The University of British Columbia is about to launch the largest Canadian cannabis study in 40 years. Perhaps more importantly, the study is a first-of-its-kind dive into the herb’s impact on a psychiatric condition. The condition? Post-traumatic stress disorder. Here’s the scoop on the UBC’s first ever clinical study on cannabis and mental health.
There are many conditions treated with medical cannabis, yet post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is perhaps one of the most common.
Around 7.8% of the U.S. adults (5.2 million people) experience PTSD at some point in their lives. An estimated 9% of Canadians also have the disorder. While the condition affects a large number of the general population, veterans are spearheading the exploration of cannabis as a treatment for PTSD.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that veterans in both the U.S. and Canada have found tremendous symptom relief with cannabis. Now, the University of Britsh Columbia (UBC) wants to put that theory to the test.
UBC psychologist Zach Walsh thinks this is a valuable area of exploration. He tells Daily Hive:
There’s been documentation and self-reports from veterans saying that smoking cannabis is really helpful for their PTSD. Until now, it hasn’t been subject to clinical trials, which is really the gold standard. – Walsh
Walsh has a hunch that the herb will help patients sleep. He also hopes that the plant will reduce their startle response and anxiety. Walsh and his team are currently looking for 42 PTSD patients, which may include veterans, first responders, or those who have been in accidents or subject to violent crime. Walsh explains,
If people can start to sleep and be a little less irritable and a little less anxious, then maybe they can start to build on some of the other positive elements of their lives more positively.
Research on effective PTSD treatments is sorely needed. Antidepressants are typically the first line of action against the disorder. However, research shows that these medications are only effective about half of the time. Less than 20 to 30% of patients treated with antidepressants go into full remission.
Further, when it comes to the effectiveness of standard PTSD treatments, long-term data is lacking. In 2012, the US department of defense spent $294 million on PTSD care for veterans. Yet, a congressionally mandated report found that we really don’t know much about whether or not these treatments actually equal long-term success.
So, while there are specialized treatment protocols for PTSD and governments are spending ample dollars to address the issue, the overall impact of these treatments are unknown. Some small-scale tracking was completed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but their results suggest only a modest improvement in overall symptoms.
The UBC study on cannabis as PTSD treatment is a crucial step toward learning how to treat PTSD effectively. Though there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence and some support from early trials in animals, we are just scratching the surface on how the herb and the condition interact with one another.
Though, it doesn’t seem like we know much about the efficacy of pharmaceutical treatments, either. The UBC study is not only crucial for the legitimacy of medical cannabis, but it is potentially a major step toward improved treatment for the condition.