Doctors: "No Proof" Pot Treats PTSD

General consensus in psychiatric community

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is one of many qualifying conditions for medical marijuana under Arkansas law. The general consensus among psychiatrists, however, is that there's no scientific evidence it effectively can treat the disorder.

Many doctors and practices, like Dr. Richard Owings at Psychiatric Associates of Arkansas, say that's why they will not be recommending the drug to patients.

"There is no compelling scientific evidence that marijuana is useful in the treatment of PTSD," Dr. Owings stated blunted.

In August, Psychiatric Associates of Arkansas publicly announced on Facebook its decision not to recommend cannabis to PTSD patients. PTSD is the only mental disorder that qualifies for the drug under Arkansas law.

"The evidence that exists does not support the use," Dr. Owings said. "The trouble is that the evidence is not the standard we would like to see."

Dr. Owings says that is because thus far, marijuana has not been subjected to rigorous clinical trials the way any other pharmaceutical would.

That could soon change. Wednesday, federal lawmakers introduced a bill in the Senate to improve the process for conducting scientific research on marijuana as a safe and effective medical treatment.

"Ironically, there's better evidence right now that MDMA, or ecstasy, actually is probably more effective for PTSD," Dr. Owings said. "Not that I'm advocating the use of it," he quickly added.

While personal testimony from PTSD pot users can be emotionally compelling, he says it's not scientifically sound.

"I'll tell you what, if marijuana treated PTSD, we wouldn't have had the problems with PTSD in Vietnam veterans," said the doctor, a Vietnam veteran himself. "Because the use of marijuana by Vietnam veterans was huge."

He also fears some medical professionals may be willing to sign off on marijuana as a PTSD treatment merely as a way to profit, charging patients purely to sign off on the form for the Arkansas Department of Health.

While Dr. Owings won't be recommending medical marijuana anytime soon, he agrees it's high time researchers put the drug to the proper test.

Since the legalization of medical marijuana, Dr. Owings also says he's seen an uptick in non-PTSD patients coming in seeking a PTSD diagnosis.

ADH expects to register about 30,000 Arkansans for medical marijuana cards, which will likely be made available early next year.

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