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Since its infancy in southern California in 1996, North American medical cannabis has been a tool for healing and helping folks with serious conditions like cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease. Ancient civilizations around the world used cannabis for rituals, relaxation, and easing their various aches and pains; the modern world embraced cannabis use for the same reasons. In recent years, medical cannabis has proven helpful for those dealing with mental health issues like anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD.
That’s why for this year’s PTSD Awareness Day on June 27, we want to highlight how medical cannabis can help those dealing with PTSD. We’ll break down the science and research behind why it works and shine some light on the medical potential of cannabis for those suffering from serious mental health conditions like PTSD.
How Medical Cannabis Can Help With PTSD
If you or someone close to you has dealt with or is currently dealing with issues associated with PTSD, they know first-hand how debilitating the condition can be. Characterized by chronic nightmares, panic attacks, overwhelming and often uncontrollable emotional outbursts, detachment from others, and near-constant hypervigilance, PTSD is a condition that fundamentally alters the life of the person suffering and those around them. Tragically, this horrific cocktail of symptoms sometimes results in suicide. A significant percentage of those who have PTSD are military combat veterans. An estimated 8 percent of adults – or 1 in 13 people – in the U.S. will develop PTSD during their lifetime.
With numbers like that in mind, finding a natural, non-pharmaceutical alternative to the traditional pills and potions often overprescribed by traditional doctors that can provide those who have PTSD is a high priority. That’s where medical cannabis comes in!
Early research has shown that cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, and CBN all affect those dealing with PTSD. Terpenes like limonene, linalool, bisabolol, myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and humulene may be helpful. All of those compounds are found naturally in cannabis, with different levels depending on the genetics of the plant itself.
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The Research Behind Cannabis and PTSD
So what exactly do those compounds do within the body and brain of someone who has PTSD? Researchers at Wayne State University found that cannabis use impacts the amygdala response of those dealing with trauma-related anxiety, such as PTSD. They dosed the 71 participants of the study, some of which had PTSD and others who did not, with low doses of THC. They then exposed those participants to threatening stimuli and measured how their brains processed the information. The activity in the brain in response to the stimuli was lower in those dosed with THC compared to placebo, even in those participants who were suffering from PTSD.
The researchers put it best in the study, writing that “THC modulates threat-related processing in trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD” and adding that medical cannabis “may prove advantageous as a pharmacological approach to treating stress- and trauma-related psychopathology.”
Other research has also shown potential in reducing the horrific flashbacks and memories of the traumatic events suffered by those with PTSD. Researchers from Brazil’s Federal University of Parana suggested that cannabis may be able to help PTSD patients “overwrite” traumatic memories with new memories in a process called ‘extinction learning.’
The researchers pored over published cannabis studies from 1974 to 2020, looking for evidence from controlled human trials to support or refute the theory that cannabis helps with the ‘extinction’ of traumatic memories. They concluded that THC and CBD both played vital roles in helping people with PTSD to reduce their overall response to stressful stimuli, flashbacks, and traumatic memories and to work towards the ‘extinction’ of the traumatic memories causing issues in the first place.
Pairing Cannabis with PTSD Other Treatment
While the research suggests that cannabis can help those with PTSD suffer less explosive reactions to stressful stimuli, help them deal with their traumatic memories, and live more normal lives overall, cannabis alone may not be enough for someone dealing with PTSD.
Just like any other medical treatment, the use of medical cannabis to treat PTSD should be a decision between the patient and their certified cannabis doctor. And while the overall acceptance of medical cannabis is spreading throughout the U.S. and the world like wildfire, there are still vast portions of the country where those with PTSD are forced to self-medicate with illegal black market cannabis to get any relief from their symptoms. Research shows that 65 percent of people with PTSD report having used marijuana at some point in their lifetime (compared to only 41 percent of people without PTSD), and 14 percent of people with PTSD had used it in the past year (compared to 9 percent of people without PTSD).
It’s also important to understand that therapy is essential to helping someone suffering from PTSD. Trauma-focused treatments like prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and regular visits to mental health professionals are essential to helping someone with PTSD on their road to recovery. Medical cannabis itself can’t replace these critical pieces in treatment, but it can help ease one’s symptoms and complement the therapies and mental health treatments they’re receiving.
Download Guide To Anxiety and Medical Cannabis
Just like any other medication, cannabis isn’t likely going to be the magic substance that fixes any problems you have. It’s important to consult with licensed cannabis doctors, like the ones Leafwell connects their patients to, and to pair your medical cannabis with other forms of treatment.
Remember, PTSD is a universal condition across all states with a medical marijuana program. Get certified for medical cannabis today and from the comfort of your home. Leafwell is quick, easy, and HIPAA compliant. You can start your journey now.