NEW YORK (MainStreet) Some 22 veterans commit suicide each day, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Rick Doblin aims to save them with research that explores the use of marijuana to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"Many veterans are not adequately treated for their PTSD and as a result use marijuana illegally," said Doblin, founder and executive director of the non profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). "Marijuana is a legitimate option for people to treat PTSD under doctor supervision, but there's no evidence from controlled clinical trials to support it."
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MAPS has been working since 1992 to conduct medical marijuana drug development research.
"Several states have approved PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, but Colorado and Arizona have not and that's because there's no scientific data and the research has been blocked," Doblin told MainStreet.
That may be because of a general perception that marijuana can be addictive.
"Marijuana is usually not a big motivator to get people to reclaim their lives so it's not my first choice," said Greg Hannley, CEO of SOBA Recovery, an organization that is opening a 300-bed addiction rehabilitation center for veterans in San Antonio.
Despite the opposition to his vision over the years, Doblin experienced a breakthrough in March.
While working with a University of Arizona assistant professor named Dr. Sue Sisley, MAPS won federal approval to purchase marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to test on 70 veterans, but the start of the study was put on hold when Sisley was abruptly terminated in April. She is currently appealing the university's decision.
"The most unfortunate component of this action is that the university lost a major opportunity to be a beacon for much needed marijuana research and development into the plant itself," said Tae Darnell, a cannabis law expert. "No matter how it is canned, Sisley's firing is a loss for patients in need of advancing science around this medicine."