Psychiatrist proposes no pot for PTSD patients
A UNM assistant professor is petitioning to ban the prescription of medical marijuana to New Mexicans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
William Ulwelling, an assistant professor at the School of Medicine, said on July 29 in a letter to William Catanach, interim program manager of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, that people with PTSD are prone to substance abuse and it is not suitable for the drug to be prescribed to them. He said that prescribing marijuana to people with PTSD increases the likelihood that users would become addicted to the drug.
“There is a recognized association between PTSD and cannabis, but the primary accepted association is that PTSD sufferers have increased vulnerability to alcohol … and a higher incidence of cannabis abuse,” Ulwelling said. “Offering cannabis to a PTSD sufferer increases this risk of substance abuse.”
Ulwelling said there is no scientific evidence that marijuana treats PTSD. He said that according to the American Psychological Association, practice guidelines include at least 24 medications for PTSD patients, but that marijuana is not listed as one of the medications.
“Cannabis is not approved for the treatment of PTSD,” he said in the letter. “Or any psychiatric disorder.”
Ulwelling said in the letter that he plans to petition for the removal of the disorder from the list of eligible conditions for the MCP at the next Medical Cannabis Advisory Board hearing on Oct. 17.
In New Mexico, 40 percent of the 7,000 patients enrolled in the MCP suffer from PTSD, making PTSD the most common disorder that is eligible for the program, according to an article published in the Santa Fe Reporter. If Ulwelling’s petition is approved at the hearing next month, prescribing medical cannabis to these people will be prohibited, according to the Reporter.
On Wednesday, KOB investigative reporter Peter St. Cyr posted on his Twitter page a letter from psychiatric nurse practitioner Bryan Krumm to Ulwelling. In the letter, Krumm threatened to file a complaint against Ulwelling if Ulwelling does not withdraw his request.
“You are misrepresenting your medical license in an attempt to do harm to thousands of New Mexico citizens,” Krumm said. “As a nurse, I have an ethical obligation to protect my patients from the unethical, incompetent or illegal actions of any physician.”
Krumm said that in petitioning for the removal of the eligibility of PTSD, Ulwelling would violate various sections of the New Mexico Medical Practice Act.
*In the letter, Krumm cited a 2007 lawsuit filed against Ulwelling by his patient, Eric Haar, who was diagnosed with PTSD and committed suicide in 2000. According to the appellate judge’s opinion, Haar allegedly described Ulwelling as “cold, impersonal, and didn’t really care, or didn’t want to take the time to care.”
Krumm said Ulwelling is ignoring strong evidence that PTSD patients benefit from medical marijuana.
“Unfortunately, you are continuing your assault on the sick and suffering in spite of having been provided with the most recent evidence of the benefits of using cannabis to treat PTSD,” Krumm said. “I can only assume now that your position is based on arrogance, intolerance, and/or incompetence. Medicine must be based on science, not politics.”
Neither Krumm nor Ulwelling returned phone calls as of Thursday evening.
_*This article originally read: In the letter, Krumm cited a 2007 lawsuit Ulwelling had against a patient, Eric Haar, to whom he allegedly refused to prescribe medical cannabis. In the lawsuit, Haar allegedly described Ulwelling as “cold, impersonal, and didn’t really care, or didn’t want to take the time to care.”