At the Cannabis Science Conference held in Portland, OR on August 29-30, 2017, Dr. Sue Sisley reported on the first federally funded study designed to prove whether smoked marijuana can help reduce symptoms in U.S. veterans with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is described as a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
When examining the prevalence of PTSD among those serving in the military, it’s estimated that up to twenty percent of those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan developed PTSD. Among those veterans seen in the VA health care system who have PTSD, cannabis has been the most popular substance used since 2009.
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Unlike many of the conventional PTSD treatments, which include powerful sedatives, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications, at least two cannabis compounds have been shown to treat PTSD in several unique ways. For example, Patients with PTSD are found to have 50 percent lower rates of anadaminde. This is the molecule released when folks exercise that give them a blissful feeling. Cannabis can play a role in helping to raise this level. Also, unlike other drugs that can take a while before one can see results, often patients report an improvement of their symptoms almost immediately after taking cannabis for their PTSD.
Best Cannabis Strains To Treat PTSD
Here’s some recommended cannabis strains for treating PTSD. For those looking for a non-psychoactive Cannatonic is a high-CBD strain that can provide a creative high while reducing anxiety in the daytime. Blue Dream is a sativa-dominant cannabis strain that provides full body relaxation and mental invigoration. Also, OG Kush can calm the body while providing a euphoric and pleasant effect. For a clear-headed effect that can reduce anxiety, try Pineapple Express. Insomniacs may wish to try Master Kush. The blissful sensation from this strain can guide one to sleep, though its high potency is not recommended for those trying cannabis for the first time.
Further Research About Cannabis And PTSD
Presently, Sisley noted they have recruited 25 veterans for their two-year study to date. The lack of referrals from the Phoenix VA Health Care System coupled with the classification of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug continues to hinder their pioneering research.
Prior to Sisley’s study, the bulk of clinical studies conducted on cannabis focused on the harmful effects without examining how some strains of cannabis can benefit those suffering from mental illnesses like PTSD. There is some evidence that this research may be shifting toward exploring the effectiveness of cannabis in treating PTSD.
According to an article published in Time magazine, “a study published in 2013 by George Greer in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported a 75 percent reduction in CAPS (a clinician administered PTSD metric) scores when patients were using cannabis: ‘Conclusions: Cannabis is associated with reductions in PTSD symptoms in some patients, and prospective, placebo-controlled study is needed to determine efficacy of cannabis and its constituents in treating PTSD.’”
This same Time article cited a report published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review. In this report researchers found evidence that cannabis can likely benefit people dealing with depression, social anxiety and PTSD, though it may not be ideal for people with bipolar disorder, for instance, for which there appears to be more negative side effects than positive ones.”
Cannabis Not A Cure-All For PTSD
Patients looking to treat their symptoms with cannabis are recommended to consult with their doctor. For example, THC can aggravate anxiety symptoms and feelings of paranoia in some patients. Some CBD strains can help counteract these effects.
While cannabis can be a highly effective medicine, it is not a silver bullet that can magically cure PTSD. Those suffering from PTSD need to exercise and change to a diet rich in healthy fats in addition to following a treatment regime under the supervision of a medical professional.