Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition which often occurs in people who have experienced a terrifying or traumatic event. Using medical cannabis to treat PTSD remains controversial, but a growing number of military veterans and others who suffer from PTSD claim cannabis is a useful therapeutic tool for treating the disorder and helping to transcend traumatic memories. Here we examine the current legality and medical science surrounding the use of medical cannabis for PTSD.
How common is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Trauma is a common human experience. Sixty percent of men and half of all women experience at least one trauma in their lives. The nature and origin of the traumas vary but the results of psychological trauma exhibit common symptoms. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress include shaky hands, increased heart rate and nervous sweating and is a common response to traumatic or stressful events. Symptoms can be triggered by minor daily interactions, uncomfortable places, loud noises, as well as certain smells and/or social environments. Post-traumatic stress usually dissipates in a few days, though severe or prolonged trauma may result in long-term psychological effects, known as PTSD.
PTSD is a clinically diagnosed condition causing patients to mentally relive a traumatic event repeatedly through flashbacks, nightmares, and constant anxiety. Eight million adults in the U.S. have PTSD each year and seven to eight percent of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. The ratio of military veterans with PTSD is larger than the general population and varies depending on several factors. A staggering 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD at some point in their life after the Southeast Asian conflict.
PTSD is also associated with a higher rate of Substance Use Disorder (SUD), especially among veterans, as individuals use alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, heroin, and prescription pills to cope with anxiety and other symptoms. PTSD is linked with a higher risk of suicide; it is estimated that 22 veterans are lost to suicide every day – 20% of the national total. Unfortunately, many of the prescription drugs used to treat PTSD have unwanted side effects and addictive potential of their own, leaving many who suffer from PTSD feeling as if they have nowhere to turn.
Cannabis Use & PTSD
Medical cannabis can be prescribed to patients with PTSD in twenty-seven states. A growing number of veterans have described the efficacy of using medicinal cannabis therapy to treat PTSD and successfully cope with symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia. Many veterans emphasize that other PTSD treatment options – psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, group therapy – failed where cannabis succeeded in helping them find relief. Scientific knowledge regarding the effectiveness of cannabis in treating PTSD is limited. Several observational studies have however indicated a great deal of anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of using cannabis to treat PTSD.
Federal restrictions on cannabis research have limited the ability of scientific researchers to perform clinical studies and reach definitive conclusions. Those restrictions are finally being lifted and the first controlled clinical study to find those answers is underway. A second study, the first to examine the effectiveness of CBD oil in treating PTSD, demonstrated effectiveness in ten out of eleven patients studied. The study concluded that oral CBD in addition to normal psychiatric care was associated with a reduction of PTSD symptoms.
One of the biological aspects of PTSD is believed to be a deficiency in the production of endocannabinoids, in which the body doesn’t make enough to fill cannabinoid receptor sites. Certain cannabinoid receptor sites are heavily concentrated in parts of the brain associated with memory formation and extinction (when memories are forgotten) and thus may be the mechanism by which cannabis therapy can help the body heal itself. The “fight or flight” response occurs in the region of the brain known as the amygdala, which also has a dense concentration of CB1 cannabinoid receptor sites, which may help explain why cannabis therapy is often experienced as calming. For adults with PTSD whose fight-or-flight response is repeatedly triggered by traumatic memories, regulation of the fight-or-flight response via cannabinoid therapy often seems to help patients where other methods do not.
Origins of Mr. Natural
Mr. Natural was founded by Vietnam veteran Bob “Mr. Natural” Luciano who first encountered cannabis in the jungles of Southeast Asia and found that smoking the flower helped mitigate nausea, insomnia, and the stress of war. Mr. Natural proceeded to cultivate and develop unique cannabis strains specialized for the treatment of PTSD symptoms for veterans. Today, Mr. Natural continues to advocate for medicinal cannabis access for PTSD by speaking about his own experience finding relief as a disabled veteran and cultivating specialized organic cannabis strains to help millions of Americans find greater relief from pain and enjoyment of life.
[TL;DR – Definitive scientific conclusions are forthcoming, but ample anecdotal evidence exists that cannabis therapy is useful for treating the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.]