Not long ago, marijuana was an illicit drug. The mere mention of it often meant being subjected to disapproving looks, and to possess it put people at risk of being arrested. Fast-forward to today, and a lot has changed.
Many states have legalized the sale and purchase of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. There’s been a noticeable shift in the level of stigmatization around it, and there have even been scientific studies proving its value in treating various health conditions.
One study found that 92% of participants experienced declining symptoms like chronic pain, arthritis, and migraine after medical marijuana use. In another study, more than 50% of participants experienced reduced depression symptoms with prolonged medical marijuana use.
Now, medical professionals and researchers are exploring the possible benefits of medical marijuana for PTSD — with promising results thus far. A 2014 study found marijuana reduced as much as 75% of significant PTSD symptoms like re-experiencing, hyperarousal, avoidance, etc.
Keep reading as we further explore the role of marijuana in PTSD management.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences a traumatic event. Essentially, the traumatic experience causes the mind’s “alarm system” to trigger in situations with no danger.
That doesn’t mean just feeling anxious or stressed. Your brain trapped in fight-or-flight mode, even when you are safe or no longer in the situation, causes PTSD to develop.
How Do You Know If You Have PTSD?
People often joke about having PTSD from minor scares or stressful experiences. That is harmful as it minimizes the real and distressing symptoms of those living with a diagnosis.
While it's natural to relate to specific symptoms or emotions, it’s also important not to self-diagnose or diagnose others if you aren’t a healthcare provider. It can lead to misinformation and misinterpretation, potentially hindering the individual's well-being.
The only way to know if you have PTSD is by seeking a medical diagnosis from a trained professional. Remember, this is a multifaceted condition with specific criteria that need to be met for a legitimate diagnosis.
One aspect of diagnosing PTSD is identifying a potential cause. Below are a few of the types of trauma that can result in PTSD:
- Directly Experiencing a Traumatic Event
Over time, unresolved suffering from experiencing a traumatic event (natural disaster, an act of violence, serious injury, etc.) can develop into PTSD if the brain’s hippocampus — responsible for memory consolidation — fails to process the traumatic memory properly.
Direct exposure is the most widely-known form of traumatic experience, but it is essential to remember that an event doesn’t have to happen to a person first-hand to result in PTSD.
- Witnessing a Traumatic Event
Many individuals develop PTSD after witnessing a traumatic event. Emergency responders, for example, often develop the condition after being exposed to a particularly violent or catastrophic emergency. A person might also be diagnosed with PTSD after witnessing a fatal car crash or a destructive natural disaster.
- Experiencing Trauma Vicariously Through Close Connections
Another way humans experience trauma is through second-hand emotional impact. We are all wired to be empathetic, and when we know someone we care about is in distress, our psychological defenses can be as strong as if it were happening to us.
Suppose a parent knows their child is struggling with a severe and life-threatening addiction, for instance. In that case, the parent may internalize the emotional weight of the child’s condition and develop PTSD.
Flashbacks are the most well-known symptoms. They are instances where a person re-experiences a traumatic event as if it’s happening in the present moment.
Flashbacks typically present as vivid and disturbing mental images but can also include auditory hallucinations or repetitive thought patterns about the event. When they occur, the individual experiencing them feels disoriented, finding it difficult to separate the flashback from real life.
People with PTSD often go to great lengths to avoid triggers or reminders of their trauma. Triggers can be anything — places, noises, scents, or even anniversaries of a specific date.
Avoiding these triggers is often so severe that it leads to social isolation, strained relationships, and a diminished quality of life. That doesn’t mean a preference for comfort — being subjected to triggers causes emotional distress, rapid heart rate, panic attacks, elevated adrenaline, and many other medically-recognized symptoms.
Pushing someone to confront their triggers before they’re ready reinforces the sense of danger associated with traumatic memories. Instead, it’s always best to encourage these individuals to seek professional help while providing a compassionate and non-judgmental space.
Constant alertness, difficulty sleeping, and irritability are a few examples of hyperarousal. These symptoms can cause a person with PTSD to be highly reactive. In simple terms, their body and mind cannot relax or disconnect from the traumatic events of their past, resulting in a consistent state of unease.
Can Cannabis Help with PTSD?
There is evidence that suggests a beneficial correlation between the use of marijuana and PTSD relief. But, that being said, there are no absolute certainties regarding medicinal cannabis use. Individual responses to it can vary widely, and what works for one person might not work for another.
Concerns exist regarding potential side effects like cognitive impairment and the risk of exacerbating specific symptoms. Simply put? Research is ongoing, and as it progresses, a more comprehensive understanding of cannabis's role in PTSD treatment will emerge.
In the meantime, individuals seeking potential relief from PTSD symptoms should approach cannabis as one possible option for treatment and consult with medical professionals to thoroughly review the current evidence that does exist.
Here’s a brief overview of existing evidence supporting the use of medicinal cannabis:
Improved Sleep Quality
Those living with PTSD frequently experience interrupted sleep and insomnia, putting them at an increased risk for major depressive disorders. Fortunately, these individuals may be able to achieve healthier sleeping patterns via the use of marijuana for anxiety and PTSD. Studies show cannabis has been effective in enhancing sleep quality and reducing the frequency of nightmares among those diagnosed with PTSD.
