With Remembrance Day this weekend, we thought it would be prudent to shed some light on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how cannabis can be used to treat the symptoms associated with it. Cannabis is known for its ability to help relieve symptoms from many mood-related disorders. We’re going to be discussing cannabis effectiveness in PTSD treatment and how to approach cannabis as an alternative to more conventional treatment.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Before we unravel cannabis’s relationship to PTSD we first need to understand what it is, who it effects, and what the common symptoms of PTSD are. PTSD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can present itself very differently in individual people. Common symptoms are anxiety, nightmares or “flashbacks”, often detailed memories that repeat themselves, and insomnia. An individual suffering from PTSD could have one or all of these symptoms. There is no age minimum or limit in regards to who can get PTSD, nor is it gender related. Anyone who experiences severe traumas in their life, for example, the violent death of a friend, natural disasters, or military service is susceptible to PTSD. A natural stress response to events like the one previously listed is normal and expected, but when these symptoms do not decrease and disappear over time, the individual is likely suffering from PTSD.
Can cannabis help with PTSD?
Cannabis is a valuable tool in managing symptoms of ailments. Looking further into PTSD’s most common symptoms it becomes clear why such a high percentage of people who suffer from PTSD turn to cannabis for relief.
- Anxiety: Using cannabis for anxiety is common, the receptors that absorb both THC and CBD in your brain closely interact with the areas of your brain that regulate anxiety responses. Use strains with a higher concentration of CBD rather than THC. THC can stimulate the area of your brain responsible for fear (the amygdala) which can actually cause increased anxiety or even paranoia.
- Flashbacks: Receptors in your brain absorb THC. These receptors are throughout your Central Nervous System, however, there is a high concentration around your hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area in your brain that is ultimately responsible for decoding and storing your memories. In regards to PTSD and flashbacks, being intoxicated from cannabis impairs the recall of memories, helping reduce the amount, duration and frequency of flashbacks. This relief is temporary, however, if cannabis is used heavily for long periods of time there is potential that more permanent issues may arise.
- Nightmares: Cannabis reduces the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s within this REM sleep stage that most dreams, or in the case of PTSD nightmares, occur. A reduced REM cycle allows people suffering from PTSD nightmares an uninterrupted sleep. Be aware though, REM sleep is vital and important for many immune functions and cognitive ability, consuming cannabis with too high of a THC percentage, can impede your body’s ability to properly support itself.
- Insomnia: Certain cannabis strains (typically indicas) are more effective for relief from insomnia. Indicas famously produce a heavy, calming body high that alleviates pain and helps people relax into sleep. Due mostly to the concentration of other chemicals called terpenes cannabis indica can be very sedative. Terpenes are the essential oils of all plants, different terpenes provide different therapeutic effects.
Cannabis is a plant-based medicine with many compounds that make up its therapeutic profile. It is important to remember that cannabis interacts with each individual very differently. If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD and are interested in trying cannabis as an option, the first step is to consult with a physician.
The government of Canada has the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations in place to allow patients to safely get access to their medicine. Compass Cannabis Clinic has physicians ready and able to help educate and guide you or your loved ones through the process of becoming a medical cannabis patient. Mental health is important, so this Remembrance Day, keep in mind not only the people who we have lost in service but the ones who may need our help. Lest we forget.