Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Centre found that those suffering PTSD exhibited much lower levels of anandamide, as well as other neurotransmitters.
Anandamide is one of the body’s primary endocannabinoids (a naturally produced cannabinoid in the body), responsible for core functions such as regulating happiness, fear, and anxiety.
Anandamides functions as a natural antidepressant, with the ability to impair memory as well.
CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the body help turn off traumatic memories, allowing us to essentially ignore them. Research also suggests that a lack of endocannabinoids, such as anandamides, may induce symptoms of PTSD such as fear and anxiety.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Alexander Neumeister, explained why more research must be conducted into the potential of using medical cannabis for conditions which pharmaceuticals are not well equipped to:
“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.”
PTSD triggers severe stress in its sufferers, putting them in a constantly tense state, often preventing them from getting to sleep. Even when those with PTSD are able to sleep, it is common for them to suffer intense nightmares.
Unlike antidepressants or other pharmaceutical medication prescribed to PTSD patients, cannabinoids can prevent, or at least minimise, nightmares.
Cannabinoids reduce REM sleep, which prevents the vivid dream which occurs during this state, suggesting medical cannabis has the potential to relieve PTSD sufferers from reliving their trauma via nightmares.
Canadian researchers conducted a study in 2009 to test this thesis by studying 47 PTSD patients who continued to experience nightmares despite the use of antidepressants and psychotherapy.
Following cannabinoid treatment (in the form of Nabilone, a synthetic medical cannabis medication), 72% of the patients either experiences a drastic reduction in the severity of their nightmares or stopped having them entirely. An improvement in the quality and duration of sleep was also reported.
The majority of the patients also had a reduction in daytime flashbacks.