Earlier this week, we discussed the growing movement to legalize medical marijuana as a method of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after researchers learned that antipsychotic drugs are largely ineffective at treating the debilitating effects of the disease. PTSD is common in military veterans, who often have trouble dealing with what they have seen, heard, and experienced during active combat. With all troops being pulled out of Iraq by the end of the year, it is essential that medical professionals find an effective way to treat PTSD soon.

While initial studies have shown that marijuana is an effective method of treatment for PTSD, there are several barriers to widespread medical use of the drug which date back several decades. In 1970, Congress categorized marijuana as a Schedule I drug, labeling it a harmful drug with “no currently accepted medical use.” The Schedule I categorization was intended to be temporary, pending the outcome of a government study. However, after government researchers concluded that the potential for harm was extremely minimal, the Schedule I status did not change.

In 1972, advocates began filing petitions seeking a hearing to determine whether marijuana should be rescheduled. More than a decade later, those hearings finally began. In 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief administrative law judge wrote an opinion stating that marijuana “is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man” and recommending that it be reclassified. But for some reason, that did not happen, and the DEA has since denied at least two rescheduling petitions in the years since.

We will continue our examination of this topic in a third and final blog post next week.

Source: Washington Post, “Marijuana may help PTSD. Why won’t the government find out for sure?” Steve Fox, Oct. 14, 2011