Although further research is needed, studies indicate that medical cannabis can help those suffering from PTSD manage the condition — veterans, law enforcement professionals, and other first responders especially.
Ohio’s recent approval of medical marijuana as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may bring relief to the 10% of Americans who suffer from the condition — and the 10% to 20% of veterans, law enforcement professionals, and other first responders who are especially prone to it. While medical marijuana (also known as medical cannabis) has not yet received approval at the federal level, Ohio joins a growing roster of states that have okayed the substance for use in connection with certain conditions, PTSD among them.
Although further research into the efficacy of medical marijuana is needed when it comes to treating PTSD, some studies indicate that active compounds in cannabis can offer relief to patients. Since PTSD patients experience difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, and irritability — among other symptoms — developing an understanding of how medical marijuana can benefit those who are struggling to process traumatic events should be a priority.
Understanding PTSD and Medical Cannabis
Patients suffering from PTSD exhibit abnormalities tied to the fear center of the brain, the executive functioning center of the brain, and the memory center of the brain. Taken together, these can trigger fear responses, cause unwanted thoughts, instigate flashbacks and nightmares, and complicate impulse control. According to research, PTSD decreases the baseline cortisol level in the brain, which causes a negative feedback loop that leads to “hyperarousal” and “hypervigilance.”
Antidepressants are the most common treatment recommended for PTSD. However, their use has been met with mixed results, and those with combat-related trauma such as veterans are especially resistant to pharmacotherapy.
While antidepressants are not always successful, medical marijuana may benefit those suffering from PTSD. Cannabis includes compounds known as cannabinoids: THC, the psychoactive compound within cannabis, and CBD, a non-psychoactive compound with antipsychotic properties. Both compounds stimulate cannabinoid receptors, a reaction that can increase stress-coping capacity, boost serotonin and norepinephrine firing, and mitigate anxiety and depression.
Treating PTSD with Medical Marijuana
Given the potential for medical marijuana to benefit patients suffering from PTSD, experts are calling for greater research into its effects.
For example, a first-of-its-kind study conducted by Marcel Bonn-Miller, Ph.D., and Sue Sisley, M.D., may help medical professionals, lawmakers, and patients better understand the effects of medical marijuana on PTSD. As part of the study, Bonn-Miller and Sisley will examine the effects of four strains of medical marijuana on veterans: a strain high in THC, another high in CBD, a blend of equal parts THC and CBD, and a placebo.
While Bonn-Miller and Sisley’s $2.2-million study — funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment — is still ongoing, Sisley told Scientific American that “[W]e have had almost 30 veterans who have completed the 10-week protocol and the study is progressing well.”
The Bottom Line
Although marijuana remains a Schedule I-controlled substance at the federal level, Ohio’s approval of medical cannabis for treatment of PTSD is an opportunity for the state’s residents suffering from the condition to explore unconventional treatment options. If you’re struggling with PTSD and you’re curious about medical marijuana, schedule a consultation with the Lakewood Medical Clinic today.