Veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often treated with anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and pain medications to limit the severity of their symptoms. Returning from combat can leave a person emotionally scarred manifesting itself as panic attacks, chronic nightmares, insomnia, mood changes, and lack of focus, to name a few symptoms.
Traditional medications often come with adverse side effects or don’t even work at all for some patients. When treatment in the form of medication and psychotherapy haven’t worked, many veterans are turning to medical cannabis, which is approved for medical purposes in multiple states.
Our endocannabinoid system is a collection of cell receptors throughout our body that regulate biological processes including our appetite, mood, immune system, memory, pain sensitivity, temperature, and motor control. Naturally-produced endocannabinoids can interact with these cell receptors to regulate fear impulses and anxiety.
Research into patients with PTSD have shown that they have a lower prevalence of anandamide, an endocannabinoid that mimics the effects of THC. In conjunction with low anandamide levels, people with PTSD also have more CB1 cell receptors than the average person contributing to their inability to forget painful memories.
The lack of anandamide prevents trauma-induced brains from removing harmful and negative memories making it hard to remove the context from certain triggers. Research suggests that activation of these CB1 cell receptors aids in suppressing memories and reducing anxiety.
CBD, the chemical compound that doesn’t get you “high,” has been found to interact with the serotonin system to prevent negatively-associated memories from forming. Further studies show that even THC alone can be an extremely effective treatment to remove the contextual fear associated with PTSD-related triggers. In fact, THC was shown to be more potent than CBD in removing fear memories.
Many veterans with PTSD have reported that they have trouble falling and staying asleep. Sleep disturbances can become especially detrimental if they remain chronic symptoms. Research dating back to 1973 has shown that smoking cannabis can help patients fall asleep faster. Additionally, chemical compounds like THC limits the amount of times people wake up during the night. Furthermore, cannabis can improve your breathing which is essential to a good night’s sleep.
Medical cannabis is becoming more widely accepted by federal agencies which is great news for people with PTSD who are looking for new and effective treatments. In fact, the DEA approved a randomized controlled medical trial to document the effects of medical cannabis for veterans with PTSD. We do know that CBD and THC work together to provide even more effective relief than simply taking one over the other. Experimenting with different levels of CBD and THC in your cannabis product can help you find your preferred treatment option.