New Cannabis Study On PTSD Finally Begins
3 min

New Cannabis Study On PTSD Finally Begins

3 min
News Research
Dr. Sue Sisley, long a pioneer in researching cannabis for the medical treatment of PTSD in veterans, finally moves forward on her groundbreaking research.

Dr. Sue Sisley of the Scottsdale Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona has just scored both a major personal victory as well as for the patients she aims to help. Her medical study using cannabis to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is finally moving forward after many false starts and blind alleys. Sisley was fired in 2014 from her job at the University of Arizona only two months after obtaining federal approval to obtain government stores of cannabis from the sole U.S. government farm in Mississippi. She originally obtained FDA approval to study the subject in 2010 from the Federal Drug Administration. Sisley has subsequently become one of the leading voices in the United States for more medical research on cannabis generally as well as PTSD specifically.

However, Sisley’s study is not the only medical inquiry now underway to investigate the impact of medical marijuana on this particularly hard-to-treat condition. In Canada, the University of British Columbia is also launching the country’s first trial on cannabis and PTSD.

Such advances in both countries are testament to the lightning speed at which medical research is beginning to pick up where the drug war is failing – particularly in government funded studies. As recently as last year, American government doctors were specifically prohibited from even discussing medical cannabis with their veteran patients on threat of termination.

Sisley’s study is funded by the state of Colorado – with funds raised via taxes on the legal industry in the state - and will be jointly conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Colorado.


PTSD brain

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition suffered by people exposed to overwhelming and frequently violent events and characterized by flashbacks, anxiety, and inability to sleep. The brain, in other words, goes into an overdrive of activity that is highly distressing to sufferers. The condition is frequently seen in former combat soldiers, and in the U.S. at least, a leading cause of disability for veterans. While there has been less of a rallying cry in Europe for medical reform and cannabis treatment because fewer Europeans serve in combat zones globally, the PTSD issue specifically has been a condition at the forefront of the pro-cannabis research that has been conducted here. In Germany five years ago, for example, researchers in Bonn presented strong evidence that the drug vastly improved quality of life for PTSD as well as chronic pain patients.

As of today, PTSD is now a condition for which medical cannabis is prescribed where it is legal. In Germany, which will reschedule the drug as of next year and cover it under health insurance, PTSD is already one of the conditions that will be covered, and as many as 5,000 patients (not all of whom suffer from PTSD) already take some form of THC, albeit in the form of pills, sprays or drops.

This is particularly significant given the preponderance of anti-legalization studies in Europe up until the end of the last century. Sweden conducted an infamous study in 1987 of over 50,000 soldiers who also used cannabis, only to conclude that the drug caused schizophrenia and psychosis. One German and two New Zealand studies conducted during the late 1990’s came to the same conclusion. A widely publicized British study published in 2011 with ten years of data gathered from 1,923 German teenagers, premised a strong link between cannabis use by teenagers and psychosis.

However, this kind of research, even in Europe is unheard of these days and widely discredited for one simple reason. Such inquiries studied underage subjects or limited study participants to people already suffering from severe psychological conditions who happened to use the drug rather than looking at why they did so and the impact of use in lessening symptoms.

From the dawn of this century, most researchers in both the U.S. and Europe have trended to examine why a wide range of people used the drug as well as how cannabis can inhibit or even stop symptoms that range from psychological ailments to chronic pain. In fact, in 2012, German researchers at the University of Cologne found that marijuana is actually one of the most effective antipsychotic drugs available, including for people suffering from “psychosis.” Even the University of Heidelberg’s review of existing research of cannabis use released last year in the German journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, focussed on so-called “recreational” rather than “medical” use with a focus on addictive personality traits and disorders. Study authors were still only able to determine that a total of 9% of all users show signs of “addiction.”


Medical cannabis anecdotally known to be one of the most effective drugs for PTSD, particularly given the fact that users cannot overdose on it while suffering particularly strong attacks. Researchers believe that cannabis works so well in this patient group because it stops the brain from automatically and unconsciously accessing painful memories as well as physical pain itself, which then triggers a raft of distressing psychological and physical effects, including anxiety, fear, anger, depression, and lack of appetite.


PTSD sufferers who receive marijuana under medical supervision show remarkable progress on all fronts. That said, however, the most effective treatments for such sufferers also include counselling which includes cognitive behavioural therapy. Patients are also taught how to consciously replace distressing thoughts or memories with more positive images and ideation and live overall more healthy lifestyles (including regular exercise and maintaining healthy diets). Depending on what country you live in, it can also be very hard to find doctors who are willing to prescribe the drug for any condition. It is extremely important to find medical support that is willing to work with you.


  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

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