Saturday, November 07, 2009

'Pot' may help combat PTSD U. of Haifa study shows

A University of Haifa study on rats has found that giving medical marijuana to those with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can provide significant relief. In addition, a pilot study on 20 Israel Defense Forces veterans and others with PTSD that was recently launched in various psychiatric hospitals is promising, but a full clinical trial has not yet been approved by the Health Ministry, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The use of cannabinoids (marijuana) could help PTSD patients, said the university's Dr. Irit Akirav of the psychology department learning and memory lab. "The results of our research should encourage psychiatric investigation into using cannabinoids" in such patients, she wrote in an article just published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience. The study was carried out by research student Eti Ganon-Elazar under Akirav's supervision.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that may appear after exposure to one or more traumatic events in which the victim was threatened by or suffered significant physical harm. Symptoms include re-experiencing original trauma through flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; and increased arousal such as anger, difficulty falling or staying asleep and hypervigilance. PTSD researchers at the Hadassah University Medical Center have suggested in the past that there is a short "window of opportunity" to treat PTSD with talk therapy and/or drugs soon after the traumatic event and that if it is missed, success rates are significantly lower.

Dr. Yehuda Baruch, director of the state Abarbanel Mental Health Center and delegated by the Health Ministry to be in charge of approvals for medical marijuana, told the Post on Wednesday that so far, 50 PTSD victims over the age of 30 have been chosen for a clinical trial, but it has not yet received official approval. "While it is too early to know the verdict of the pilot study, I think medical marijuana treatment for PTSD is promising," said the psychiatrist.


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