Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When most people hear this phrase, their initial thought goes to the soldier whose been in combat and comes home to “regular” life again and is having a difficult time adjusting. But PTSD applies to people who have lived and survived ANY sort of shocking, scary or dangerous event, including abuse, accidents, violence, sexual assaults, etc. People can even develop PTSD from dealing with a family member or close friend experiencing a dangerous event as well.
Not everyone will suffer from PTSD after trauma, but enough people do for it to be a major public health concern, and unfortunately many of the conventional methods of addressing it have not proven very effective for those suffering from this disorder that can be totally debilitating and completely devastate a person’s personal and professional life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 7-8 people out of every 100 will experience PTSD symptoms, either acute, chronic or both, at some point in their lives. Women are more likely to experience PTSD, and there are genetic factors that make some people more prone to experiencing it than others. Symptoms include but are not isolated to being hypervigilant, having persistent, intrusive recollections, re-experiencing traumatic events whether being through nightmares, flashbacks, or dreams, being numb, avoidance, feeling tense, on edge, difficulties sleeping, increased arousal, and angry outbursts.
So what can we do? A lot! When it comes to mental health disorders such as PTSD there are many holistic therapies that have proven effective for a lot of people. A combination of therapies is often what works for many people, including things like talk and cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, bio/neurofeedback, somatic therapies, and cannabis have all proven to be a welcome addition to PTSD treatment for many of its sufferers.
Studies have found that an overwhelming amount of people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder self-medicate with cannabis, so learning more about how cannabis affects our mental and emotional health should be a top priority for researchers and the medical community. There needs to be more research regarding the efficacy of cannabis for PTSD as most is preliminary, inconclusive, and conflicting, so currently most evidence of its effectiveness is anecdotal, but given the positive impact many have reported when including cannabis in their toolbox for managing PTSD symptoms, this cannot be ignored and should be a consideration for those who are open to it.
Since the first two endogenous (inside the body) cannabinoids were discovered and isolated in the 1970s, anandamide and 2-arachdonyl glycerol, along with their receptor systems located throughout the brain, nervous system, gut, liver and many other organs, we now know that the human body contains an endocannabinoid system that that is essential to daily biofunction. This is convincing evidence that humans have co-evolved with the Cannabis plant for thousands of years! The endocannabinoid system plays a large role in managing the stress responses within the human body, along with the hypothalamic-adrenal axis (HPA axis)and greatly affects and can cause pathology within all systems within the body.
There is a great deal of research that supports cannabis having the ability to greatly help reduce and mitigate many symptoms and disorders that occur on a physiological level due to stress response. Research shows that up to 90% of PTSD sufferers self-medicate with cannabis, but is not known whether the use of THC containing cannabis, especially those with higher concentrations, improves or worsens PTSD symptoms in users, so it’s important to find a provider who can work with you in finding the best way to use cannabis to help manage your PTSD.
The growing trend of increasing THC content, the most researched psychoactive compound, in cannabis strains makes research difficult however, as there is also some belief that these higher in concentration cannabis products can actually produce feelings of anxiety or exacerbate other mental health issues. All cannabis strains and products are not equal, so being well informed about the products one uses is key to responsibly using cannabis to help with PTSD.
Since there is some correlation between the increase in THC in cannabis through cross breeding having the potential to exacerbate symptoms in those with a predisposition to mental health disorders, using cannabis products that are lower in THC, and higher in cannabidiol (CBD) may help mitigate some of these effects that the psychoactive high THC containing products may have. CBD, another now popular cannabinoid found in cannabis that has a growing body of research, is the latest trend in the natural products industry for products for everything to pain relief, to digestive health and for skin and body care. Since CBD is shown to have effects to help relieve anxiety, pain, digestive, disorders, while not producing the strong psychoactive effects that THC does, it is favorable to THC containing cannabis by a lot of people.
Increased THC content has also been shown to downregulate the endocannabinoid functioning in the limbic system, where emotions are processed, and there are a great deal of studies linking heavy cannabis use in adolescence with symptoms of major depressive disorder in adulthood. So after a couple of decades of cross breeding to increase THC content in plants, some growers are now breeding plants to be lower in THC and higher in CBD. And some products contain isolated CBD only, often obtained from hemp plants, and they can be sold in regular stores and are not subject to the same regulations as products containing THC, meaning they are more accessible to everyone. Since there is also some links between the increasing concentrations of THC in cannabis producing unfavorable results for those with a predisposition to mental health disorders, using cannabis products that are lower in THC, and higher in CBD may help mitigate some of these effects that the psychoactivity of high THC containing products may have for some people.
A synthetic THC derivative called nabilone has proven effective at reducing the frequency of both nightmares and daytime flashbacks in those suffering from PTSD. There is also evidence that using 5 mg/kg of THC per day in conjunction with psychiatric drugs can be effective at improving sleep quality, reducing nightmares, and reducing overall symptoms of PTSD. Please make sure to always consult with a qualified healthcare professional when you are using any herb, drug or substance to address your PTSD, especially if you are already taking psychiatric medications, as your safety is the utmost importance.
PTSD is a condition that most people have difficulty getting through on their own, it is normal to need and ask for help in dealing with yours as it takes a team effort and a lot of support. The National Center for PTSD at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/ can help you find doctors and groups that can be helpful in your journey navigating this condition. Miale Cannabis clinic is here to help you navigate this journey in Hawaii.
PTSD: National Center for PTSD Home. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/ PTSD: For Patients & Families. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families NIMH » Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml PTSD: National Center for PTSD Home. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/ Parker, L. (2017). Cannabinoids and the Brain. Cambridge, MA.