Take It Easy: The Science Behind the Use of Medical Cannabis for PTSD Treatment06 September 2022
- PTSD is a long-term mental illness that can happen to anyone after suffering from a traumatic or life-threatening experience. Approximately 4 out of every 100 people in the UK live through and deal with moderate or severe episodes of PTSD.
- Medical cannabis is believed to offer many promising benefits for PTSD treatment. The natural compounds that lie within the cannabis plant may bring in some relaxing effects to the mind and body, helping some people to stay as calm as possible and be more able to manage bouts and symptoms of PTSD.
- Medical cannabis is a general term for all cannabis-infused medicines or products prescribed by a healthcare provider for medical and wellness purposes.
- It is still unclear as to how cannabis and its derivatives actually impact the body, so it’s important to be extra cautious when considering medical cannabis treatment for PTSD.
Consulting with a medical cannabis specialist and having your symptoms examined are vital steps toward a healthy recovery.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had been around for many years before it was officially identified as a significant mental disorder. Some people used to call it “shell shock” or “combat fatigue” during the times of World War I and II, wherein several injured veterans experienced recurring flashbacks and nightmares about the war.
While armed forces are more likely to develop PTSD than the rest of us civilians, this type of mental illness is not something that can only be experienced by those who fought in the war. PTSD is a common disease that can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, sex, culture and social status. In most cases, people who get to witness scary, dangerous events like murder incidents, traffic injuries and natural disasters or a series of events like sexual assault and domestic violence can develop the illness at some point in their lifetime.
Many PTSD patients reported encounters of recurrent flashbacks characterised by pictures of traumatic events that break into their thoughts or appear like nightmares. Some people may not just perceive visuals of that traumatic memory. In other cases, they hear real-like sounds that were present at that very moment, such as gunshots, car horns or telephone rings. Those clear reminders of the past can make some affected individuals feel as though they are being brought back to that specific event, which often triggers anxiety and panic attacks.
Broadly speaking, PTSD symptoms are often classified into four different types, such as:
- Repeated thoughts and nightmares about the traumatic event
- Bouts of emotional anguish toward the harrowing event
Changes in Cognition, Thinking and Mood
- Lack of interest in previously-enjoyed activities
- Negative assumptions about oneself or the entire world
- Extreme loneliness, anger and fear
- Emotional numbness
- Partial amnesia or memory loss
Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Being easily startled
- Hypervigilance toward danger or any event that can cause a threat to personal safety
- Self-destructive behaviours, such as self-injury, overuse of alcohol and drugs or suicide attempt
- Aggressive demeanours, including extreme irritability, angry verbal outbursts or physical violence
- Extreme feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt
- Recounting traumatic events through a child’s play
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these PTSD symptoms that keep affecting your quality of life, it’s best to speak with a mental health specialist to get the necessary help you need as soon as possible. Trauma can rock you to the core, making you feel that there’s no safe place for you and that many terrible things can happen at any time. But you can be at peace knowing that you are not alone and help is always at hand.
Our medical doctors and therapists at The Medical Cannabis Clinics have gone through intensive research and specialisation in medical cannabis treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, including severe anxiety, panic disorders and PTSD. We can help assess your symptoms and run some diagnostic tests to confirm your condition and issue a prescription that will allow you to use medical cannabis in the UK legally. Rest assured that our clinic is a safe, reliable and judgment-free zone where you can access holistic treatment and support. We keep our lines open for remote consultations, so feel free to book your appointments from the comfort of your home.
Medical Cannabis Treatment for PTSD: Can It Work?
From empirical studies and anecdotal reports, many can argue that cannabis may help some people manage common symptoms of PTSD.
Some research suggests that the human body has an internal regulatory system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It is made up of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors, both of which support the regulation of many important bodily functions, such as mood, memory, pleasure, sleep, temperature control and more.
Endocannabinoids, short for endogenous cannabinoids, are similar to the cannabinoids produced by many plants, including cannabis. The only difference is that endocannabinoids are naturally produced by the body. The ECS makes use of endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids (plant-derived cannabinoids) to help manage emotions and maintain a state of balance. And the role of the cannabinoid receptors is to allow the entrance of phytocannabinoids into the bloodstream to deliver potential nutrients across different parts of the body.
As discussed, cannabis plants produce their own cannabinoids just like the human body produces endocannabinoids. There are over a hundred cannabinoids found within different cannabis varieties, but only two of them have reigned supreme: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While these cannabinoids may show promising wellness benefits, CBD and THC act on the body in extremely different ways. That is, CBD binds with the endocannabinoids surrounding the ECS to help promote a sense of relaxation and stability, while THC interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain to induce an uplifting effect.
