Researchers conducting a groundbreaking study on the efficacy of cannabis as a potential alternative for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are seeking U.S. Military veterans who have experienced trauma to participate in a controlled clinical trial. As the first-of-its-kind cannabis research study authorized by the FDA, DEA, and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), the study is being conducted under the auspices of the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) by Dr. Sue Sisley, MD a Scottsdale, Arizona-based PTSD specialist, who initiated the study.
Sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) with funding made possible by a $2 million grant received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the purpose of the study is to gather objective data ascertaining the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a potential treatment for veterans suffering with debilitating symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress.
In order to quantify sufficient data and legitimize the study, organizers must pre-screen thousands of adult veterans who have experienced trauma, which presents some challenges since not all applicants will meet the rigorous screening requirements. Participants must be U.S. Military veterans, men or women, aged 18 or older ideally with a confirmed or presumed diagnosis of PTSD, which may not have improved after receiving conventional treatment in the form of psychotherapy or pharmaceutical medication prescribed by a doctor. Veteran applicants meeting that criteria will then be required to undergo an initial in-depth history, specific screening measures, and a physical examination with Dr. Sisley to assess their past medical history, evaluate current symptoms and confirm the diagnosis of PTSD.
Upon acceptance into the study, they must be willing, able and available to attend weekly medical evaluations with the study’s medical team at SRI located in north Phoenix. Veterans are expected to arrange for and cover the cost of transportation to and from their appointments, which presents a challenge for those who don’t drive or have means of transportation to attend weekly follow-up evaluations.
As with all clinical trials, accuracy of data depends upon consistency of evaluation methods, and that depends upon consistent participation by a sufficient number of subjects being evaluated. When participants can’t show up for their weekly appointments, they risk being disqualified, and without enough participants, the disqualifications put the entire study at risk.
Lack of transportation (and consequent non-shows) is one barrier that, if overcome, could prevent that from happening. The other challenge is finding enough participants who qualify.
To assist with recruitment and help meet the challenge of transportation, a handful of cannabis industry supporters have stepped up with a proactive effort to coordinate volunteers to hand out flyers and organize a “veteran mobile team” to drive participants to their weekly appointments. But, more volunteers and in-kind transportation donors are welcome and needed to help accommodate study participants who are either unable to drive or don’t have resources to cover the cost commuting to their weekly appointments.
The Battlefield Foundation, a local 501c3 nonprofit initially set up to raise funds for the study, is currently accepting in-kind donations from volunteers who can sponsor fares for taxis or ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft using their own accounts. In-kind donors will receive a receipt for their tax-deductible donation.
While more informal studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that cannabis is more effective than conventional treatment for veterans suffering the debilitating symptoms of post-trauma stress, veterans who report their use of cannabis to VA doctors are often stigmatized as “addicts” and denied access to other vital medical services. Without having objective data derived from government-approved, controlled clinical studies, these practices are unlikely to change.
Dr. Sisley’s study is an important step toward obtaining clinical data that lawmakers can rely upon to guide policy decisions. It’s impossible to predict the outcome of the study until all data has been collected and analyzed, and it may or may not verify the efficacy of cannabis as a PTSD treatment alternative. But if the results validate existing testimony by post trauma veterans who have personally experienced relief by using cannabis, it could pave the way for them to get the help they need without sacrificing the dignity they deserve or care they are entitled to receive.
If you would like to volunteer to hand out flyers or drive veterans to their appointments, the Battle Field Foundation asks you to call Lorenzo Sullivan at (602) 538-5605. If you or others you know have experienced trauma while in military service and are willing and able to participate in the clinical study, you are encouraged to contact SRI using information provided here: Veteran Participation Flyer. If you need additional information about the study, screening process, volunteering or making a donation, please visit the SRI Website or the Battlefield Foundation Facebook Page. More information about the full study protocol can be found here: Phase 2.