Medical marijuana is one of the most ancient natural remedies used by humans to treat a lot of different conditions. From stress to chronic pain, the chemical compounds found in cannabis are known for their beneficial effects on many physical and psychological conditions. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a crippling disorder that prevents many people from living normal, satisfying lives.
Cannabis has often been used as an alternative medicine to fight off the anxiety associated with PTSD. Government funded studies point their finger at marijuana, claiming that this natural remedy worsens PTSD and can even lead to a dangerous “marijuana abuse disorder.” Several other independent studies, however, provided many interesting insights on the possible helpful effects of the cannabinoids to treat anxiety and depression.
Can medical marijuana be effectively used to treat or, at least, reduce the symptoms of PTSD?
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious anxiety disorder that develops after a life-threatening or traumatic accident such as physical or psychological violence, sexual abuse, war or near-death experiences. Symptoms include disturbing flashbacks, sleep disorders, anger, recurrent re-experiencing of the traumatic event and a phobia of anything that reminds the victim of the frightful experience. Some individuals develop PTSD months or even years after the traumatic event occurred.
Once known as “shell shock” or “Combat Stress Reaction,” PTSD is a common occurrence in soldiers and veterans. It has been described as a consequence of exposure to war and violence during World War I and II. While PTSD usually affects 7-8% of the population, this percentage may increase anywhere from 250%-286% in military personnel, up to 20% of the military population.
How can medical marijuana help cope with PTSD?
Current treatments for PTSD include psychological support in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and prescription medications such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and anti-anxiety drugs. However, most of these drugs are quite unspecific and often fail to provide relief from PTSD symptoms, especially in the most severe forms. Side effects can also be a serious burden, and prevent many military personnel from functioning normally once they get back to their civilian jobs.
On the other hand, many people affected by this condition report that marijuana is much more successful in reducing their symptoms than any other medication currently available.
Marijuana affects the body via cannabinoids, a group of chemical substances that react with specific receptors located throughout the various organs and brain. These receptors form a larger system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates many body functions such as pain transmission, stress reactions and recovery and the immune response to foreign agents. Medical marijuana can then alter both physical and mental symptoms of many conditions by interacting with the ECS receptors scattered throughout the body.
According to recent research, people affected by PTSD have reduced levels of a cannabinoid which should normally be produced by our body known as anandamide. This compound activates the same receptors triggered by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a major component of the marijuana plant.
Following this theory, we know PTSD causes an endocannabinoid deficiency which can be then treated by simply supplementing it with cannabis. When this substance is replenished, patients can find relief from their memories while they continue their healing process.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is another major component of marijuana that is known for its effectiveness in reducing fear, anxiety and reducing the psychoactive side effects of THC. Different strains can have significantly different concentrations of THC and CBD, ranging from 1% to as high as 90%. This difference may be the reason why some strains are more effective than others in treating PTSD.
If I suffer from PTSD, is it legal to use medical marijuana?
This depends on the state you live in. For example: In California it’s legal to use medical marijuana for all patients who received a “written or oral recommendation” from their physician since the Ballot Proposition 215 was approved in 1996, and sparked a new wave of medical practice. Qualified patients who can benefit from the medical use of cannabis must obtain legitimate medical documentation or a written certificate describing their diagnosis before being able to legally buy it. Many doctors now routinely recommend medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD as well as many other psychological disorders.
High-quality weed delivery SF can be easily found online, as many licensed dispensaries deliver medical marijuana and other products such as concentrates and tinctures 24/7 to anywhere in the city. If you have your medical recommendation, you qualify for these services, and PTSD qualifies.
People who suffer from PTSD should check their state laws to make sure. Even if medical marijuana is allowed, you may be surprised to find the illnesses it’s restricted to.
Major contributions to this story by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.
- Gabbay, V., Oatis, M.D., Silva, R.R., & Hirsch, G. (2004). Epidemiological aspects of PTSD in children and adolescents. In Raul R. Silva (Ed.), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Handbook (1-17). New York: Norton.
- A Neumeister, M D Normandin, R H Pietrzak, et al. Elevated brain cannabinoid CB1 receptor availability in post-traumatic stress disorder: a positron emission tomography study. Molecular Psychiatry, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2013.61
- Trezza V, Campolongo P. The endocannabinoid system as a possible target to treat both the cognitive and emotional features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Front Behav Neurosci. 2013 Aug 9;7:100.