Recently, the Public Health Service announced that they would approve a University of Arizona study on the use of medical cannabis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is the first federally supported study allowing the entire plant to be used.
Cannabinoids, the active chemicals in cannabis, have already been used in federal and private funded research for years. These cannabinoids have been synthesised from the plant or in some cases a synthetic copy is made of the real thing. For example, Marinol, which is used to help nausea in chemotherapy patients, is made with synthetic THC. This drug has been effective and presents minimal side effects.
Research has shown that cannabinoids can help with pain relief and as a sleep aid. Promising research that is currently underway also shows potential to help treat Alzheimer’s, cancer, MS, epilepsy, arthritis and more. The U.S. government already holds patents on various cannabinoids for the treatment of various ailments.
This marks the first time the entire cannabis plant has been federally approved for research.
This is important because opponents of medical cannabis often claim that isolating cannabinoids or producing synthetic versions is the best way to introduce the drug as a medicine. But according to numerous studies, and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, having the ‘entourage’ effect is very important for these medicines to be successful. The entourage effect means that multiple cannabinoids working together, no matter the amounts, is more effective than an isolated or synthetic cannabinoid, thus showing why having the whole plant available is paramount.
Sativex, which is an oral spray developed to treat cancer and MS, is formulated from the entire plant, not just isolated or synthetic cannabinoids. A version of Sativex that is high in CBD, is currently undergoing clinical trials in the US for childhood epilepsy.
The study in Arizona will use the whole plant to study the impact of its use on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This particular study has been waiting for its approval for over 20 years. In the past, since cannabis is labeled as a Schedule 1 drug, it has been nearly impossible to receive federal support for studies using the entire plant.
Oddly enough, cannabis is the only Schedule 1 drug that requires cannabis used in research must come from the federal government – absolutely no private sources. Finally, after the study had already been approved by both the FDA and the University, the Feds will hand over the cannabis.
Ideally the study by Dr. Sue Sisley and her staff will usher in more research where the whole plant can be used.
It’s about time.