Medical Cannabis Conditions in other States (Part 3)


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6/21/2010 12:02 PM RssIcon

As we saw in last week’s installment, most states with medical marijuana laws have established procedures for adding new conditions to the list of symptoms or illnesses for which medical marijuana can be recommended. These procedures usually require that medical evidence support the use of cannabis for those conditions. We have also seen, however, that medical research on cannabis often consists of only a few clinical studies with, in many cases, small numbers of patients. Furthermore, medical authorities sometimes disagree about whether the research supports the use of cannabis for specific medical conditions or not.

According to a New York Times article of March 24, 2010, that is exactly what happened in the case of PTSD, which was designated an approved condition in New Mexico in February, 2009, but was narrowly rejected in a vote in a committee of the Colorado House of Representatives in March of this year.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD , is “…an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.” “Shell shock”, dating from WWI, and “combat fatigue”, a term used in WWII, are older terms for PTSD.

People with PTSD usually have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their experience as well as sleep problems, nightmares, flashbacks in which they relive the trauma, and physical symptoms that may include a rapid heartbeat or sweating. Patients with PTSD may also avoid places, events, or objects that remind them of the experience, and may feel guilty or depressed, tense or on edge, may be easily startled and may also have outbursts of anger or rage.

A medical advisory committee in New Mexico recommended that PTSD be approved because “…marijuana could help relieve anxiety associated with post-traumatic stress disorder,” and went on to cite a number of psychiatric and pharmacological studies they felt supported its use. Dr. Alfredo Vigil, the secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, said “There are hints and some indications in the medical literature that there are components of cannabis that might be helpful to some people with P.T.S.D.”

The article quotes Dr. Ned Calonge, the chief medical officer for the Colorado health department, as saying, however, that “There is no evidence of efficacy of marijuana for treatment of P.T.S.D. in the medical literature” and that the psychiatry departments at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Denver and the University of Colorado School of Medicine agreed that marijuana should not be recommended for treating PTSD.

Clearly, there is disagreement even among medical authorities about how to interpret medical research. According to Dr. Vigil, “All of these states are going out on a limb, trying to determine from a medical, clinical point of view, what seems reasonable.” It should be noted that more than 25% of medical marijuana patients in New Mexico were approved for use of marijuana to treat PTSD.

Please join us again next week as we continue to discuss medical conditions for which marijuana may be recommended.


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