7 minutes read
Managing PTSD Using CBD & THC
For decades, the scientific and medical community has been researching PTSD and new ways to help those suffering from symptoms, some of which can be both debilitating and even life-threatening at times. Medications, behavioral and cognitive therapies, and more have all been tested in this hunt for improving quality of life for those with PTSD.
And while a number of treatments have proven useful, for some, the currently available treatment options are just not enough. Symptoms persist, and some cases can be crippling, greatly reducing quality of life. That’s where CBD and THC come in.
Both compounds, derived from the cannabis plant, have shown promise with regards to relieving the symptoms of PTSD such as nightmares, anxiety, and more (Scientific American). As the fight for legalization of cannabis products wages on, the stigma once associated with cannabis has begun to go up in flames with it. The medical community, scientific community and the public at large are now much more open to the possibilities of using therapeutic tools like CBD and THC for the treatment or alleviation of a great many symptoms from an even larger array of conditions.
DISCLAIMER: None of the information in this article should be used for diagnosis or as medical advice. However, we hope this information can help you open up the conversation with your doctor or psychiatrist as to possible alternative or adjunct treatments such as CBD. Always consult with a medical professional if you suspect you or a loved one suffer from PTSD or you are considering taking THC or CBD to help relieve symptoms.
Some Basics About PTSD
Let’s get a little technical for some of the readers. PTSD, better known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder. People who suffer from PTSD have seen or experienced a traumatic event; anything from a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, combat/war, or violent personal assault can lead to PTSD (and this is not a comprehensive list).
Like many mental illnesses, PTSD can present itself in various symptoms and is often different for each person. Symptoms are separated into four categories: intrusive thoughts, avoiding reminders, negative thoughts and feelings, and arousal and reactive symptoms.
The American Psychiatric Association explains that PTSD is Often Characterized By:
- Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that bring on distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
- Negative thoughts and feelings may include ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; or feeling detached or estranged from others.
- Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping. (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd)
CBD and THC
THC and CBD are two of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. These compounds found can react with our body’s own natural endocannabinoid system (ECS), triggering various physiological and biological effects and processes, many of which have the potential to help with certain symptoms associated with PTSD, and perhaps even aid in treating the underlying neurochemical issues at the root cause. The two largest players in the ECS are THC and CBD, but the others are also believed to play a role.
While both THC and CBD are derived from the cannabis family tree, and have an almost identical molecular structure, these two cannabinoids could not be more different. Their differences affect the role they play in our bodies and the effects they elicit.
The more infamous of the pair is THC, also known by its full name: Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is derived from marijuana and is psychoactive. THC can bond directly with our CB1 receptor, which results in a high; conversely, CBD can prevent this bond and neutralize the psychoactive effects.
Both compounds can have positive effects on our health, but CBD is legal in all 50 states while THC is still fighting for that claim.
How These Cannabinoids Can Help
Research suggests (and anecdotal evidence seems to confirm) that both of these compounds can be used to help relieve symptoms of PTSD. In fact, a recent study by the NYU Langone Medical Center revealed that people suffering from PTSD have a much lower level of the neurotransmitter “anandamide”. Anandamide is one of our primary naturally produced cannabinoids in our body. It helps regulate such functions as anxiety, fear, happiness, and other mood-related features. It’s basically a naturally produced antidepressant and can help turn off traumatic memories.
The study’s lead author Dr. Alexander Neumeister stated, “There’s a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as antidepressant simply do not work. In fact, we know very well that people with PTSD who use marijuana — a potent cannabinoid — often experience more relief from their symptoms than they do from antidepressants and other psychiatric medications. Clearly, there’s a very urgent need to develop novel evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”
Further research has found that cannabinoids can help relieve nightmares and sleep issues related to PTSD.
Many patients, including military veterans, have reported decreases in symptoms ranging from anxiety and mood disorders to flashbacks and nightmares. These veterans and their supporters are helping lead the charge for full legalization so that these treatments can be further researched and made more available.
Currently, CBD Oil is much more accessible as it is held back by fewer regulations and has no psychoactive properties. THC is currently listed as a Schedule 1 drug on the federal list, though many states have started to rescind those restrictions.
Keep Doctors and Therapists in the Loop
As you have already experienced or have learned today, PTSD is a serious disease. Those who suffer often have a drastically reduced quality of life and have difficulty functioning in normal society.
Research is slowly confirming the anecdotal reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD could be the treatment thousands are missing. However, no matter how desperate one’s situation, never seek additional treatment without talking to your doctor or psychiatrist.
THC and CBD both count as medicinal supplements. It is not fully understood how they may react to certain medications and other medical conditions. Your doctor or psychiatrist will have more information on how these cannabinoids may interact with your current medications. Always keep them in the loop with any treatments and their effects, so that they can help monitor your progress and direct your treatment.
Every year, we lose ~40,000 bright souls to suicide. Especially at risk are those suffering from a mental illness such as depression or PTSD. Please help us encourage those around you in their dark moments.
If you or someone you know is in danger of suicide, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website and be aware of the following resources:
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Veteran Crisis Line: the above number, ext 1
National Suicide Prevention Chat: suicidepreventionlifeline.org
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