The study suggests that cannabis does reduce symptoms of PTSD acutely, but might not have longer term beneficial effects on the underlying condition.
A new study concludes that marijuana temporarily relieves post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms by half, but questions the plant’s use in long-term PTSD treatment. Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the research represents more evidence that marijuana could play a significant role in helping PTSD patients, including veterans.
This study, led by Washington State University researchers, analyzed data self-reported by more than 400 PTSD patients. Using the Strainprint app, users tracked when they smoked or vaped marijuana, and how consumption was affecting their symptoms. Though other forms of marijuana were used by patients, this study did not focus on those results. Overall, there were over 11,000 patient entries over a 31-month period.
According to the data, smoking or vaping cannabis decreased all PTSD symptoms by more than 50%. More specifically, irritability was reduced by 67% and anxiety by 57%. The intrusion of returning thoughts of a traumatic event dropped by about 62%, and flashbacks by 51%. Higher doses led to larger reductions in anxiety and intrusions while the amount of marijuana patients used to treat anxiety rose over time.
These effects weren’t permanent, the study’s lead author Carrie Cuttler noted.
“The study suggests that cannabis does reduce symptoms of PTSD acutely, but it might not have longer term beneficial effects on the underlying condition,” Cuttler said in a statement. “Working with this model, it seems that cannabis will temporarily mask symptoms, acting as a bit of a band aid, but once the period of intoxication wears off, the symptoms can return.”
Researchers added that whole-plant cannabis with a combination of CBD and THC created the therapeutic effect in patients. But there was no significant determination in differing levels of CBD and THC, just that both were present. Cuttler’s team also recognized the limitations of the study, which relied on self-reported data. Without a placebo or double-blind setting, researchers couldn’t compare symptom reductions between marijuana users and non-users.
A 2019 study noted that PTSD patients that used medical marijuana were seven times less likely to have experienced a recent major depressive episode versus patients who didn’t use cannabis. Another study published in the Clinical Psychology Review added that evidence showed cannabis could likely benefit patients with PTSD, depression, and social anxiety.