Veterans have long relayed marijuana’s assistance in treating PTSD, and a recent study shows how the plant might improve symptoms.
In recent years veterans have pushed to legitimize medical marijuana as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists, with many vets replacing opioids prescribed by Department of Veteran Affairs clinics with cannabis in legal states, according to a study released earlier this year. Just last month, former VA secretary David Shulkin admitted medical marijuana could save veteran lives.
Science is finally backing up these opinions. A new study published in the Journal of Pharmacology looked at the patient history of 24,000 Canadians using 2012 Statistics Canada data. Researchers were interested in exploring how cannabis could affects those living with PTSD, specifically with regards to suicide and depression. Living with PTSD sharply increases the risk of depression and suicide in patients unless, researchers discovered, they consume marijuana.
“We know that with limited effective treatment options for PTSD, many patients take to medicating with cannabis to alleviate their symptoms,” lead author Stephanie Lake told Global News. “However, until now, there has been no population-level data to suggest that cannabis might have a possible therapeutic role in the course of PTSD. These findings offer those patients seeking treatment options some promise.”
In the more than 24,000 participants, researchers found 420 Canadians who’d been clinically diagnosed with PTSD. About 28% (106 individuals) of those living with PTSD reported using cannabis in the past year. Only 11% of respondents undiagnosed with PTSD reported cannabis usage. Non-users were seven times more likely to have experienced a recent major depressive episode and had a 4.7% higher chance of contemplating suicide, compared to non-cannabis users who didn’t suffer from PTSD. Among cannabis users, the study did not find a connection between PTSD and depression or suicide.
Official VA statistics reports about 10-20% of veterans live with PTSD, depending on the service era in which they participated. But the organization’s 2018 National Suicide Report paints a starker picture — suicide rates are increasing for both veterans and non-veterans. About 20 veterans commit suicide each day, according to the report.
While more research is necessary, as Lake and her team said, this study points to how cannabis might assist those living with PTSD.