Set-back in marijuana PTSD research for veterans

Important news in PTSD research: University of Arizona assistant prof of clinical psychiatry Dr. Suzanne Sisley was fired without reason, shortly after winning a rare FDA approval to study the clinical effects of marijuana use among war veterans.

An article on the story in the LA Times suggests that the termination may be the outcome of political retaliation for Sisley’s association with pro-marijuana activists who had–independent of her own involvement—lobbied against senator on behalf of her research:

Sisley’s study was designed to involve veterans who would use marijuana in an observation facility on campus. She had lobbied state lawmakers for approval to use state funds collected at medical marijuana dispensaries to help pay for the work. When a powerful Republican senator maneuvered to block that money, some of Sisley’s allies launched an unsuccessful recall effort.

Sisley said she did not get involved, but that university officials were irate when some activists she described as “overzealous” put the university logo on one of their political flyers. Sisley said a university vice president ordered her to draft a statement outlining all her political activism, which she did.

“I didn’t even support the recall,” Sisley said. “I thought it was a waste of energy.”

Interestingly, I just procured a brochure from the VA here in SD all about why marijuana is not a legitimate treatment for PTSD. One major reason is the lack of available data, though clinical researchers also worry from a theoretical standpoint that the drug encourages patients to avoid confronting their trauma, which ultimately ingrains it more deeply rather than helping them overcome it. My personal opinion is that drugs are tools, and prima facie don’t see any reason why pot couldn’t be part of the healing process. However, it will be pretty difficult to find out whether this is the case if our universities don’t support this research. I hope a university with a strong affiliation with the VA located in a place with a large veteran population—such as UC San Diego—decides to hire Sisley so she can continue her important work.

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