Pubdate: Tue, 18 Mar 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 The Arizona Republic
Author: Matthew Perrone, Associated Press
Page: A6


Federal Agency to See If Pot Can Treat PTSD

WASHINGTON (AP) - The federal government signed off on a long-delayed
study looking at marijuana as a treatment for veterans with
post-traumatic stress disorder, a development that drug researchers
are hailing as a major shift in U.S. policy.

The Department of Health and Human Services' decision surprised
marijuana advocates who have struggled for decades to secure federal
approval for research into the drug's medical uses.

The proposal from the University of Arizona was long ago cleared by
the Food and Drug Administration, but researchers had been unable to
purchase marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The
agency's Mississippi research farm is the only federally-sanctioned
source of the drug.

In a letter last week, the HHS cleared the purchase of medical
marijuana by the studies' chief financial backer, the
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which supports
medical research and legalization of marijuana and other drugs.

The federal government has never before approved medical research
involving smoked or vaporized marijuana, according to MAPS.

1 million users

A spokesman for the group said organizers have called off a protest
over the stalled study that was planned for later this year.

While more than 1 million Americans currently take medical marijuana -
usually for chronic pain - rigorous medical research into the drug's
effects has been limited, in part due to federal restrictions.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under the federal
government's Controlled Substance Act. That means the drug is
considered a high risk for abuse with no accepted medical

DEA approval needed

Even with the latest green light from the Health and Human Services
department, MAPS and the University of Arizona Professor Suzanne
Sisley must still get approval from the Drug Enforcement
Administration, though they expect that clearance to come more quickly.

Sisley's study will measure the effects of five different potencies of
smoked or vaporized marijuana in treating symptoms of PTSD in 50 veterans.

The Veterans Administration estimates between 11 and 20 percent of
soldiers who served in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD,
which can cause anxiety, flashbacks, depression and sleep deprivation.
About 7.7 million American adults are estimated to have the disorder.

Physicians have long speculated that marijuana could be used to calm
parts of the brain linked to overstimulation and anxiety, though
little formal research has been conducted.

The American Medical Association has called for a change in
marijuana's classification to make it easier for research to be conducted.
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MAP posted-by: Matt