Post-traumatic stress disorder, most common in war veterans, involves uncontrollable anxiety and flashbacks following a traumatic experience. Studies have shown cannabinoids are effective at lessening the emotional impact of traumatic events and can help patients experience less stress, fear, and improve their sleep.
Overview of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. People that are suffering from PTSD experience flashbacks, severe anxiety, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts about the prevalent event, according to Mayo Clinic. They often feel stressed and in danger when no real threat exists. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, other symptoms of PTSD include avoiding places or events that are reminders of the traumatic experience. Feeling numbness or guilt, losing interest in formerly enjoyable activities, being easily startled, feeling tense, having problems sleeping, and experiencing angry outbursts.
PTSD is prevalent in military veterans but can develop following any type of traumatic event, such as a mugging, kidnapping, car accident, plane crash, physical attack, or natural disaster.
PTSD is being treated with psychotherapy efforts that include exposure therapy. This exposes patients to the trauma they experienced but safely, cognitive restructuring, which helps patients make sense of the bad memories, and stress inoculation training, which teaches patients how to reduce their anxiety. Antidepressant medications are often prescribed to help curtail feelings of sadness, anger, worry, and numbness. These medications can sometimes have side effects like headaches, nausea, sleeplessness or drowsiness, agitation, and sexual problems.
Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Cannabis has been found to help PTSD patients manage their symptoms. Two major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), influence the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays an essential role in maintaining emotional homeostasis and in regulating memory consolidation, retrieval, and extension. Cannabinoids found in cannabis activate the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system, which in turn modulates the release of neurotransmitters and produces a wide range of effects on the central nervous system, including an increase in pleasure and the alternation of memory processes. The cannabinoids block the continuous retrieval of the traumatic event, thus enhancing its extension and reducing its associated anxiety.
These effects help PTSD patients manage the three core symptoms of the condition, which include re-experiencing, avoidance and numbing, and hyperarousal. PTSD patients saw a 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms, as measured by the Clinical Administered Post-traumatic Scale when they were using cannabis compared to when they were not.
Military veterans use cannabis for coping purposes, especially those whose condition causes difficulties in emotional regulation or stress tolerance. An improvement in sleep patterns in those who are suffering from insomnia or nightmares is another primary motivating factor for cannabis use in PTSD patients. The more severe the PTSD symptoms, the more that military veterans desire to use cannabis to cope. Preclinical evidence supports CBD as having considerable potential as a treatment for PTSD when it’s administered acutely as symptoms arise rather than chronically.
There’s evidence to suggest, however, that the benefits of Cannabis for PTSD patients go beyond temporary. Findings support that cannabis has the potential to dampen the strength and emotional impact of traumatic memories. Besides, administering cannabinoids shortly after the exposure to an intensely stressful event can help prevent the development of PTSD-like symptoms.
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