People suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so far represent the largest group of Connecticut residents who have registered with the Consumer Protection Department to use medical marijuana.
Of the 735 people who have registered, 212 name PTSD as their primary qualifying condition, according to a report from the Office of Legislative Research, which used statistics from early July.
One hundred and ninety two patients with spinal cord injuries have also registered as well as 141 patients with multiple sclerosis. Another 192 people have registered with various other ailments.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is a condition developed by some people who have experienced terrifying ordeals. It is widely associated with soldiers returning from combat situations, but can also be experienced by violent crime victims and people who have survived traumatic accidents or natural disasters.
The disorder is often treated through “talk therapy” or with antidepressants like Zoloft and Paxil among other drugs, according to the institute.
Dr. Carolyn Drazinic, assistant professor at the UConn School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and president of the Connecticut Psychiatric Society, said many psychiatrists in the state were surprised that the disorder was added to the list of ailments that qualify someone to use medical marijuana.
Although there are studies suggesting cannabis helps treat many of the illnesses included in the law, Drazinic said that is not the case with PTSD.
“Right now there is no data to suggest that marijuana is helpful in treating post traumatic stress disorder,” she said.
Drazinic did not rule out the possibility that future studies could suggest the substance is a viable treatment, but said for the time being that research has not been done.
However, there are anecdotal accounts suggesting the substance has been helpful to some suffering from the disorder.
Last month, Maine added PTSD as a qualifying condition for patients seeking marijuana under that state’s palliative use law. Eighteen other states have laws allowing for medicinal use of the substance and several have allowed it for treatment of post traumatic stress.
Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said people should be cautious of drawing conclusions from the program’s statistics so far.
“It’s a very small sample. This program is just getting up and running,” he said.
Connecticut passed legislation legalizing the palliative use of marijuana last year. The law allows people with certain debilitating illnesses to access cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. The law calls for the substance to be distributed through a licensed pharmacist.
Lawmakers specifically approved around a dozen ailments which can qualify someone to use the substance with a doctor’s note. But the legislature gave the Consumer Protection Department the authority to make the drug available to people suffering from additional conditions if it is recommended by a board of physicians.
The DCP is also tasked with developing a set of regulations governing the process of growing and distributing marijuana to patients in Connecticut. In April the department heard public testimony on its draft rules.
Rubenstein said the department has submitted a revised set of regulations to the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee in June. He said he expects the committee will take up the regulations when they meet in August.
In the meantime, the state has authorized patients with recommendations from doctors to register with the DCP for a fee. Registered patients are permitted to possess a small amount of marijuana. So far 91 doctors have registered with the state to issue patient recommendations.
The average age of a registered medical marijuana patient in Connecticut is 42.8, according legislative research. The report also found that men have registered in greater numbers than women by a three-to-one margin.