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Allied Corp: A conversation with Calum Hughes about using cannabis to treat PTSD

Jun 14, 2019

Trauma knows no age, no nationality, no gender. It manifests for different people in different ways, creating debilitating situations for sufferers, their families, and support systems alike.

In the past few years, cannabis deregulation across the world has been spurring innovation for treating conditions that arise from trauma, such as PTSD and PTSI.

This week PotNetwork spoke with Calum Hughes, CEO of Allied Corp, a cannabis medical research and development company based in Canada with operations in Colombia, about their work isolating cannabis compounds that could treat PTSD and PTSI in veterans and trauma survivors.

Two soldiers are shown: a female soldier on the left and a male soldier on the right.

Cannabis is a human-focused treatment

The United State’s National Center for PTSD indicates that for young veterans, who participated in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom that the rates of PTSD are between 11-20%.

For many veterans, Hughes said, “The usual modality is to prescribe them very heavy opioids, basically turning these individuals into zombies, and that cascades into depression and other comorbid side effects of those drugs that further manifest their propensity to commit suicide.”

A clinician and researcher who worked in hospitals for much of his career, Hughes is an activist looking to build a patient forward system.

[Cannabis won’t solve the opioid epidemic and that CBD and heroin use study didn’t find what you think it did]

“The hospital environment,” he says “functions with elements of success.” But adds, “the nature of the core business of the medical environment renders it to be extremely complex, so in saying that then effecting change in an extremely complex environment becomes extremely difficult, and it can take a long time.”

The combination of the traditional methods, which don’t appear to improve the quality of life of sufferers, in addition to influential correlative studies indicating that cannabis eases PTSD symptoms, pushed Hughes outside of the hospital system.

“When you jump over to private industry, for-profit industry, then it seems to be much more streamlined, the ability to affect change and effect improvement in the environment that we’re working in.”

Making change happen

With a medical research focus, Allied Corp isn’t just a pharmaceutical company looking to create medicinal treatments for PTSD survivors.

“This is about the people, the families, and the trauma survivors that have served their country. One gentleman said they feel like we’re on a floating iceberg set adrift. So we’re bringing them into our fold and really helping them get back to their normal life.”

A young military man and his doctor are talking during a medical visit.To make this idea a reality, Hughes outlined three stages of Allied Corp’s business model.

Cultivating PTSD focused cannabis compounds

The first is to use science and identify which cannabinoid molecules may positively impact PTSD, made possible by having a full gamut of producer licenses in Colombia. “Colombia is starting to garner global interest as a global center for a low cost, high margin, high-quality production.”

Allied Corp successfully applied for cultivating, processing, and export licenses within Colombia, which gives them the freedom to use the global marketplace to test and sell their products.

[Medical marijuana: It really is a healing herb]

Initially, they’re “starting with a conservative approach” to cultivate strains “that are targeted for post-traumatic stress disorder to help first responders and veterans living with post-traumatic stress in their life.”

Right now, Hughes indicated, they’re in their initial stages of cultivating their registered strains and are evaluating their approach for the processing stage, which comes next.

Out of their final product, they will export some to Canada, and some will remain in Latin America, which is predicted to be one of the largest medical cannabis markets in the world.

Building a community of icebergs

With cultivation still in its early stages, and with veterans serving on the director’s team, Allied Corp isn’t just making a product.  

“We’ve structured a sister charity that looks to host in-person retreats, and we’ve built out a whole online digital community with a series of health videos and courses that an individual can sit through. They can learn skills to help deal when they’re in the midst of the trigger.”

Also crucial to the Allied team are the, “concentric social rings that surround that individual, the spouse, the family, the church, the community, their employment team, so there are resources in that online portal that someone and their spouse and their adult or teenage children can sit down and sit through a three minute explanation of what is PTSD … So it’s a really powerful educational tool.”

[Uruguay and Innova to invest in cannabis genetics]

These programs have already received positive feedback from survivors and family members about the efficacy of this program, so much that they’re expanding the program beyond America and Canada to their second base in Colombia.

Colombia is a country that has known war. When Hughes spoke with the national sergeant of the anti-narcotics division, “she was communicating that there’s almost a covert, underlying trauma that exists where violence could erupt at any time, historically, in a major city and many of the citizens have been affected by that, including the police and army from what Colombia has been through.”

Colombia certainly isn’t alone as a country that has experienced trauma, but “There’s a real partnership there where all of our learning resources are getting translated into Spanish, and we’re going to bring that to market to offer to that cohort as well.”

Research

Colombia is ground zero for the cannabis industry. The country’s deregulation is a prime example for the rest of the world as to how to make cannabis a part of their economy.

Allied Corp’s third aspect is to be pioneers of PTSD cannabis research, something which has been under-examined due to long years of prohibition.

A scientist inspects hemp plants in a greenhouse.

Hughes is very outspoken regarding the benefits of cannabis for PTSD survivors despite limited studies showing causation between them.

[How cannabis advocates are turning bad science into the next anti-vaccination movement]

“Research matters most when you can see tangible results in people. The current medical model for treating PTSD, usually with opioids, and then people self-medicate, usually with alcohol, this is not working. So I go back to real life examples of real doctors seeing real people, and the statistics speak for themselves. Now, this is usually how clinical trials are born.”

“There is too much anecdotal evidence to be ignored; this has to be brought to clinical trials so that I can bring the academic rigor, the ethics approval, and everything that a clinical trial has in it so the medical community can start to pay attention to it.”

With an opioid crisis surging across the world as a way to treat anything from back pain to PTSD, proof that medical cannabis can act as not only an alternative but a quality of life enhancer and a suicide prevention method could fundamentally change how societies deal with trauma.

These trials are already being scheduled and will begin in Colombia and the Czech Republic. The trials will be one of the first of their kind.

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