Cannabis for PTSD

Use of cannabis, or marijuana as it is most commonly known, for medical purposes has recently seen a resurgence in popularity -which has been controversial.

Cannabis was categorized as an illicit substance and banned for use in the United States in the 1970s. This made it an illegal drug, despite any medical benefits that cannabis may have had. According to some, cannabis has both physical and mental medical benefits due to the drug’s ability to block pain and act as a cognitive disruptor.

In the last few years, cannabis has been legalized for both medical and recreational use in the United States. “Medical marijuana” must be prescribed and is usually done so for conditions requiring long-term pain management or psychological conditions, such as bipolar syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Cannabis for PTSD | PTSD and Cannabis
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that manifests after a traumatic event in one’s life takes place, such as abuse, an auto accident, work-related violence (police, rescue workers), and combat, among others. PTSD is characterized by several symptoms, including flashbacks or reliving events, depression, sleep disturbance, acute anxiety, self-medicating, situational avoidance and emotional and relationship dysfunction.
PTSD has been treated primarily with the help of psychological-based healthcare providers via cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy is often supported with medications that are known to affect the brain’s ability to cope with anxiety and stress. While this method can be effective, it doesn’t always work for everyone. People who have difficulty overcoming their PTSD using traditional, supervised methods, often self-medicate with other substances. These typically include alcohol and cannabis (which may or may not be a legal substance). In some places, cannabis is now being considered as a legitimate medication to add to a course of treatment.

In a study conducted by New York University’s Langone Medical Center, researchers found that individuals with PTSD have considerably lower levels of a neurotransmitter called anandamide than people without PTSD. People with PTSD were observed to have a higher number of cannabinoid receptors, which are activated by anandamide receptors. When activated, there is less anxiety since memory is suppressed or impaired. Knowledge of this association and its workings has led to a better understanding of how cannabis can be used to help those with PTSD when other drugs and therapies have not worked.

However, while this treatment may seem promising, there are many concerns and much controversy as to the true efficacy of this drug. There have been a series of studies done on the relationship between PTSD and cannabis over the years, but they have not been closely regulated, monitored, or controlled. The result is a growing list of supporting articles related to the benefits of medical marijuana and PTSD that are nothing more than anecdotal reports from sufferers who have “tested the waters.”

To make matters worse, there is a concern that cannabis itself is associated with medical and psychiatric problems, including psychosis, cognitive impairment, short-term memory impairment, risk taking, and the like. Cannabis is also known to be addictive. Treating a psychiatric condition with a drug that can introduce adverse side effects and potential addiction is risky and, as such, the medical community is working to assess the benefits of using cannabis for PTSD treatment. Some professionals suggest that until a consensus on the efficacy and safety of using medical marijuana to treat PTSD is formed, using medical marijuana for treating post-traumatic stress disorder should be avoided or, at the very least, highly supervised and monitored.

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