How does Marijuana Help with PTSD?

A lot of people call cannabis a “magic herb.” And it’s not really surprising. In fact, the plant deserves a status no less than this. After all, it helps people deal with so many different medical conditions, including pain, inflammation, anxiety, etc.

But do you know cannabis may also help people with post-traumatic stress disorder?

Not a new thing?

I agree. Marijuana, in fact, is being used as a self-medicating drug for this condition for the past many years. However, due to the illegal status of the drug for so long, the studies in its favor have actually emerged very recently, after the legalization of cannabis. And these studies have tempted a whole new set of patients to apply for a marijuana card

But is the herb really that effective for PTSD? 

Well, the studies are quite positive. So, let’s see how the cannabis plant may help people fight the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Understanding the Condition

Before we get on to how cannabis may help you with the condition, let’s first understand what this condition itself is.

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that is a result of having an experience with something extremely dangerous or shocking. In other words, if a person goes through something very traumatic, such as a near-death experience or the demise of a loved one, etc., they may develop this condition. Such events, in many cases, may trigger the natural defense system of the body, which leads to the development of a “fight or flight” response. Though, in most cases, the response is quite short-lived, sometimes, this may live on for a long time after the traumatic event. This is what we know as PTSD.

However, you should note that not all traumatic experiences result in PTSD. And not every person with such experience develops this condition.

Symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD may start showing themselves within a period of three months after the event. However, it may sometimes take several years to develop completely.

Here are a few symptoms that a person with PTSD usually has:

  • One or more re-experiencing symptoms, such as frightening thoughts, bad dreams, flashbacks, etc. These may also include some physical symptoms, such as sweating or heart racing.
  • One or more avoidance symptoms, such as keeping a distance from an object or a place that may remind the person of the traumatic event.
  • Two or more reactivity symptoms, such as feeling tense, difficulty in sleeping, getting startled easily, etc.
  • Two or more mood and cognition symptoms. For example, thinking negatively about oneself, feeling of guilt, or not being able to remember certain things, etc.

If these symptoms persist for more than one month, the person may have PTSD.

Why Not to Use Pharmaceuticals for PTSD?

The typical treatment of PTSD includes a combination of medicines and therapy. And the most commonly used medications include antidepressants, such as Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac. These drugs usually work on PTSD by increasing the serotonin level inside the brain.

However, according to some experts, these drugs may not be as effective as thought to be. They say that though the response rate of these pharmaceutical drugs is around 60 percent in PTSD patients, the percentage of patients who actually get complete relief is quite low comparatively (20 to 30 percent). Furthermore, these pharmaceutical drugs have several unwanted side effects too, including nausea, headache, drowsiness, and sexual dysfunction, etc.

Many doctors say that we don’t have a true idea of what is the best conventional treatment for PTSD. And several experts say that PTSD patients who consume cannabis usually get a better relief as compared to pharmaceutical drugs. 

Medical Marijuana for PTSD

So, should you apply for an MMJ card for managing PTSD? Well, the data suggests so. 

As per the reports until now, a lot of PTSD patients have seen positive results from using cannabis for their condition. But let’s not focus on this anecdotal evidence right now, and turn to something concrete. 

In a study conducted in 2009 on 80 PTSD patients, it was found that after giving cannabis, the participants saw an improvement of at least 75 percent in their symptoms. 

A review published in 2015 in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists also concluded that there are a number of military veterans who use cannabis to manage their PTSD symptoms. And many of them reported a significant reduction in their anxiety levels and insomnia. Furthermore, cannabis also helped them improve their coping capabilities.

How Cannabis Helps PTSD Patients?

As per the research on the subject, there is a link between PTSD and anandamide, a cannabinoid compound that can be considered your body’s natural antidepressant. A person with PTSD often has a very low level of anandamide as compared to a healthy individual. And when the level of anandamide is low, it may result in increased anxiety, chronic fear, and many other symptoms.

According to the studies, anandamide triggers the exact same receptors in the brain that THC, a famous cannabis compound, does. And this is the reason why cannabis helps people with PTSD. In the absence of anandamide, when a person consumes cannabis, the THC binds with the CB1 receptors inside the brain. This helps the patient decrease the feeling of sadness and threat, and improves their brain function.

Cannabis and Nightmares

Nightmares are also one of the major symptoms of PTSD, with more than 50 percent of military veterans experiencing these. And here too, the pharmaceutical drugs have shown the mixed results at best. On the other hand, recent studies suggest that some specific compounds of cannabis may help PTSD patients reduce these incidences of nightmares. 

One of the most compelling proofs comes from a clinical trial in Canada, which used a synthetic cannabinoid called nabilone for the purpose. The results of the trial suggest that out of all the PTSD patients who were given nabilone during the study, around 72 percent experienced either a complete halt or at least a significant reduction in their nightmare intensity. Some even saw an improvement in their sleep time and the quality of sleep.

Final Thoughts

The above evidence clearly suggest that cannabis may be helpful for people with PTSD. However, if you are thinking of getting a medical marijuana card for this condition, we recommend you consult a qualified doctor first. Cannabis is a very useful yet complicated drug. And thus, before trying it out, it’s better to seek professional advice. Once your doctor is satisfied that it may help you, you may apply for an MMJ card anytime you want.