Recent statistics from the National Centers for PTSD report that approximately 6% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives and about 15 million adults have PTSD during a given year.
The majority of states with legal cannabis programs list Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for medical use. As a Massachusetts cannabis dispensary, we see and serve many patients and recreational consumers who use cannabis to help manage their PTSD.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychiatric condition that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Though often associated with combat veterans, PTSD can arise from many types of traumatic events including natural disasters, critical accidents, sexual violence, near-death experiences, and more.
Symptoms of PTSD
There are four different categories of PTSD symptoms. Though the condition can only be diagnosed by a trained professional, there are a number of symptoms that may serve as indicators.
- Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts which may include nightmares, involuntary memory recollection, and flashbacks of the event are all symptoms of PTSD. These may seem so realistic that people feel like they are re-living the traumatic experience.
- Avoidance: Avoid reminders of the traumatic event such as certain people, places, situations, activities, or objects that may trigger upsetting memories. Those suffering may resist talking about the event or how they feel.
- Changes in cognition and mood: Inability to recall important aspects of the traumatic event may occur. Negative thoughts and feelings may lead to ongoing distorted beliefs about themself, others, and facts related to the event. Fear, anger, guilt, and shame are common emotions.
- Alterations in reactions: Increased irritability, angry outburst, reckless or self-destructive behavior are signs of PTSD. Suspiciousness and being easily startled and having difficulty sleeping are also symptoms.
Each person experiences PTSD differently. The use of cannabis for PTSD symptoms is becoming increasingly more accepted as sufferers experience relief and share their stories.
Cannabis and PTSD
Though once taboo, many veterans and others suffering from PTSD are turning to cannabis for PTSD symptom relief.
A year-long study published in 2020 by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) found that cannabis users reported a greater decrease in the severity of their PTSD symptoms. They also were more than 2.5 times as likely to no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD as those who did not use cannabis.
An observational study by Hal Wortzel, a Veterans Affairs forensic neuropsychiatrist, found a total of 150 participants were enrolled in the study. Over the course of 1 year, cannabis users reported a greater decrease in PTSD symptom severity over time compared to controls. Participants who used cannabis were 2.57 times more likely to no longer meet the criteria for PTSD at the end of the study observation period compared to participants who did not use cannabis.
How Does Cannabis for PTSD Work?
Every person has a naturally occurring endocannabinoid system that serves the purpose of restoring balance in the body. Endocannabinoid receptors exist all throughout the body and interact with cannabinoids and other chemicals to promote a number of health benefits. Many of these receptors are located in the brain, which is where the symptoms of PTSD start.
There are a number of studies that have shown positive results for use of cannabis for PTSD. A 2020 study conducted by Wayne State University suggests that THC helps trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD by reducing stress-related amygdala activation (part of the brain that processes fearful and threatening stimuli) and connecting the signals between parts of the brain to promote a healthy stress response.
In a separate study, researchers at Brazil’s Federal University of Prana also believe that THC can help reduce the anxiety response through endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, counterbalancing low endocannabinoid tone, which is reported in PTSD patients. This helps people with PTSD suppress anxiety and adverse memory expression. Low endocannabinoid tone has also been associated with generalized depression and similar mood disorders.
What Kind of Cannabis to Use for PTSD
The best type of cannabis for PTSD is largely dependent upon the user’s personal preference and the symptoms being experienced. There are three main types of cannabis:
Sativas are known for producing a “head high.” This is classified as an invigorating effect that can help reduce stress and increase focus and creativity. Indicas tend to have full-body effects that include deep relaxation and better sleep. Hybrids are a mix of the two. The best cannabis for PTSD will depend on your symptoms.
Choosing your intake method of cannabis for PTSD is a personal choice. Flower, edibles, concentrates, and vapes are all good choices as long as they make you comfortable. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Find Cannabis That Works For You at Fine Fettle
PTSD is a long-lasting mental health condition. There are various treatments available, to manage symptoms. Cannabis for PTSD is certainly worth trying for most people. It is important to recognize that the most effective solutions typically involve therapy and professional medical oversight.
Fine Fettle’s experienced cannabis dispensary staff can offer guidance to help you find the products that are best suited for what you need and work with the recommendations of your medical provider to improve your quality of life. Shop online or visit us in-store today at a Fine Fettle near you.
If you have frequent upsetting thoughts, are unable to manage your actions, or fear that you might hurt yourself or others, seek help right away.
See your healthcare professional or a mental health professional immediately or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.