News / Vancouver

B.C. initiates country’s first clinical cannabis trials for PTSD

B.C. researchers and a medical marijuana producer have joined forces to conduct Canada’s first-ever clinical trial to back up anecdotal evidence in using cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with hard facts.

­Pending regulatory approval, the University of British Columbia Okanagan and Tilray, a Health Canada licensed producer under the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, hope to begin the world’s first large-scale clinical trial examining cannabis for a mental health disorder as early as spring 2015.

“I think a lot of people are looking for answers right now for research to support the position of whether cannabis should be paid for by the government, (and) whether it’s an effective treatment,” said Dr. Ian Mitchell, a UBC co-principal investigator for the study. “We don’t have the knowledge at this time.”

Mitchell said it’s an important way of finding out the potential side affects for treating PTSD symptoms as well.

“We’ve just seen an incredible upsurge in PTSD as a diagnosis,” he added. “Particularly in the States, they’ve had tremendous trouble with the veterans coming back suffering from PTSD and conventional medicine is not capable of treating this condition.”

The phase two, placebo-controlled, randomized trial aims to gather evidence about the safety and efficacy of different medical marijuana strains to manage those with PTSD resulting from trauma experienced by veterans, first responders and sexual assault survivors. Chronic PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, anxiety, depressions, anger, irritability and changes in sleep and appetite.

“I think right now there’s a great opening in the marketplace in cannabis treatment but we need research to go along with that,” Mitchell said. “We need accessible treatment, effective treatment.”

Philippe Lucas, vice president of patient research and services at Tilray, said there are currently patients using cannabis for PTSD despite the lack of peer-reviewed clinical research.

“This study will not only help us identify whether or not cannabis is truly helpful treating PTSD, but by comparing (different strains) we’ll see which one is most significant in treating PTSD,” he said.

The study will evaluate 40 volunteers who meet the clinical criteria. Two thirds will be military or police veterans and the rest will be individuals who survived sexual abuse or assault.

Tilray opened its $20 million, 60,000-square-foot research and production facility for medicinal cannabis in Nanaimo last April.

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