Should Your Try Medical Marijuana and PTSD? Here’s What Science Says
The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is higher among veterans than the general population. Yet, you may not realize how common PTSD is, affecting over 3.5% of people in the US alone.
There is good news for people suffering from this condition. Research into medical marijuana and PTSD shows that cannabinoids could be good for symptoms like anxiety. We take a deep dive into some of this groundbreaking research below, so keep reading.
The Research Behind Medical Marijuana and PTSD
There’s been a ton of animal research regarding the relationship between cannabis and PTSD. Due to federal restrictions surrounding medical marijuana clinical studies, though, research on humans with PTSD is seriously lacking.
Here’s what we do know.
The Endocannabinoid System and PTSD
Perhaps the best research into cannabis and PTSD hasn’t involved cannabis at all. Instead, these studies look into how the receptors marijuana’s active ingredients (THC and CBD) bind to play a role in PTSD.
So far, we know that THC and CBD bind to the endocannabinoid system. This system is made up of receptors called CB1 and CB2. Some studies suggest that if scientists manipulate CB1 and CB2 receptors, it can affect PTSD symptoms.
For example, research shows that people with PTSD tend to have fewer CB1 receptors. They also have lower levels of anandamide, the naturally-occurring compound that binds to CB1 receptors.
In theory, manipulating levels of CB1 and anandamide using medical marijuana could help alleviate the stress and anxiety hallmark of PTSD.
Self-Reported Benefits of Medical Marijuana for PTSD
Another area where the research is strong is the anecdotal evidence from people who suffer from PTSD and use medical marijuana to relieve their symptoms.
Self-reports aren’t the gold-standard when it comes to scientific research. Still, considering that scientists don’t fully understand the etiology and biomarkers of PTSD, anecdotal evidence for cannabis’ benefits can be significant.
For instance, a recent study evaluated the self-reports of 400 people using medical marijuana for PTSD. Over 31 months, participants reported the following benefits of using cannabis for their symptoms:
- 62% less severe intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event
- 51% reduction in flashbacks
- 67% decrease in irritability
- 57% drop in anxiety
It’s worth noting that the researchers only saw these benefits during or directly after cannabis use. That means that once the high wears off, so do marijuana’s effects on PTSD symptoms.
Medical Marijuana and PTSD Clinical Studies
To date, there have been few good studies looking at the relationship between PTSD and cannabis. Those that have been performed are seriously lacking in randomization and controls.
Plus, with the legal issues surrounding cannabis, few studies have actually tested subjects who are active users of marijuana. What does all this mean? We clearly need more research into the health benefits medical cannabis can truly offer.
Marijuana and PTSD: The Bottom Line
Medical marijuana and PTSD may be a match made in heaven. Yet, we need more clinical research to determine how beneficial cannabis could be, the proper therapeutic dose, and any effects of long-term usage.
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