Medical Marijuana and the treatment of PTSD

PTSD and Medical MarijuanaAmerican soldiers are returning home with much more than honor and valor. They are returning home with conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A condition that can make the adjustment to life back at home much more difficult, or even impossible without significant help.

According to Wounded Warrior Project, a program that helps veterans find resources to overcome mental health issues related to combat, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is “a diagnosed condition that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event. Symptoms can include disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams related to the events, mental or physical distress, difficulty sleeping, and changes in how a person thinks and feels.”

The National Institute of Health has found that 7.7 million Americans suffer from PTSD and members of the military exposed to war/combat are at risk for developing PTSD.

Common treatment for PTSD may include:

  1. Counseling – to help provide recover self-esteen and provide skills to deal with the disorder.
  2. Cognitive Processing Therapy – a 12-week course of treatment that includes weekly sessions with a trained therapist.
  3. Prolonged Exposure Therapy – treatment that helps teach techniques, like breathing to ease anxiety and listing things the patient has been avoiding to learn how to confront them effectively.
  4. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – therapy includes the patient concentrating on the event or events that caused PTSD and immediately substituting positive thoughts. About three months of weekly sessions are required.
  5. Stress Inoculation Training – can be done in a group or alone and involves learning techniques like breathing and massage to relax the mind and body. Three months of training are required.
  6. Medications – Because those suffering from PTSD process the feelings of being threatened differently due to neurotransmitters not functioning properly, medication can reduce the flashbacks and “fight or flight” reactions to situations perceived as threatening. Drugs used include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Effexor, though the FDA has only approved Paxil and Zoloft for treating PTSD. These medicines will likely not get rid of symptoms, but they can make them less intense.

Research and Studies on PTSD and Medical Marijuana

While all of these methods have proven effective for some, many others struggle to cope. Recently, there have been studies that have produced evidence that medical marijuana might not only make PTSD more bearable, but that it significantly decreases symptoms.

Research published in Science Daily looked at symptom reduction in patients with PTSD. As a result of taking medical marijuana, participants reported a decrease in re-experiencing the trauma, less avoidance of situations that reminded them of the trauma, and a decline in hyper-arousal.

In addition, a study published in Molecular Psychiatry showed that treatment using particular compounds found in marijuana may benefit those with PTSD and that “plant-derived cannabinoids [psychoactive chemicals] may possess some benefits in individuals with PTSD by helping relieve haunting nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD.”

Promising results have been delivered from studies that have been performed on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), two compounds in marijuana.

Scientists discovered that THC binds to specific receptors in brain cells that help regulate mood, sleep patterns, and pain perception. Scientists also believe it interacts with receptors in the brain’s emotional centers — the amygdala and hippocampus — to reduce anxiety. A 2009 clinical trial in Canada revealed that — of the patients studied — 72 percent had reduced the frequency and intensity of nightmares after a nighttime dose of THC. Other studies show that the effectiveness of THC depends largely on the doses. Too much can actually cause anxiety.

CBD is also being researched but requires far more in-depth studies because it hits so many biomedical pathways and produces wide-ranging results. Because of the wide range of possibilities, more research is currently underway. Some early results show that CBD can be more effective in treating PTSD then THC because it reduces anxiety and targets and boosts 5-HT1A serotonin receptors that enhance feelings of well-being.

The FDA Provides Protocol for the First Time

Marcel Bonn-Miller, a psychology and psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, has joined psychiatrist Sue Sisley, a former professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, in a study funded by $2.2 million dollar grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health. The study is using protocol approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and cannabis provided by the Federal Government. They are examining four different strains of marijuana — high-batch THC, high-batch CBD, a blend of the two, and a placebo. This study is the first of its kind in the world and the hope is that it will reveal actionable results for medical professionals and provide evidence to further encourage approval of medical marijuana by the federal government.

Medical Marijuana Increasing in Use for PTSD

An article in The Chicago Tribune concerning a recent state report reveals that, in Illinois, use of medical marijuana is up 83% in 2018 and that, at the time of the study, 46,000 citizens were using it for treatment of their PTSD, making it the most common condition in that group.

Dosage Found to have Strong Impact on Effectiveness

Because dosage is so important in achieving effective treatment, it’s imperative that a medical marijuana physician who is licensed to recommend marijuana be included in developing the proper treatment for your qualifying condition. The doctors at The Healing Clinic, LLC are licensed and trained to help you find out if marijuana can be an effective part of your treatment plan.

The use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD and other chronic conditions will not only allow sufferers to eliminate the use of addictive opioids and other harsh medications it also provides hope that relief may be on the horizon.

Read more:

Psychology TodayMedical Marijuana for PTSD?

Healio Psychiatric AnnalsFirst FDA-approved study of cannabis for PTSD in veterans underway

U.S. Department of Veteran AffairsVA and MarijuanaWhat Veterans Need to Know