Remedy Review: VA-Funded Study Will Evaluate CBD Treatment for PTSD

A $1.3 million study funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs will evaluate CBD’s effects on PTSD by using it to complement prolonged exposure therapy. Led by researchers at the VA San Diego Healthcare System, the study will build on established research that suggests CBD can enhance extinction learning, a treatment used by PTSD patients to decrease their response to conditioned stimulus.

Leading the study is Dr. Mallory Loflin, a research scientist with VA and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Though she is dedicated to finding out if the addition of CBD to prolonged exposure therapy helps the treatment process, she is also interested in whether or not it can impair treatment. Because many people believe that cannabinoids are cure-alls for a host of different ailments, Loflin has seen participants in other studies experience great benefits from placebos alone. Thus, the strong placebo effect in CBD research makes it difficult to accurately study the drug.

“This is a major question I get from therapists whose patients are self-treating themselves with a cannabinoid during psychotherapy: whether it helps, hurts, or makes no difference,” Loflin says. “So even if the study ‘fails’ and doesn’t find that CBD outperforms placebo because of too strong of a placebo effect, we should at least be able to see if those in the CBD condition fared worse, which is a very important question.”

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