Bioethics Blogs

Study shows that marijuana has a significant role in relieving PTSD symptoms in combat veterans, more research on the way


By: Kyle Pritz

The scantiness of marijuana research in the United States of America shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The lack of research is tremendous. However, with new decriminalizing laws budding up, the role of marijuana usage in the symptomatic relief of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic disorders is receiving uncustomary attention in the United States.

In a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2014, two American psychologists based at SUNY Albany, Jamie Bolles and Mitchell Earleywine, investigated the relationship between marijuana, expectancies, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Using an online questionnaire and maintaining anonymity to enhance the response rate, Earleywine & Bolles surveyed more than 650 combat-exposed, male veterans who used marijuana at least once per week.

The participants reported expectations that marijuana usage would bring relief, minimizing “PTSD symptoms, especially those related to intrusions and arousal,” which are thought to be an ignition for the complex and debilitating, symptomatic feedback cycle of anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure) and restlessness. Of course, PTSD, depression and the like aren’t so easily defined.

For each of the disorders, the clusters of symptoms are dynamic, involving cognitive (negative cognitive alterations—i.e. the belief that “it’s my fault”), behavioral (bursts of aggression, recklessness, avoidance), and biological components (genetics, neuroanatomical alterations, neural chemistry, etc.). The symptoms emerge idiosyncratically, varying from a complicated combination of circumstance and personality. Nonetheless, these experiences are very challenging for anyone who endures them.

The researchers found something potentially noteworthy: a significant correlation between the participants’ expectancy for symptomatic relief and marijuana consumption.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.