Post-traumatic stress disorder, also knows as PTSD, is a residual effect of a traumatic situation, such as military combat, a robbery, or sexual violence. With PTSD comes many other symptoms, which can include flashbacks, anxiety, and social isolation, to name a few. If PTSD is left untreated, many other negatives effects can result, severely dampening the quality of life for the afflicted.
PTSD affects over 8 million people in the United States each year. This number is primarily composed of those in low-income housing, and military veterans.
There is currently no specialized treatment for PTSD; psychiatric drugs are prescribed instead. However, given the opioid epidemic present in our country, medical professionals are looking into other forms of treatment.
PTSD and Neurobiology
Noradrenergic, serotonergic, and neuroanatomical disruptions occur with PTSD. Furthermore, the endocrine, cardiovascular, immune system, and autonomic systems become deregulated. As a result of so many factors being at play with PTSD, there is a very wide range of symptoms that occur.
According to neuroimaging studies, the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in neurological pathway management. The cause of the deregulation of internal bodily systems within PTSD patients is associated with dysfunctional CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
Stress is a trigger of PTSD, as it causes certain neurons to be activated in the brain. The result is the release of corticosteroids that cause stress, which causes further complications. Reduced dendritic branching, behavioral problems, and memory disorders are all common problems that can arise anytime stress is induced.
Endocannabinoids and PTSD
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is integral to the function of the prefrontal cortex, which is used to process information. In individuals who do not have an ECS that is functioning correctly, depressive disorder and personality changes have been reported.
PTSD has many adverse effects on cognition, mood, and metabolism if left untreated, as the issues related to the condition worsen over time. If the cannabinoid receptors of an individual with PTSD are activated, antidepressant effects may be observed, which would effectively treat many of the negative attributed PTSD has.
PTSD patients are more likely to commit suicide than healthy individuals. As one might expect, this occurrence likely stems from mood alterations and increased anxiety.
As previously mentioned, the antidepressant effects that cannabinoid activation has the potential to completely eliminate any negative mood and anxiety systems. New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program for PTSD observed entire alleviation in some patients.
War veterans are some of the most common PTSD diagnoses. When war veterans are deprived of alternative methods to treat their condition, they often turn to alcohol, which only exacerbates their symptoms.
Cannabis has the potential to treat the most common symptoms in war veterans, including negative flashbacks, anxiety, and poor sleep quality.
So, What’s the Verdict?
By interacting with serotonergic receptors, CBD has the potential to alleviate symptoms of PTSD. Unfortunately for the researchers who are striving to establish CBD as a proven treatment, there are some mechanisms at work that have not been completely defined yet.
In a fear-induced shock test conducted on animals, those that were given CBD experienced far less stress. This could in turn be utilized to treat combat veterans’ fear and flashbacks they experience.
Due to their minimal, temporary side effects, most veterans prefer cannabis over alcohol and other drugs.
Those with PTSD can exhibit aggressive behavior, which CBD also helps regulate. However, THC is also utilized alongside CBD to treat this symptom.
While animal studies and research have proven that CBD does in fact work, there are still gray areas regarding its use, dosage, and application. Due to the FDA being the final arbiter that determines whether or not a drug will be available to the public, it could be a long time before we are able to routinely purchase CBD.
In the short term, at least states with legalized medical marijuana programs can treat patients with PTSD. This will help convey the uses it has, and hopefully speed up the FDA’s approval.