Issue Date: September 06, 2004
Israel tests pot’s effect on trauma from war
By Barbara Opall-Rome
Special to the Times
TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military is planning to test the therapeutic effects of cannabis on soldiers suffering from acute combat-related stress disorders and could incorporate the drug in future treatment of veterans and reservists traumatized by operational duties.
The six-month study, recently approved by the Israel Defense Forces General Staff, was scheduled to begin in late August. It will involve administering a predetermined dose, in drop form, of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, the plant from which marijuana and hashish are made.
Col. Haim Knobler, director of the IDF’s Mental Health Department, said the drug will be offered in combination with other methods used by the military to treat acute stress disorders. If initial research yields positive results, the IDF will consider further testing against a control group of patients not exposed to the THC treatments.
“This doesn’t mean that we’re going to allow anyone who has suffered from trauma to take hashish, and it doesn’t mean that we’ll offer this as a formal treatment,” Knobler said Aug. 10. “What we’re doing at this stage is an open trial. It’s the beginning of the beginning of an adjunct therapy that we may incorporate into our multifaceted therapy program.”
Knobler said the IDF based its decision to study the effects of THC on discussions with patients who extolled the therapeutic virtues of cannabis, as well as on scientific data provided by Raphael Mechoulam, a well-known Israeli researcher and former rector of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.
“Patients have told us that limited use of marijuana helps them sleep and forget the effects of combat stress,” Knobler said. “We also studied work done by Professor Mechoulam and were particularly influenced by his recent studies on the effects that the THC had on laboratory mice.”
Mechoulam said Aug. 11 that he expected the experiment to show that soldiers, like field mice, can be induced to forget traumatizing experiences through controlled doses of THC that activate receptors in the brain.
The IDF experiment would use a natural form of THC marketed under the brand name Marinol, which has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mechoulam said.
“We’re not going to give them a drug to smoke,” Mechoulam said. “Smoking is not a quantitative way to administer a drug in any case, since one doesn’t know how much [THC] is contained in the plant, how much is burned (or) the variables of how people inhale.”
In a written response to questions, an official at the Pentagon said the U.S. military “has not considered using cannabis for treating stress and there is no interest in pursuing the issue.”
The IDF also will continue to treat test patients with more orthodox methods, Knobler said.
Buy stock in kosher Pop-Tarts!