New Study Shows Evidence That Low-Dose THC Could Help Treat Veteran PTSD

New research has found further evidence that cannabis, specifically THC in low doses, can be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A study published in the journal Neuropharmacology by researchers from Wayne State University showed evidence of low doses of THC helping treat those who suffer from PTSD. The study, officially named “Cannabinoid modulation of brain activation during volitional regulation of negative affect in trauma-exposed adults,” aimed to learn more about how THC affects certain parts of the brain.

Many studies on the effects of cannabis and PTSD have come before but this one is one of the first to explore how THC affects the corticolimbic brain activation. “Prior research among healthy subjects suggests that an acute, low dose of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could attenuate the neurophysiological discrepancies that exist between individuals with and without PTSD during tasks of emotional processing; however, the effect of an acute, low dose of THC on corticolimbic activity during emotion regulation among individuals with PTSD has not yet been studied,” researchers wrote in their abstract.

This was a double-blind study that featured 51 participants; each one was given either a 7.5 mg THC capsule or a placebo. Once administered, participants were instructed to perform tasks that utilized their cognitive reappraisal, or altering negative thought patterns. “Cognitive reappraisal is one therapeutic emotion regulation strategy that has been widely studied among individuals with mood and anxiety disorders, and numerous differences in brain activation patterns have been shown between individuals with and without PTSD during tasks of cognitive reappraisal,” researchers wrote.

Participants were scanned by an FMRI machine, and researchers asked questions about their emotions. Researchers found that the brain activity of those consuming THC were different than the placebo group, specifically in the angular gyrus (which is related to functions such as attention or spatial cognition) and posterior cingulate cortex (related to conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury). “Together these findings suggest that THC may prove to be a beneficial pharmacological adjunct to cognitive reappraisal therapy in the treatment of PTSD,” researchers concluded.

According to a post by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on June 15, veterans are more likely to commit suicide due to the devastating situations they encounter during their military service. “While anyone can experience suicide risks, certain groups have substantially higher rates of suicide than the general U.S. population. Veterans bear a disproportionate but preventable burden,” the CDC wrote. “Tragically, out of the 130 suicides per day in 2019, 17 of those lives lost were veterans. In 2019, among the average 17.2 Veteran suicides per day, an estimated 6.8 suicides per day were among those with [Veteran Health Administration] (VHA) encounters in 2018 or 2019, whereas 10.4 per day were among Veterans with no VHA encounter in 2018 or 2019. Veteran suicide-related deaths are also increasing at a greater rate than that of the general U.S. population. From 2001 to 2019, the rate of suicide among Veterans increased nearly 36% relative to an increase of 30% in the general population.”

While the CDC is striving to work with organizations to provide support to veterans, cannabis has been proven to be a useful aid in treating the many conditions that veterans suffer from, post-military service.

Major organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced earlier this year that it was granted $12.9 million to study cannabis and PTSD. Longtime veteran and cannabis researcher, Dr. Sue Sisley, explained how important it is that evidence be built up in favor of cannabis and PTSD treatments for veterans. Suicide among veterans is an urgent public health crisis, but it’s solvable if we invest in researching new treatments for pain, depression, and PTSD,” said Sisley. “This grant enables more rigorous study, overseen by the FDA, which may lead to cannabis flower becoming prescribable medicine someday. Veterans are demanding objective cannabis drug development research, and the state of Michigan is fulfilling our collective obligation to our beloved Veteran community.”

Other researchers are working on studies that examine how cannabis can benefit PTSD symptoms as well. One particular study found that long term consumption of cannabis can cause a reduction in symptoms over time.

In June, Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers spoke up about how psychedelics such as MDMA and psilocybin could also be effective for treatment as well.

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