Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, serious injury, or threats of imminent death. The diagnosis may be given when a group of symptoms, such as disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event.
Most people having experienced a traumatizing event will not develop PTSD. People who experience assault-based trauma are more likely to develop PTSD, as opposed to people who experience non-assault based trauma such as witnessing trauma, accidents, and fire events. Children are less likely to experience PTSD after trauma than adults, especially if they are under ten years of age. War veterans are commonly at risk for PTSD.
Medical Marijuana Efficacy
Currently there are no specialized, effective medications available for PTSD patients, but with new discoveries in our body’s therapeutic hotspot — the endocannabinoid system — research is beginning to pave new avenues of understanding and treating PTSD.
One investigator of PTSD and cannabis is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Martin Lee is a MAPS affiliate and director of Project CBD, and has studied PTSD and cannabinoids in depth.
“Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD,” Lee wrote, “Innate to all mammals, anandamide (our inner cannabis, so to speak) triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant.”
In other words, one pillar of PTSD is an endocannabinoid deficiency: the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill receptor sites, and this is where the cannabinoids found in marijuana play a therapeutic role. By replenishing these missing endocannabinoids with those found in cannabis, researchers think marijuana pharmaceuticals might bring PTSD patients relief from their memories.
“Scientists have determined that normal CB-1 receptor signaling deactivates traumatic memories and endows it with the gift of forgetting,” Lee said, “But skewed CB-1 signaling, due to endocannabinoid deficits (low serum levels of anandamide), results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the hallmarks of PTSD.”
Official Research Reports
Mitigation of post-traumatic stress symptoms by Cannabis resin: A review of the clinical and neurobiological evidence. (Passie T, Emrich HM, Karst M, Brandt SD, Halpern JH, 2012)
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