“It’s a war within yourself that never goes away.”
-Quote from Buried Above Ground documentary
Picture yourself experiencing the same scenario over and over again. It’s kind of like you’re in the movie “Groundhog’s Day,” only instead of repeating a day, you keep repeating a traumatic event. The slightest trigger could set that past trauma in motion, causing you to experience debilitating physical and psychological symptoms. That’s what it’s like for a person who has PTSD.
Medical cannabis can offer a remedy to people living with PTSD. People experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder report that cannabis reduces the severity of their symptoms by more than half. The study published in Journal of Affective Disorders showed medicinal cannabis reduced the severity of intrusions and reoccurring thoughts of a traumatic event by about 62%; flashbacks by 51%, irritability by 67%, and anxiety by 57%.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a debilitating illness where victims experience threatening or traumatic events such as physical injury, a near-death experience, combat-related trauma, sexual assault, interpersonal conflicts, child abuse or a medical illness. Victims can experience the traumatic event once or over a long period of time. The exposure can be real or a perceived threat.
A complex phenomenon, PTSD has the potential to affect 61% to 80% of people. Studies show that after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, the post-stress response can occur in about 5% to 10% of the population. Women are more at risk of experiencing PTSD symptoms than men are.
Who’s at risk for developing PTSD?
Many risk factors can cause PTSD. Some of these include childhood adversities, pre-existing mental illness, low socioeconomic status, people with less education, and social support.
Symptoms Of PTSD
Symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person which include:
- Recurrent memories of the traumatic event
- Recurrent dreams or nightmares of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Severe emotional distress or physical outbursts to something that reminds you of the trauma
How does PTSD affect the body?
PTSD can affect the body in profound ways, causing body aches, decreased immune system, heart and respiratory problems, and increased psychiatric illnesses. For many people who have PTSD, symptoms can cause them to ‘disassociate,’ a feeling of leaving the person’s consciousness. People who have PTSD also have a higher risk of suicide.
Is Medical Cannabis A Viable Option?
People diagnosed with PTSD and who have exhibited the symptoms outlined above have reported using cannabis to cope with their PTSD symptoms.
A recent study of 150 participants who used medicinal and recreational cannabis over a period of one year for symptoms of PTSD found a greater decrease in symptoms than participants who did not use cannabis products.
The endocannabinoid system in the human body is responsible for regulating and balancing many processes, which include: immune response, memory, and increase stress coping behaviors. Endocannabinoids increase serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
Cannabis contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive component that makes you “high.” As THC is ingested into the body, it binds to receptors involved in the endocannabinoid system.
Researchers at NYU found that individuals with PTSD had significantly lower levels of the neurotransmitter anandamide, which closely resembles THC, than the general population. These neurotransmitters have the power to impair memory, which can decrease traumatic flashbacks and anxiety.
Studies had also shown improvement in sleep quality, decrease in nightmares, and hyperarousal when medicinal cannabis was used to address symptoms of PTSD.
A Canadian study with 24,089 participants found that medicinal cannabis significantly reduced suicide rates in PTSD patients.
People who experience PTSD are known to use cannabis to relieve symptoms that may make their lives difficult to live on a daily basis. Medicinal cannabis offers people who are distressed from PTSD symptoms short-term relief. More studies on the long-term effects of medicinal cannabis use concerning PTSD need to be done.
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