Cannabis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is defined by the National Center for PTSD as, "a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault." Many of us who have gone through a traumatic event can experience upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after this type of event. They go on, "at first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. If it's been longer than a few months and you're still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time." An estimated 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at least once in their lives and up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop PTSD.
Cannabis has been considered a long time substance used by individuals with anxiety disorders to alleviate feelings of uncertainty or fear, flashbacks of bad memories, and so on. Evidence is beginning to show that cannabis could effectively treat PTSD. The persistence of PTSD over time is attributed to changes in brain chemistry that occur at the time of the trauma, when adrenaline and stress hormones are hyper-responsive. At this time, there exist no current specialized, effective medications available for PTSD patients. Many pharmaceutical treatments have a number of side effects. Enter cannabis, the key to unlocking receptors in every human's endocannabinoid system!
Leafly's Bailey Rahn reports, "One investigator of PTSD and cannabis is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Martin Lee is a MAPS affiliate and director of Project CBD, and has studied PTSD and cannabinoids in depth."
"Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD,” Lee wrote, “Innate to all mammals, anandamide (our inner cannabis, so to speak) triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant.”
Lee continues, "Scientists have determined that normal CB-1 receptor signaling deactivates traumatic memories and endows it with the gift of forgetting,” Lee said, “But skewed CB-1 signaling, due to endocannabinoid deficits (low serum levels of anandamide), results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the hallmarks of PTSD.”
In other words, PTSD creates an endocannabinoid deficiency. They body's ability to to produce enough endocannabinoids and fill receptor sites is hindered. By replenishing these missing endocannabinoids with those found in cannabis, researchers think marijuana pharmaceuticals might bring PTSD patients relief from their memories.
As the tide changes and legalization of cannabis continues, more and more people can benefit from this great plant. However, since it's still a federally scheduled substance limiting research and development--it's always a good idea to consult a medical professional before treating symptoms with cannabis. At that, many veterans with PTSD cannot have safe access to cannabis without going through some hoops. So be well, stay informed and remember to call your government representatives to aid in the cause for safe access for anyone who can benefit from this amazing plant!
Information courtesy of U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Leafly.com. Read the full article about the effects of cannabis and PTSD by Bailey Rahn at Leafly here.