen out for a variety of things, if they are abusing other substances, if they have an alcohol abuse problem, they wouldn't be allowed," Sisley said. "If they are using so much cannabis that they are unable to wash off cannabis, they have to be abstinent from cannabis for two straight weeks prior to doing the study," Sisley said.

It's a really big deal that Arizona is hosting this clinical trial, Sisley said.

According to Sisley, the cannabis is purified and it's specifically coming from the government.

"This is a good way for veterans who are curious about cannabis and wondering if it might help their PTSD, this is a perfect opportunity for them," Sisley said.

After the trial, there will be a six-month follow-up to evaluate symptoms with the veterans.

If you like to get more information about the trial or participate, you can contact then at arizona@marijuanasites.org.

Editors Note: Interview of Suzanne A. Sisley will be posted. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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