UNM researchers studying effects of cannabis on veterans with PTSD

Researchers at the University of New Mexico are figuring out new ways to treat PTSD. Their latest study is ditching opioid-based drugs and using medical cannabis to help veterans.

UNM is monitoring real-time effects of medical cannabis and seeing how it helps veterans experiencing anxiety and PTSD.

“Our New Mexico veterans are a very special population,” said Jacob Vigil, an assistant professor of psychology at UNM. “They’re often times underserved, often times overprescribed, and they’re in a very unique situation where they tend to be locked into the VA Medical System.”

That’s leading researchers to look at the effects of cannabisand lack of usefor veterans, including their behaviors, feelings and everyday pain levels.

“I hope that this study will help inform our community and the medical community, as well as the scientific community of the true impact of using cannabis for treating anxiety, in particular,” said Vigil. “We’re engaging in an observational research design which is essentially really valid because we’re recording the actual behaviors that patients are engaging in and the outcomes of those behaviors. It has a lot of generalized ability and it has a lot of relevance to regular people.”

UNM helped kick start the research, giving them $10,000 in funding to recruit and compensate participating patients.

“That requires funding from somewhere and through the federal government it’s extremely difficult to get any sort of funding for these types of studies,” said Sarah Stith, an assistant professor of economics at UNM.

An Army veteran taking part in the study says using cannabis and giving honest responses has helped him greatly.

“The entire thing was really quite helpful because it caused me to pause and think about where I had been with PTSD and where I am now,” said J. Boone Emmons.

He hopes other veterans will give the study a chance.

“There’s a lot that you will look at say ‘I don’t know about it.’ I hope the curiosity starts to cause you to find out,” said Emmons. “Because if you have post-traumatic stress syndrome there are certain things that really help. And I found this really helped. I have a written log of my behaviors and also things to do with those behaviors and also to do with cannabis.”

Those leading the study say the root of it is giving back to those who served our country.
“These individuals have already served our community and it’s up to the rest of us to serve them back,” said Vigil.

UNM is using the Releaf phone app and surveys to record the cannabis effects or lack thereof on all of the participants, including treating with cannabis and those who are not.

The school needs at least 20 more veterans to participate. They hope to finish the study later this summer before analyzing the data. 

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