Decreased Symptom Severity
Another study conducted by The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies found individuals with PTSD who used medicinal cannabis were 2.5 times more likely to no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD than those who did not use it. This research strongly indicates marijuana is a viable treatment option with promising outcomes.
One of the significant unwanted symptoms PTSD patients experience is a heightened stress response. Marijuana has been shown to reduce subjective stress ratings and cortisol levels during distressing situations, even for those living with PTSD.
That is an important finding since PTSD hyperarousal is often quite debilitating. Medicinal marijuana may allow individuals living with the condition to be around potential triggers without experiencing flashbacks or panic attacks.
Studies have shown that cannabinoids produce antidepressant-like effects in mice, which is believed to have a similar impact on humans. CBD, in particular, increases the bioavailability of serotonin by raising tryptophan levels in unstimulated brain areas.
These tryptophans play an essential role in processing serotonin. That is particularly interesting for PTSD patients, who tend to have reduced serotonin levels contributing to neurochemical imbalances in the brain.
Many people are unaware that trauma can manifest in the body as physical symptoms, but it’s true. Approximately 51% of people with chronic lower back pain also display signs of PTSD. Medical marijuana is quite effective at alleviating chronic pain.
More specifically, one study found 48.14% of patients experienced an improvement in pain levels after taking cannabis. For PTSD patients struggling with chronic pain regularly, cannabis products can provide relief to return to normal daily activities and enjoy an improved quality of life.
Using Marijuana for PTSD: Considerations
Although there is significant evidence supporting cannabis PTSD treatments, speaking to a healthcare professional and conducting thorough research is still of extreme importance. There are underlying medical conditions that put patients at an increased risk of adverse outcomes from cannabis use. Plus, different strains and types of marijuana have other effects on the body.
Here are a few key factors to consider before using weed for PTSD:
Proper dosage is always paramount since marijuana's effects can vary widely based on the amount consumed. Too low a dose might not provide the desired relief, while too high a dose can potentially worsen symptoms or lead to unwanted side effects like increased anxiety or paranoia.
For this reason, it’s advised that PTSD patients speak with their healthcare provider before purchasing cannabis products.
Cannabis contains various compounds, including cannabinoids and terpenes, contributing to its effects. Different strains offer unique combinations of these compounds, resulting in diverse therapeutic outcomes.
Choosing the best strain for your needs is almost like a mechanic trying to find the right tool. It’s all about what you’re hoping to achieve, what your body chemistry responds to, and your tolerance level.
Another factor to consider when considering THC or CBD for PTSD is the method of consumption. Some people prefer to inhale marijuana because it provides a more immediate and controllable effect.
In contrast, others like to ingest edibles or tinctures, which take longer to absorb. Your choice will depend on your lifestyle preferences, underlying health conditions, and budgetary requirements.
Interested in learning more about choosing the right medical marijuana for your needs? Click here to read our blog covering this topic in more detail.
Medical Marijuana from Texas 420 Doctors
Thanks to new laws, PTSD patients can explore medical marijuana for potential relief. Limited research suggests cannabinoids might mitigate symptoms, yet more studies are needed to understand efficacy and safety fully. Navigating medical marijuana for PTSD requires careful consideration of individual needs, legal regulations, and potential interactions with existing treatments.
The decision to use PTSD medical marijuana can be an empowering step towards managing your condition. As we’ve explained, it’s less about the question, “Does weed help PTSD?” and more about whether or not it will help you, specifically.
Each person is unique, and it may take time to identify marijuana products that produce your desired result. Remember, this is a normal and necessary part of the process. Trying various products, observing their effects, and keeping detailed notes can help find what resonates with your unique physiological and psychological needs.
Here’s How We Can Help:
Texas 420 Doctors is one of the most trusted providers of medical marijuana (MMJ) in Texas. We proudly offer first-class care and support that prioritizes your health and well-being. In addition to getting approved for MMJ, we have these additional resources for our customers:
Our compassionate and experienced doctors are here to guide you on your journey toward holistic health. Above all else, our goal is to identify the best possible treatment plan that aligns with your preferences and medical history. We’ll take the time to analyze your medical history, listen to your concerns, and answer any questions you might have.
Certain medicinal marijuana products are only available at select dispensing locations. We can guide you towards reputable dispensaries that align with your preferences and location needs while ensuring they offer the specific PTSD medical marijuana you require. We are here to help you know what products you need and where they’re readily available.
Our mission is to educate our patients and assist them in finding relief with cannabis products. That’s why we maintain an extensive collection of brochures, guides, and other resources — all free to our valued customers. Whether you're curious about different types of medical marijuanas, strains, consumption methods, or the science behind cannabis and PTSD, our user-friendly resources have you covered.
It is possible to reclaim control of your life and live a happy, fulfilling life despite your PTSD diagnosis. Our warm and compassionate staff are here to support you every step of the way.
If you’re ready to embrace the healing potential of PTSD medical marijuana treatment, we can create a customized plan rooted in scientific knowledge and tailored to your unique needs. Reach out today to get started!