Updated: Dec 17, 2019
A psychiatric condition is known as PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is defined as surviving or witnessing a traumatic life event that affects one in thirteen Americans totaling about 8 million people a year. PTSD has been known to cause nightmares, insomnia, memory loss, impaired concentration, flashbacks and agitation which could lead to substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
A large number of PTSD patients have difficult looking for symptom relief from today’s treatment plans including anti-psychotic or anti-depressant medications and other psychological treatments like trauma-focused behavioral therapy. Many turn to other ways of coping with these symptoms through the use of cannabis use. It has been evident in the rise of American military veterans getting medical recommendations for medical cannabis with PTSD as a common condition for use.
Though the results of clinical trials testing cannabis for PTSD are ongoing making it unclear if cannabis increases PTSD symptoms or if PTSD patients with far worse symptoms are self-medicating more. Much of the anecdotal data that exists is directly from patient reports.
Interestingly in a recent Canadian study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the data found PTSD increased the risk of depressive episodes among Canadians who didn’t use cannabis by seven times, and suicidal tendencies by five times.
How does cannabis work
The human body naturally produces endogenous cannabinoids that fit into cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body. The endocannabinoid system is known to stabilize body processes while regulating many functions of the brain affected by trauma such as memory, sleep, and fear.
Some of the molecular structures of the cannabis plant including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produces high and cannabidiol (CBD) which does not get you high commonly used for anxiety, nausea, inflammation, and epilepsy make up the cannabinoids that are structurally similar to endogenous cannabinoids. These two cannabinoids that are not naturally produced by our bodies will interact with our endocannabinoid system to assist a large number of biological processes.
With the help of brain imaging research technology that patients with PTSD have a large number of cannabinoid receptors that produce very little endogenous cannabinoids to join and with the supplement of THC helps some processes of the brain function normally.
People with PTSD
In a study, it was found that low dose cannabis users were less likely than non-cannabis users to develop a depressive episode or to be suicidal, though there were trends towards the risk of both in high-use cannabis users.
Those with PTSD are more likely to experience suicidal and major depressive episodes, although it was found with low-use cannabis, showed mental health improvement. The studies that need to happen next are what types of strains worked and the specific dosage amount to help future research.
Cannabis is a promising new medication for PTSD with new formulations to be developed for cannabis-based therapies.