• Researchers are seeking 300 people to take part in the national trial, which has attracted attention from the veteran community
  • The Australian Defence Force reports about 8.3% of its members have experienced PTSD in the past 12 months
  • In 2018, “at least 23 British military sufferers of PTSD have died in suspected suicides.”

Australia has launched its first clinical trial investigating the impact medical cannabis has on PTSD in army veterans who have been unresponsive to conventional, pharmaceutical treatments.

Researchers at Cannabis Access Clinics are looking for 300 participants to take part in the national trial.

Participants will be prescribed a baseline dose of CBD oil, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, known for its anti-psychotic effects.

Lead researcher, Dr Sharron Davis, explained that the primary reason for launching the trial was due to the failure of traditional treatments for PTSD:

“[PTSD] can present itself in lots of different ways, so it’s very difficult to find a treatment that is going to treat all of the symptoms of PTSD.

“We have to be able to show the Therapeutic Goods Administration that these people have tried everything conventional medicine has to offer.”

Dr Davies added that she would like to see CBD freely available to all in the future, especially as it is a non-toxic, non-psychoactive dug, with very limited side-effects:

“I would like to see CBD-only oil reclassified.

“It has no psychoactive effects whatsoever.”

BOD Australia, a global health business, will help carry out the operations of the trial with Cannabis Access Clinics.

According to Jo Patterson, a spokesperson for BOD, it is likely that patients will be provided with a dose of 5 milliliters of CBD to start with:

“They might be on the product for up to five weeks.

“Obviously it’s an observational trial, so they’ll assess the benefits that the product is offering the patient.”

Ms Patterson added that it will be difficult to tell whether the medical cannabis-based product would be available for mainstream purchase in future, but did say that it could be at least five years until we see the product on the market, depending on the results of the trial.

According to The Australian Defence Force (ADF), about 8.3% of its members have experienced PTSD in the past 12 months.

“I would like to see CBD-only oil reclassified. It has no psychoactive effects whatsoever.”
– Dr Sharron Davis, lead researcher

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • repeated intrusive, distressing memories or dreams,
  • poor sleep patterns,
  • avoidance of reminders associated with the trauma,
  • negative mood and thoughts following the event,
  • agitation and negative changes in behaviour.

Between 2001 and 2016, there were a total of 373 suicides among service, reserve and former members of the ADF.

While there is not enough data to suggest that all of these can be attributed to PTSD, correlating trends across the world indicate it could be playing a large role.

According to a study by King’s College London, during 2014-16, the rate of probable PTSD among ex-regular veterans was 7.4%, compared with 4.8% among those currently serving as regular personnel, the study found.

In 2018, “at least 23 British military sufferers of PTSD have died in suspected suicides.”

For Australian veterans like Michael Handley, who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2001, 10 years after he joined the army, studies like this one are a life-line, offering hope for a return to a normal life.

Traditional therapies simple did not work for Mr Handley, causing the veteran more trouble than help:

“Some of the meds I’d take I would take at night time and I wouldn’t wake up until after lunchtime the next day., Mr Handley said.

“I was becoming, in a sense, addicted to these opiates and abusing them.

“I think the veterans having another avenue to help with signs and symptoms and treatment of PTSD can only be beneficial for us.”

There is a growing body of evidence that medical cannabis can be an effective and safe treatment for veterans suffering PTSD.

A Canadian clinical trial from 2009 found that nighttime administration of THC reduced the frequency and intensity of nightmares in 72% of the 47 patients studied (28 patients had total cessation of nightmares).

However, more evidence will be needed before researchers can make definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of medical cannabis for PTSD. Trails like the one launched by Cannabis will strengthen the case for widening access to medical cannabis, especially amongst servicemen and women who give so much for their country, but are let down by their Government when they need them most.

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