Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety condition caused by a traumatic experience like military combat. In many states with medical marijuana, PTSD is one of the qualifying conditions. Here’s everything you need to know about PTSD and cannabis.
Controlling Learned Fears
Research has found ample evidence that fear learning contributes significantly to many anxiety pathologies, including PTSD. Learned fear from a traumatic experience can trigger fight or flight reflexes at inappropriate times.
For example, a soldier who ran over a bag which contained an IED could be put into a panic by a similar-looking bag in an ordinary and safe shopping mall. As a result, adrenaline and stress levels get out of whack, causing changes in brain chemistry.
Scientists have found CB-1 receptors signal the deactivation of traumatic memories. People with PTSD have been found to have an endocannabinoid deficiency. There is a theory that cannabinoids from cannabis can fill the void left by a lack of endocannabinoids.
Many medications for treating PTSD offer temporary relief at best and come with adverse side effects.
Ways Cannabis Can Help
Research published last year on CBD revealed a potential for treating anxiety-related disorders. CBD is the main non-psychoactive component of cannabis. It has medicinal properties and can be consumed without getting an individual high.
One way PTSD patients have been coping with learned fears is with exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is when someone with PTSD is exposed to stimuli that trigger their traumatic memory in a safe space. The goal is to desensitize the patient to the trigger. This process is referred to as extinction.
CBD can enhance extinction, which could help PTSD patients inhibit learned fears. Ingesting CBD can also decrease fear expression and disrupt memory reconsolidation which is responsible for strengthening long-term memories.
Certain states that didn’t previously allow PTSD patients to acquire medical marijuana are coming around because of the research in favor of cannabis as an alternative treatment. In fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation just this month granting police officers, firefighters and war veterans suffering from PTSD access to medical marijuana.
“Many of our veterans are suffering from PTSD and the medical community has determined that marijuana can be helpful treatment in some areas,” Cuomo said during the Veterans Day parade. “And part of our commitment to do everything we can do if there are veterans who are suffering and we can make a treatment available, we want to.”
Final Hit: Can Cannabis Help PTSD Patients?
From the sounds of it, cannabis certainly has the potential to help PTSD patients. The way the main psychoactive and non-psychoactive cannabinoids impact memory can be beneficial to PTSD patients. More research on cannabis and PTSD is necessary for a more definite answer. Medical marijuana patients in several states have the option to use cannabis to treat their PTSD. Unfortunately, until cannabis is made federally legal, there will be many PTSD patients with no alternative to inefficient pills with unwanted side effects.