US: Marijuana study of traumatized veterans stuck in regulatory limbo

US: Marijuana study of traumatized veterans stuck in regulatory limbo
WashingtonPost / Brian Vasteg / 10,1,2011

Getting pot on the street is easy. Just ask the 17 million Americans who smoked the federally illegal drug in 2010.

Obtaining weed from the government? That’s a lot harder.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration approved a first-of-its kind study to test whether marijuana can ease the nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and flashbacks common in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

But now another branch of the federal government has stymied the study. The Health and Human Services Department is refusing to sell government-grown marijuana to the nonprofit group proposing the research, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

The agency did leave the door open to eventually providing 13 pounds of the weed, which is grown at the University of Mississippi. But the HHS committee that rejected the request provided such conflicting criticisms that the person directing the study, MAPS Director Rick Doblin, is unsure how to address their concerns.

“Their goal at higher levels, I think, is to block the study,” said Doblin, who for 25 years has been jumping through regulatory hoops to launch human studies of marijuana, LSD and MDMA, known as ecstasy, which are all illegal.

The HHS official in charge of the review, Sarah A. Wattenberg, declined to answer questions when reached by phone. Tara Broido, a spokeswoman for the agency, wrote in an e-mail that “the production and distribution of marijuana for clinical research is carefully restricted under a number of federal laws and international commitments.”

The study proposes testing five doses of marijuana in 50 combat veterans with PTSD whose symptoms have not improved despite conventional treatments — typically talk therapy, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines.

Many veterans already use marijuana to calm their PTSD, said Mary Tendall, a licensed therapist in Nevada City, Calif., who has treated “hundreds” of traumatized Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans.

“It does mellow out the triggered response in a certain population,” said Tendall, referring to hair-trigger anxiety reactions. “But with some, it made them very, very paranoid — it had the opposite effect.”

For Paul Culkin, a 32-year-old Army veteran living in Albuquerque, small daily doses of pot offer a release from sleepless nights and high anxiety.
In November 2004, Culkin suffered neck injuries when a car bomb exploded 30 feet from him in southern Kosovo.

When Culkin returned home, he had “really bad nightmares and insomnia, lots of cold sweats,” he said. He rarely left the house.

Culkin began taking anti-depressants, and he eventually received a medical separation from the Army. He now receives Veterans Affairs disability payments.

New Mexico is one of two states, along with Delaware, that explicitly allows the use of marijuana to treat PTSD. Culkin got state approval in 2008 to use it. “It really gets rid of your nightmares if you smoke before you go to bed,” he said. “You feel like you got some rest finally.”

Doblin thinks marijuana can help many more veterans. A 2004 study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 18 percent of returning Iraq combat veterans had PTSD. And a 2008 report from the Rand Corp., a government contractor, estimated that up to 225,000 veterans will return from the Middle East clinically traumatized.

We need a petition to prosecute war criminals connected to the WoD.

picture
picture
picture
picture
picture
picture