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This New Study Will Test the Effects of CBD and Psilocybin on PTSD and Brain Injuries

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Feb 21, 2020   
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Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have received a grant of $1.624 million from the psychedelics research company Tassili Life Sciences, which will fund research into the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychedelic compound psilocybin on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

Basic laboratory research for the Tassili-funded is already underway at the university, with researchers hoping their proof-of-concept animal studies will reach completion in the next 9-to-12 months.

PTSD and mTBI, a combination risk

While they may appear to be two unrelated conditions, PTSD and mTBI commonly occur together. Of the people who have been impacted by mTBI or TBI, up to 40 percent will also suffer from PTSD as a result of their brain injury.

This combination of PTSD and mTBI is even more common for members of the military, says Dr Michael E. Hoffer, study author and a professor of otolaryngology and neurological surgery at the University of Miami.

“As a result, they’re disabled not just by the sequelae of the head injury, which can be dizziness, hearing disorders, memory issues, and headaches, but also post-traumatic stress symptoms that complicate the disability after the head injury,” Hoffer said in a press statement.

“With this new grant with Tassili, we have the opportunity to explore a combination therapy that might treat the traumatic brain injury as well as the PTSD.”

CBD and psilocybin, a combination treatment?

While there are some therapeutic options that can mask individual symptoms related to both conditions, there are currently no proven pharmacological treatments for TBI alone, or combination TBI and PTSD.

But Hoffer’s group has been studying the effects of CBD on brain injury symptoms for several years, and they believe the cannabis compound could have potential benefits for people living with such cognitive disorders.

“CBD has the potential to treat the sequelae of traumatic brain injury, including hearing loss, balance disorders, memory and other cognitive issues. It has the ability to treat these disorders and prevent them from becoming significant issues after the concussion,” Hoffer explained.

Medical cannabis is already an approved medication for PTSD in several US states, and certain cannabis companies even offer complimentary membership to US military veterans struggling with the condition.

However, one recent scientific review from University College London found that, while the cannabis products appeared to reduce PTSD symptoms, such as insomnia and nightmares, they couldn’t qualify for clinical endorsement without further studies.

But, with the advent of studies linking the psychedelic compound psilocybin to an enhanced extinction of fear conditioning, and improvements in treating major depressive disorder, Hoffer and colleagues hope that a combination course of CBD and psilocybin might be an effective treatment for both PTSD and mTBI.

“Our goal is to develop a prescription pill with these ingredients that treat mTBI and PTSD,” he said. “This is a new and increasingly exciting area. Adding this project to the school’s portfolio allows us at the University of Miami to stay on the cutting edge of modern research.”

Research is already underway

The first basic experiments for the CBD and psilocybin study are underway; the researchers already use animal models to examine the effects of orally given CBD and psilocybin on mTBI and PTSD.

“We hope to complete the proof-of-concept basic animal studies in the next 9-to-12 months and then move on to a parallel investigation to determine optimal dosing and timing. Then, we plan to move to a human study, hopefully filing with the FDA early in 2021,” Hoffer added.

The new study is a collaborative effort between four different schools within the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine: The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and the departments of neurology, otolaryngology, and biomedical engineering. The authors hope that the data gathered from this study will enable the research to qualify for future federal funding grants, which can be hard for psychedelic and cannabinoid research projects to obtain without demonstrating clear promise. 

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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