PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that develops in individuals who experience or witness traumatizing events, such as military combat, physical or sexual abuse, accidents, or natural disasters. PTSD can manifest itself in different ways, including flashbacks, nightmares and avoidance behaviors. It can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide. While traditional medications and therapies can help manage the symptoms of PTSD, many individuals find relief with medical cannabis.
Cannabinoids and Endocannabinoids
Cannabis plants are a rich source of cannabinoids, which include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Our body naturally produces its own cannabinoids called endocannabinoids, which bind with the cannabinoid receptors in our brain and nervous system. These receptors are responsible for regulating mood, emotions, and behavior, and play a crucial role in managing PTSD symptoms. THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, activates the receptors and alters the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety, fear, and stress.
Anxiety and Fear Reduction
One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is anxiety, which can lead to a range of behavioral and physiological responses. Cannabis can help reduce anxiety and fear by activating the cannabinoid receptors and promoting relaxation. THC can also improve mood and feelings of euphoria, which can help individuals feel more positive and less anxious.
THC binds to receptors in the brain that affect mood and behavior. It’s known to stimulate the production of dopamine, which creates feelings of euphoria, pleasure, and relaxation. Studies suggest that individuals who consume THC report a reduction in their anxiety levels. A survey conducted on 170 PD patients found that the use of cannabis oil reduced anxiety symptoms scores in 79.2% of the patients. However, It’s important to realize that everyone’s body and cannabinoid receptors are diverse, so it might not be effective for everyone.
Sleep and Nightmares
PTSD often causes nightmares and sleep disturbances, which can lead to further anxiety and negative emotions. Medical cannabis can help improve sleep quality, increase total sleep time, and reduce the frequency of nightmares. THC has been found to enhance the slow-wave sleep, which is crucial in promoting restful sleep and improving memory.
THC has been known to promote sleep by relaxing the body and mind, however, smoking weed and then sleeping carries its own risks. Not only does smoking marijuana damage the lungs and respiratory system, but it can also affect the quality of sleep that you receive. While THC can help cope with insomnia, it’s essential to trust the source and quality of your marijuana and consume it cautiously. A common mistake is taking too much and causing the opposite effect of anxiety because consumed in high doses, THC can aggravate anxiety prompting paranoia.
Pain and Inflammation
PTSD can also cause physical pain and inflammation, which can exacerbate the emotional symptoms. The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties of medical cannabis can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and improve overall physical well-being. CBD, the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis, has been found to be particularly effective in managing pain and inflammation, without the psychoactive effects of THC.
Scientists only recently found evidence of the ECS when they discovered CB1 in 1988, so research is still ongoing into exactly how it functions. However, most data find that it helps our bodies regulate pain, mood, appetite, gastrointestinal motility, memory, emotions, stress response, immune function, and more. Researchers are even exploring the use of cannabis in assisted psychotherapy to help with addiction and depression.
Addiction and Substance Abuse
Many individuals with PTSD turn to alcohol and other drugs to cope with the symptoms, which can lead to addiction and substance abuse disorders. Cannabis has been found to be a safer and effective alternative to alcohol and other drugs for managing PTSD symptoms. It can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, without the risk of overdose or addiction.
Do I qualify for a medical card in my state?
Currently, several states include PTSD in the list of qualifying conditions for patients interested in receiving a medical marijuana card. To learn more about the laws in your state and qualifying conditions, explore our State by State blog.
New Mexico became the first state to specifically list PTSD as a qualifying condition in 2009. Now, all but two of the medical cannabis programs allow medical cannabis for PTSD and twenty-nine states (and Guam) specifically list it as a qualifying condition, including Ohio. Although PTSD is not a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in Alaska or South Dakota, both states have enacted laws to allow all adults 21 and older to use and access cannabis.
Medical cannabis can be a valuable tool for individuals with PTSD who are struggling to manage their symptoms. Cannabis can help reduce anxiety, fear, and stress, improve sleep quality, alleviate pain and inflammation, and reduce the risk of addiction and substance abuse. If you are considering medical cannabis as a treatment option for PTSD, schedule an appointment with our licensed physicians and explore the different strains and methods of consumption that may work best for you. With the right dosage and guidance, medical cannabis can be an effective and safe way to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD and improve overall well-being.