Is Cannabis a Cure for PTSD? Some Believe the Answer is Yes.
PTSD is among one of the most common diagnoses in the US. How can medical marijuana help?
Over the summer, the Department of Veterans Affairs made the news for its opposition to using—or even researching—medical marijuana for treatment of PTSD and chronic pain among US veterans. The fact that our American veterans are stigmatized for using a promising form of natural medicine to alleviate lifelong symptoms associated with serving our country is an absolute tragedy.
Add to this the millions of civilians living with life-changing conditions that could be improved with cannabis, and it doesn’t seem like a stretch to lump the misunderstanding about our favorite plant into the pile of ongoing health crises in the US.
Is There Really Not Enough Research on Cannabis to Constitute More Research?
One of the major arguments against using cannabis to treat conditions, is that there isn’t enough research to support therapeutic use. The evidence is mostly through self-reports, and clinical experiments are limited.
While it is true that doing clinical experimentation using cannabis in the US is challenging enough to be prohibitive, there are some observational studies that show us just how much we could benefit from a better understanding of medical marijuana.
Additionally, Israel has become a world leader in cannabis research, and the studies coming out of the small country contribute significantly to the notion that we should be taking medical marijuana as seriously as we took Penicillin during WWII.
Why is it So Important to Understand How Cannabis Can Treat PTSD?
In this post, we are going to focus on one of America’s most common conditions treatable with medical marijuana: PTSD. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as much as six percent of the general population, and somewhere between 11 and 30% of veterans, have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD is generally resistant to drug therapies alone, and it is often accompanied with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
Anyone using medical marijuana to treat their PTSD should certainly work with a licensed mental health professional to properly address the issues related to trauma, but one study indicated that those who use cannabis are 2.5 times more likely to completely recover. Patients also experienced a greater reduction in symptom severity in comparison to those who were given a placebo.
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
The impact of the symptoms of PTSD can be devastating. Cannabis works to treat some of the underlying issues related to PTSD, thereby helping patients recover from the condition and take control of their lives again.
Some of the most distressing symptoms include:
Reliving the traumatic event over and over
Avoidance of reminders of the event
Hopelessness and depression
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
Always being on guard
How Does Cannabis Benefit Patients With PTSD?
There are a couple of ways that medical marijuana helps patients with PTSD recover permanently, and they are both associated with specific functions within the brain related to anxiety and the formation of new memories.
More and more research indicates that cannabis use can lead to a blunted (pun only slightly intended) stress response. In one study, when subjects were exposed to a stressful situation, the experimental group (cannabis-users) had significantly lower cortisol levels than the control group (non-users).
Some people swear by medical marijuana for their anxiety, and others say it makes things worse. Researchers in a 2017 study of the effects of cannabis on the Hippocampus propose a U-shaped response related to dose and intensity of symptoms.
In other words, less cannabis leads to heightened anxiety. Too much cannabis also does. But that sweet spot for dosing means the anxiety melts away.
Extinction Learning/New Memories
Reduced anxiety during exposure to stressful events may be the key to everything when it comes to treating PTSD.
The challenge with finding a cure for this condition is the fact that those who have it experience every reminder as if the original traumatizing event were happening over again. It becomes impossible to form new related memories free of trauma, because the body and mind keep registering that same trauma time and time again.
Because medical marijuana helps to mute the anxiety response to threatening events, people living with PTSD can start forming new memories adjacent to the traumatic memories. While the traumatic memories never go away, they are eventually at least partially replaced with new memories that do not involve stressful events. This is known as extinction learning.
The other major way that medical marijuana can help people living with PTSD start to feel better, is by improving their sleep quality. Poor sleep can leave you feeling irritable, anxious, and unable to concentrate. Self care becomes nearly impossible when you are deprived of sleep for more than a few days—and people who have PTSD may never get a good night’s sleep.
Some strains of medical marijuana are better for sleep than others, but those with a high CBD to THC ratio are favored. When patients with PTSD can get a proper night’s sleep, they have more space to care for themselves in healing ways, more energy to put into important relationships that provide support, and more focus to take deep breaths and try to relax when it’s most important.
If You Are Living With PTSD, Medical Marijuana May Help
If you are living with PTSD and would like to improve the quality of your day-to-day experiences, medical marijuana may help you take back control of your life. It’s one of the more desirable treatment methods among veterans, and (combined with therapy) it may help patients completely recover.
You don’t have to make the decision about using cannabis for your condition on your own. The health professionals at Virginia Marijuana Card are here to discuss your options and help you figure out if medical marijuana is right for you.
Give our patient support experts a call at (888) 633-5808, or schedule an appointment to see a practitioner today!
Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.
At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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