On Wednesday, the nation’s largest and most conservative military veterans organization called out the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – asking VA Secretary David Shulkin to support Dr. Sue Sisley’s FDA-approved research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the medicinal efficacy of cannabis.
Denise Rohan, the American Legion national commander, sent a letter to the secretary of the VA “urging” Shulkin and his department “to support an FDA-Approved Marijuana/PTSD research study.”
Conducted by Dr. Sue Sisley in conjunction with the National Institute of Health and the California-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the collaborative study is currently underway at the Scottsdale Institute in Arizona.
Made possible by a $2.16 million grant from the Colorado Health Department, the study has so far enrolled only 22 of the required 76 volunteers, after screening over 4,000 potential candidates. The Military Times reported in August the Veterans Administration was blocking research into the potential benefits of marijuana for vets suffering from PTSD.
Sisley believes many vets who would otherwise qualify for the study are just out of reach. Sequestered among the thousands of military veterans at the nearby Phoenix VA Medical Center, Dr. Sisley has lobbied the VA and their physicians for access to PTSD patients – to no avail.
With her appeals long ignored by the Veterans Administration and Secretary David Shulkin, Dr. Sisley has worried — if no new participants step forward soon, the study would either need to “shut down,” or the parameters would have to change to include “non-veterans.”
Rohan’s letter to Secretary Shulkin underscored the VA’s obligation to forge ahead with all medical research that could potentially help America’s vets. “The VA is a national scientific research leader with a statutory obligation to care for and improve the lives of our nation’s veterans. The American Legion calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist the Scottsdale Institute, in accordance with the VA’s existing policies and regulations.”
“Dr. Mr. Secretary:
For more than a year, The American Legion has called on the federal government to support and enable scientific research to clinically confirm the medicinal value of cannabis. The National Academy of Medicine recently reviewed 10,000 scientific abstracts on the therapeutic value of cannabis and reached nearly 100 conclusions in a report issued earlier this year. As a two million member strong veteran service organization, our primary interest and advocacy is grounded in the wellbeing and improved health of our veterans, and specifically our service disabled veterans.
The Scottsdale Research Institute, outside of Phoenix Arizona, is currently in phase one of an FDA-Approved Marijuana/PTSD research study, being conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Health (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This study is a Placebo-Controlled, Triple-Blind, Randomized Crossover Pilot Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Four Different Potencies of Smoked Marijuana in 76 Veterans with Chronic, Treatment-Resistant Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The American Legion is a strong, vocal proponent of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and has published several books, pamphlets, and magazines that help showcase VA’s value to The United States of America. Our members have long been a ferocious advocate for evidence-based, complementary and alternative medicines and therapies. For decades, we have supported increased funding and research in such therapies as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Quantitative Electroencephalography (QEEG), animal therapy, recreational therapy, meditation, and mindfulness therapies, just to name a few, to improve outcomes for veterans confronted with PTSD.
The American Legion supports VA’s statutory medical research mission and has donated millions of dollars toward expanding VA’s scientific research. VA innovation is widely championed for their breakthrough discoveries in medicine and has been recognized over the years with three Nobel Prizes for scientific work that has benefited the world over.
The research being conducted by the Scottsdale Institute is the first cannabis based research of its kind in The United States and could potentially produce scientific evidence that will enhance, improve, and save the lives of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many veterans have approached us to tell us that access to cannabis has materially improved their health and well-being. While their stories are very compelling, we need clinical evidence to have a fact-based discussion on the future of cannabis policy.
As a scientific research leader in this country with a statutory obligation to care for and improve the lives of our nation’s veterans, The American Legion calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist the Scottsdale Institute, in accordance with VA’s existing policies and regulations (VHA Directive 1200 §2.b and §5.tt VHA Handbook 1200.01 §8.g and §10.a(1) VHA Handbook 1200.05 §3.xxx(note)) that states, in part;
“NOTE: This guidance does not preclude VA clinicians, in the normal course of their clinical duties, from discussing specific research studies with their patients where appropriate, and referring them to a non-VA investigator for more information about a non-VA study. However, VA personnel should not provide the non-VA investigator with the names or contact information of Veterans who might be eligible for the study. Instead, the VA clinician should provide the Veteran with the contact information for the non-VA investigator so the Veteran may initiate contact if he/she is interested in participating in the non-VA study.”
The Carl T. Hayden Phoenix VA Health Care System is ideally geographically located to assist with this effort and should enthusiastically take the lead in assisting with this research study. There is an overwhelming body of evidence suggests that cannabis is effective in treating a number of service connected related illnesses, including PTSD and chronic pain, the two most persistent and widespread illnesses and injuries plaguing our veteran community. Without the assistance of the Department, this study is in jeopardy of failing due to lack of viable test participants. Project scientists have screened thousands of applicants, but due to the strict requirements of the study which is required to produce reliable scientific data, nearly 99 percent of these applicants are eliminated for a variety of screening reasons. This study needs 50 more participants and the Phoenix VA is in the best possible position to assist by simply allowing principle investigators to brief VAMC medical staff on the progress of the study, and by allowing clinicians to reveal the existence of the study to potential participants.
Your immediate attention in this important matter is greatly appreciated. We ask for your direct involvement to ensure this critical research is fully enabled.
Denise H. Rohan”
Photo courtesy of Veteran’s View
Weedmaps has long supported veterans’ access to medical marijuana. In this 2012 Veterans Day video, Patrick, who suffers from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, shares how medical marijuana has helped make the activities of daily living more tolerable for those with PTSD.