Editorial: Need more study on pot for PTSD

Not enough research has been done to evaluate benefits, problems

State lawmakers are currently considering a bill (A7006/S5629) that would add PTSD to the list of 10 conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed in the state.

The Assembly has already passed its version of the bill, which is now before the Senate Health Committee. Of the 28 states that allow medical marijuana, 23 allow it to be prescribed for PTSD.

In New York, medical marijuana is only available in capsules, liquid and a form that can be vaporized. The state does not allow it to be dispensed in traditional smoking form.

If allowed, sponsors of the legislation say, it could help up to 19,000 PTSD sufferers.

Supporters of the legislation say there is some evidence that medical marijuana can be used to effectively treat symptoms of the condition, including nightmares, flashbacks and sleeping issues.

Also, FDA-approved drugs that are used to treat PTSD have their own problems, including serious side effects that include risk of suicide, weight gain and diabetes. So, supports say, what’s the harm of allowing medical marijuana to be used as a treatment?

The problem isn’t what we know about medical marijuana’s impact on people. It’s what we don’t.

Other than some anecdotal evidence and isolated studies, the research on the impact of medical marijuana on PTSD is profoundly lacking.

One analysis of the use of the drug conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suggests that medical marijuana might not actually be helpful to many veterans and could actually be harmful in the long-run.

A 2015 report issued for the department’s National Center for PTSD concluded that, “there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”

The VA study found that the use of marijuana can lead to such problems as chronic bronchitis, short-term memory impairment, inability to perform basic and complex motor skills such as driving, and can lead to psychiatric problems such as psychosis and impairment in cognitive ability. 

Some people who use medical marijuana also become addicted to it, which leads to withdrawal symptoms, the report stated.

Do we really want to approve a drug that might actually make the condition worse?

The state Health Department, which administers the state’s medical marijuana program, also is hesitant to add new conditions such as PTSD. As of last month, it hadn’t found there to be enough scientific evidence to support it.

So what to do? It’s a tough call for sure.

 Politicians can be influenced by a particular voting bloc, in this case military veterans. Medical professionals are expected to rely only on research and fact-based findings.

The decision should ultimately come down to what the medical professionals think, not the politicians.

When and if the state Health Department endorses medical marijuana for safe use in the treatment of PTSD, only then should state lawmakers approve it.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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