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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Israel to soothe battle trauma with marijuana


JERUSALEM, Oct 3 (Reuters) Israeli soldiers traumatised by battle with the Palestinians have a new, unconventional weapon to exorcise their nightmares -- marijuana.

Under an experimental programme, Delta-9 tetrohydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient found in the cannabis plant, will be administered to 15 soldiers over the next several months in an effort to fight post-traumatic stress disorder.

Raphael Mechoulam of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, the chief researcher behind a project he described as a world-first, said the chemical could trick the brain into suppressing unwanted memories.

For soldiers haunted by flashbacks of traumatic battle experiences, he said, the drug, administered in liquid form, could be the answer to hundreds of sleepless nights.

''It helps them sleep better, for one thing. These people often wake up from nightmares, and experience sweating or hallucinations,'' Mechoulam told Reuters.

The army said civilian and military committees had approved the experiment.

Millions of people, mainly war veterans, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychiatric condition that can develop after experiencing life-threatening events.

Doctors already use so-called medical marijuana to treat nausea among cancer patients, appetite loss among AIDS sufferers and neurological disorders such as Tourette's Syndrome, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

However, Mechoulam said this is the first time THC would be used to treat post-traumatic stress."