CBD for PTSD Treatment
PTSD often stems from a certain issue with anandamide, a type of endocannabinoid responsible for governing positive emotions, hence why it’s dubbed the “bliss” molecule. Plant-based cannabinoids like CBD, in this case, are thought to mimic the body’s endocannabinoids and help boost the same molecules as anandamide.
With its potentially calming effects, CBD may help some patients experience a certain decrease in stress and anxiety levels and possible solace from episodes of hyperstimulation and intrusive flashbacks. A 2012 study on cannabidiol’s effects on anandamide has shown that CBD has a vast pharmacological profile, meaning it can act on many different parts of the ECS. For instance, CBD may influence several pleasure centres in the endocannabinoid brain system that help stimulate anandamide, resulting in more steady production and regulation of the bliss molecule as well as other feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
THC for PTSD Treatment
According to an article published in the journal “National Institute on Drug Abuse”, THC shares the same chemical structure as anandamide. This kind of similarity makes it easier for cannabinoid receptors to recognise THC as an endocannabinoid, thereby allowing it to act on various hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. Some reports indicate that, with such an ability to influence certain brain communications, THC may help regulate memory and lower anxiety levels in some people.
However, older studies on this cannabinoid suggest that overdosing with THC may have more severe side effects than CBD. Given that THC is the main psychoactive cannabis component, it has been notoriously known for its high-inducing effects. In that case, the best practice for individuals with a family history of psychosis or any related disorders is to discuss using CBD products with their medical cannabis provider, especially if they contain THC.
CBD or THC for PTSD?
Every patient is different, so there is no specific cannabis medicine prescribed for PTSD. You can take CBD and THC in several ways and forms, and whether to consume them separately or together is up to your individual preferences and health requirements. However, some studies claim that combining CBD with moderate amounts of THC—along with other essential compounds in the cannabis plant—may create an entourage effect, which is thought to be more powerful than taking CBD or THC alone. But regardless of your preferred delivery method, we highly suggest everyone become more mindful of their THC intake.
Closing Thoughts: What Research Says On Medical Cannabis for PTSD
Anyone who has ever been in a traumatic life situation may find it hard to adjust and live through the sorrows of the past, but with proper treatment, a positive lifestyle and good self-care habits, recovery can be achieved. As medical experts, we believe that every medicine has its own potential, and medical cannabis is not an exception. Yet it is not without potential downsides. That’s why we encourage patients to seek professional help and guidance when it comes to taking medical cannabis.
Due to legal restrictions and other limitations, it can be challenging to explore the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of various diseases in greater detail. Until we have sufficient evidence to support such medical cannabis claims, we cannot make any clinical recommendations about taking CBD or THC for PTSD just yet. Most of the cannabis studies available today cover cases involving military veterans alone. While this is all great information, scientists still need to consider cases among other affected groups, as symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the condition and the nature of the trauma. More research is required to fully discern the long-term effects of medical cannabis on patients with PTSD and whether there are additional treatment methods to consider for other cases.
If you live in the UK, cannabis doctors and private sectors like us can help you diagnose your condition and move on to cannabis treatment as long as it serves your medical needs. We can also assess other traditional interventions, such as therapies, counselling and support groups, to complement your medical cannabis treatment. While these approaches are promising, it’s important to understand that some patients may respond well while others won’t, mainly because of the differences in every individual. Even so, we like to acknowledge that there is always hope in every situation.
We can’t deny that there are way too many myths and misconceptions about patients with PTSD. Some people might wrongly assume that PTSD is not a big deal, while others might even suggest that you should forget about the past and move on. If you feel like your symptoms are being invalidated by some people in your bubble, it’s time to speak your mind to a specialist who understands where you’re coming from. Remember, PTSD is not some kind of joke or a sign of mental weakness. Instead, living through nightmares and disruptive thoughts is a sign of strength to get help, conquer fears and make the most of life.
Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you be prescribed cannabis for PTSD?
Depending on a number of factors, including your health condition, body chemistry and other medicines you take, you may or may not get medical cannabis prescription for PTSD. It’s best to have your symptoms checked by a healthcare professional to confirm whether medical cannabis is the best treatment you need.
Is CBD good for anxiety and PTSD?
Yes. Administration of CBD, in addition to healthy lifestyle practices, shows promise in managing symptoms of anxiety and PTSD. In some studies, CBD is also believed to create a sense of relief in a subset of patients who reported recurring nightmares as primary PTSD symptoms.
How do you calm down PTSD?
The first-line techniques in handling panic attacks adieu to PTSD may include deep breathing, meditation and other relaxing activities that help activate the body’s natural coping response. If you keep struggling with extreme thoughts and emotions, it’s best to consult a mental health professional or a trusted therapist right away.
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