Cannabis & PTSD
Posted on March 15th, 2023 to Education
Long before cannabis was legalized for medical purposes in any state, many people used cannabis for different therapeutic reasons. One of those reasons was to curb some of the symptoms associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). From veterans to everyday people who struggled to get by, there were many anecdotal reports that the effects of cannabis did help.
Today, cannabis and PTSD is a target of focus among many medical professionals. The FDA even oversaw a study on cannabis and PTSD, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has been discussing the potential of cannabis to support veterans with PTSD for a few years. Could the active cannabinoids in cannabis be helpful for those struggling with PTSD? Possibly. Below is a deep dive into what we know so far.
First, a Little Insight Into PTSD
PTSD is a mental health disorder caused by exposure to traumatic events, either on an ongoing basis or one poignant event that caused significant emotional distress. PTSD is thought to affect roughly five percent of adults in a year. The condition is thought to affect certain individuals and groups more than others. For example, as many as 29 percent of veterans experience PTSD at some point in their lifetime.
What causes PTSD?
Almost everyone will experience something traumatic at some point in their life. When we experience something severely distressing, our brains are wired to react, which causes intense emotions to surface, such as extreme fear, anxiety, or emotional pain. Long after that traumatic experience passes, we remember what happened. However, people with PTSD don’t just remember the trauma; they face the same intense emotions as if what they remember is actually happening right then.
Things that can be related to PTSD development include:
- A history of physical abuse
- Experiencing or witnessing a violent attack
- Being involved in a major accident or having a major illness
- Seeing another person go through something violent or extreme
- Exposure to violent events that occur during military combat
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, but may involve:
- Intrusive memories of the past trauma or event
- Having flashbacks of the event and experiencing the same emotions
- Having nightmares or dreams repeatedly about the traumatic event
- Avoiding people or situations that remind you of the traumatic event
- Issues with feeling anxious in certain situations
- Problems with sleep and concentration
Can Cannabis Help with PTSD?
While the research in the area is limited, there have been some exciting revelations regarding cannabis for PTSD over the last few years. Also, with more states offering legal access to cannabis, many medical marijuana patients have gained access to cannabis because they have PTSD. In the state of Mississippi, the condition is on the list as one of the approved ailments to get a medical marijuana card.
The Research Behind Cannabis and PTSD
In 2019, researchers published an in-depth review of available animal and human studies to discuss the potential of using cannabis for PTSD. One bit of information that has led to the belief that cannabinoids could be valuable is the fact that people with PTSD may have lower levels of anandamide, which is an endocannabinoid produced by the body that is responsible for mood regulation. Further, PTSD was found to be characterized by higher levels of CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). These two issues combined may lead to heightened states of anxious arousal and stress.
In one human study in 2014, people with PTSD were given 5mg of THC twice daily for PTSD. The THC seemed to enhance sleep quality, reduce states of hyper-arousal, and reduce the frequency of nightmares. It was further stated that the low dose of THC was tolerated well.
One of the first randomized, placebo-controlled studies of cannabis for PTSD occurred in 2021 and was actually regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Among patients with PTSD who were given nine percent THC cannabis to smoke, there were several levels of improvement in terms of PTSD symptoms.
In a study of 150 cannabis users with PTSD that was published in 2020, people who were prescribed cannabis experienced decreases in the overall severity of their symptoms. These individuals were also more than twice as likely to not even meet the established diagnostic criteria that are used to diagnose PTSD.
How Does Cannabis Work for PTSD?
There are still a lot of unknowns here. However, there is a lot of speculation that the specific actions of cannabinoids help support the neural systems and brains of people with PTSD. And, certain cannabinoids interact with the ECS in unique ways that could offer therapeutic value for PTSD sufferers.
For example, THC shows an affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system. When THC binds to these receptors, it may interrupt certain nerve signals. This is why THC is considered intoxicating at high levels. However, at lower doses, THC may offer just enough neural pathway disruption to be beneficial to someone struggling with PTSD’s intrusive thoughts and emotions.
The non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD, such as what is available in CBD vape carts or CBD tinctures, offers therapeutic actions that could prove beneficial to PTSD as well. For example, CBD is thought to help with mood regulation and sleep, both of which can be problematic for individuals with severe PTSD. CBD is also an anti-inflammatory agent, and inflammation of the brain may be a characteristic of PTSD.
A Final Word on Cannabis and PTSD from Southern Sky Brands
As the federal government embraces cannabis as a valuable medicinal plant, we will continue to learn more about all the conditions that could benefit from cannabis. So far, the insight into cannabis for PTSD that has been discovered looks highly promising.
If you are looking for hemp-derived products without THC to try for support, be sure to take a look at our collection from Southern Sky Brands. We are proud to be one of the few patient-focused medical cannabis brands in MS, and also excited to help patients discover the therapeutic value of cannabis for themselves.