July 18, 2019
MDH survey: most PTSD patients using medical cannabis report benefits
A recent survey by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Office of Medical Cannabis found nearly three-quarters of patients using medical cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reported a high level of benefit.
MDH researchers surveyed 751 patients who listed PTSD as a qualifying condition when enrolling in the state’s medical cannabis program during the five months after PTSD became an approved condition for medical cannabis use in Minnesota. Most of the patients surveyed saw benefits based both on the MDH survey and a validated measure of PTSD severity.
At enrollment, 96% of the PTSD patients included in this survey scored above 33 points on an initial checklist, meeting the threshold for a PTSD diagnosis. Of those who completed the same checklist three months after their first cannabis purchase, 71% saw their scores improve by at least 10 points. According to Dr. Tom Arneson, a research manager with the MDH Office of Medical Cannabis, this is a clinically meaningful improvement.
“This study shows many patients with PTSD enrolled in the program are experiencing substantial benefits,” Arneson said. “It is particularly encouraging to read comments from some patients that their participation in the program has made their engagement with other therapies for PTSD more feasible or more effective.”
In addition, when asked on the survey how much benefit they’ve received from medical cannabis, 76% of responding patients indicated a benefit rating of 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 (no benefit) to 7 (great deal of benefit). Across all responding patients, a small but important proportion of patients indicated little or no benefit: 4% gave a rating of 1, 2 or 3. Also, about one fifth of patients reported side effects, including a few who reported increased anxiety.
When patients were asked about the most important benefit, 23% indicated anxiety reduction, 16% indicated improved sleep, 13% indicated improved mood and/or emotional regulation and 12% indicated pain reduction. When asked via a similar survey, health care practitioners saw benefit levels similar to the patient ratings.
MDH added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the program in 2016, and patients with PTSD started receiving medical cannabis Aug. 1, 2017. As of May 23, 2019, there were 2,873 people with PTSD in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program.
The first step for a patient interested in enrolling in the state’s medical cannabis program is to visit a health care practitioner – a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant – who can go to the MDH website and certify the patient has one or more qualifying conditions. Once a provider certifies a patient, the patient can register on the MDH website to receive medical cannabis at one of the state’s eight locations.
The report is available on the MDH website at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Patients in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Experiences of Enrollees During the First Five Months (PDF).