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Cannabis and PTSD

Cannabis or Cannabis Sativa is a plant with a rich history as medicine going back thousands of years and it can also be used for recreation. Cannabis has a negative stigma attached to it with its reputation as a “gateway drug”, but with time and extensive research, people have realized the benefits of Cannabis and how it can be used for medicinal purposes. More countries have accepted it as a natural herb with several health benefits just like any other plant allowing experts to conduct research and experiments so that people can learn the right information about it.

Scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant but the main components found in the plant are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Both THC and CBD have similar properties in terms of molecule structure and medicinal property. They both interact with our brain very similarly and provide relief from several of the same conditions but they also have different advantages that can be used for different situations. Although the main component in cannabis that gets people high is THC, it can be used for pain relief, insomnia, low appetite, anxiety, etc. THC has 20 times the anti-inflammatory power of aspirin and while CBD doesn’t necessarily get you high, it helps to control seizures, inflammation, migraine, and depression. This article explains the benefit of cannabis, especially for PTSD. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a condition that occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or scary event. People with PTSD feel a sense of fear and anxiety as they may have flashbacks, disturbing memories, and nightmares about a past experience which causes mental and physical distress.  Military veterans, survivors of near-death experiences like natural disasters, accidents, shootings, victims of sexual assault, etc. are usually diagnosed with PTSD conditions. Studies have shown that women are twice as much likely to suffer from PTSD than men and a significant number of people do not recover from PTSD. It can disrupt your normal activities and ability to function daily. Words, sounds, or situations that remind the person of the event can trigger the symptoms. It is a chronic condition for which medications are not as helpful.

However, medical marijuana is increasingly being used to treat patients with PTSD. Doctors and physicians are viewing it as a legit treatment option as it helps to control the symptoms and ease anxiety. Although it is only considered a temporary solution as it does not really tackle the underlying problem, more and more people with PTSD are self-medicating by using medical marijuana.

Human beings consist of cannabinoid receptors that are located throughout the body which help them to feel and process psychological activities like appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.  PTSD patients have low levels of anandamide molecules that attach itself to the cannabinoid receptors which makes it harder for them to deal with painful memories and anxiety. The cannabinoids of cannabis, especially THC and CBD, interact directly with the cannabinoid of our body to help us treat anxiety and fear. Although THC and CBD have different uses for different kinds of patients and it can also be used together. The THC compound targets the exact same receptors as anandamide, so it helps the patient to bring a balance to his/her system while the CBD compound helps reduce feelings of anxiety, fear, and memory.  Because of this, professionals have come up with different strains and forms of medical cannabis with high or low levels of THC and CBD content that deal with people with different conditions. Physicians and therapists can identify the patients and their specific needs and prescribe the right dose for them. 

In 2020, the University of Colorado and other major colleges in the United States carried out a study that showed cannabis users reported a greater decrease in PTSD severity over time compared to non-cannabis users. A total of 150 participants were enrolled in the study and they concluded that participants who used cannabis were 2.57 times more likely to no longer have PTSD and also fail the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosis.

Another study was conducted in 2020 by Washington State University where 400 people participated who tracked their changes in PTSD symptoms before and after cannabis use with a dedicated app over a 31-month period. It showed that cannabis reduced the severity of intrusions and memories by 62%, flashbacks by 51%, anxiety by 57%, irritability by 67%, among many others. However, the symptom reductions were not permanent.  It also showed that cannabis may not be an effective long-term remedy as the symptoms remained over time and the doses kept on increasing which shows the development of tolerance.

Since the results are positive, this suggests a bright future for the control of PTSD and treating them better. Researches and studies are being carried out around the world on how it can be used more effectively and how cannabis can be used to treat not only PTSD but other chronic diseases and mental health. The legalization and proper governing will bring to light a new economy and lifestyle where people can learn more about the benefits of cannabis and the opportunity it brings.

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Amanda Perkins


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