PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety condition caused by disturbing episodes in one’s life, such as military combat or sexual abuse. PTSD is thought to be caused by changes in the brain chemistry that occur at the time of the trauma, when stress and adrenaline hormones are hyper-responsive.
Pharmaceutical medication, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, are typically prescribed to people diagnosed with PTSD. These medications can have negative side effects that make it hard to function in day to day life. However, new research on the human endocannabinoid system shows promising results for treating PTSD with medical marijuana.
The chemistry behind cannabis and the brain
Researchers have found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, a cannabinoid compound made within the body. Anandamide is similar in structure to tetrahydocannabinol (THC)—the compound that gets you “high”—and triggers the same cell receptors. With PTSD, the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill these receptor sites, which is where cannabinoids found in marijuana play a therapeutic role. When replenishing these missing endocannabinoids with cannabis, PTSD patients may find relief from side effects such as fear, anxiety, anger issues, irritability and depression. Cannabis may also work by removing associations to painful memories, eliminating flashbacks triggered by what they smell, hear or see that’s associated with the traumatic event.
Using cannabis effectively for PTSD
To get the most out of using cannabis to relieve PTSD symptoms, patients should try to use low to moderate doses before planned exposure to a known trigger for their PTSD. It`s important for the individual to use cannabidiol (CBD)-based strains and not THC strains, as THC is known to exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or paranoia. Research suggests CBD receptors are particularly concentrated in the emotional centre of the brain. Researchers theorize there may be excessive synaptic firing within those structures in patients with PTSD, which is why using cannabis may help calm those receptors.
While cannabis is not a cure for people suffering from PTSD, it may help provide relief when nothing else can.
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Our Lift Resource Centres educate patients about medical cannabis and how to access it safely in Canada. When you visit a Lift Resource Centre, you’ll be greeted with knowledgeable and professional medical staff who are trained to both learn about your condition and to discuss how medical cannabis may help. To learn more, visit the Lift Resource Centre website.