How Cannabis Can Help Your Loved One Living with PTSD | cannabisMD

How Cannabis Can Help Your Loved One Living with PTSD

Helping your loved one with PTSD with cannabis

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PTSD is caused by a traumatic experience usually involving military combat. Learn how cannabis can help you or your loved one living with PTSD.

Living with PTSD creates one of the most troubling quality of life issues in modern society. Unlike other disabling problems, PTSD rarely has an outward visual component.

Those who suffer from PTSD find their troubles magnified because the causes of PTSD include trauma. These traumas come from dangerous service jobs such as military or police work. Other traumas come from being attacked sexually or egregiously.

Knowing that trauma comes from either service or attack adds insult to injury when it is not acknowledged. These complications make daily life a slog through internal and external perceptions.

Fortunately, newer treatments and promising drug trials including cannabis show ways of reducing issues and reaching a better life.

Living with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder represents one of the largest problems of modern psychology. The common link with military service and the changing terminology used to reflect the condition make treatment options a slowly evolving mess. Those suffering from abuse or sexual trauma get pressured to explain their past to justify their present.

The symptoms also come in three categories, and sufferers may exhibit more of one than others, which can muddle diagnosis and treatment options further.

A person living with PTSD must also deal with constant doubts as to the veracity of their condition from laypeople who expect sufferers to ‘get over it’ or ‘push through’.

Finally, current treatments with medications and therapy used for depression or psychotherapy often miss the mark and create more side effects than relief.

For those living with PTSD, getting others to understand the relationship and issues with the three classes of symptoms can be the hardest part. Technical terms for these symptoms include: re-experiencing, hyperarousal, and avoidance.

Layman terms for these issues commonly include: flashbacks, insomnia, and social isolation.

Each of these problems lovers the overall quality of life. The following gives a notion of the issues associated with each one, and the complications that can arise.


One of the better-understood complications of living with PTSD, flashbacks represents intense re-experiencing of past events. These can be triggered by similar sights, sounds, smells, or other senses.

While it may be difficult for others to understand exactly what experiencing a flashback is like, many at least grasp that it is something that happens. This gap between lay understanding and the specifics of a flashback reinforce the alienation that PTSD sufferers experience.

Nobody wants to ‘act normal’ or ‘just get over it’ as much as the people having the problem.

Flashbacks may take the form of relived memories or outright hallucinations. Often a person will have difficulty not reacting in a general anti-social way when experiencing a flashback. Often bystanders will attempt to restrain or interfere with such a person, which makes the situation worse.


More of a side-effect of hyperarousal than an actual part of, insomnia leads to sleep deprivation which exacerbates other issues.

Living with PTSD often involves a state of hypervigilance against dangers, both real and perceived. This causes issues with sleep because every noise might be something. As a lack of sleep compounds, mood deteriorates leading to a larger lack of control.

Sleep deprivation, over time, becomes its own issue which may cause other brain chemistry imbalances. This may also lead to the use of uppers such as amphetamines and caffeine to attempt to reach a functional state.

Sadly, use of uppers makes underlying anxiety worse, leading to more frequent issues and on the cycle goes.

Social Isolation

Much like insomnia, social isolation creates a snowball effect. Studies reflect the breakdown and plethora of disorders that can arise from prolonged isolation. One of the leading issues with avoidance is that it leads to more avoidance.

When a person becomes isolated enough, they lose understanding of social symbolic language. They basically forget how to communicate effectively with others. This makes seeking help and continuing treatment difficult.

Finding or holding employment while living with PTSD with a strong social isolation component becomes nearly impossible. Essentially, a PTSD sufferer starts to fall into a hole and refuses to seek or receive help.

Other Treatments

Antidepressants and antipsychotics top the pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD. For those living with PTSD these drugs often miss the mark. Patients report side-effects such as extreme fatigue or lethargy which makes life nothing more than a waking dream. Others report feeling nausea or deep muscle pain which makes functioning difficult or intolerable.

Extinction and habituation therapy seeks to make a PTSD patient comfortable with their trigger and trauma. These basically work by forcing the brain to forget the trauma outright or force it associate pleasant or neutral responses with a trigger.

Both of these cognitive therapies face problems because patients often have resistances to being brought close to a necessary receptive state.

Mechanism of CBD/THC

Learning more about PTSD often leads to pages with information on studies relating to PTSD and medical cannabis. Research from 2014 and onward shows an increased correlation between PTSD symptom relief and medical cannabis usage.

The research focuses on a combination of two mechanisms that cannabis effects which can be shown vital in PTSD reactions. That is, both in the formation of an initial trauma and in paving a way for effective cognitive therapy.

Overwhelmingly, patients with PTSD have been found to have deficiencies in endocannabinoids and anandamide. These two compounds have a lot to do with learned fear and general good feelings. Essentially, a person living with PTSD gloms on to fear and has trouble feeling joy.

CBD or cannabidiol, one of the two active ingredients of the cannabis plant helps put patients at ease which helps them to get to a receptive place for cognitive therapies. CBD also replaces deficient endocannabinoids which should be produced naturally in the human body. CBD inclusion can train a brain how to forget, which aids in extinction component of therapy chemically.

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis plants. THC helps replace missing anandamide, elevating mood and reducing instances of isolation.

THC, as a psychoactive substance, creates the larger barriers to medical cannabis research. Though it has proprieties which aid, the presence of THC makes it easy for regulators to block all cannabis research.

Understanding Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids occur naturally in people. The term represents a collection of cell receptors and the molecules which go with those receptors. Primarily these refer to the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

These two receptors play active parts in regulating several important body functions. Unsurprisingly, these include sleep, mood, pain, pleasure/reward, appetite, and memory. A deficiency in receptor response or the corresponding molecules would easily cause issues with nominal functions.

By elevating CB1 and CB2 sensitivity, CBD brings crucial portions of the system back into alignment. Or can, once dosage and response become better understood. For now, CBD helps overall, but not with precision.

Aiding sleep reduces hypervigilance and hyperarousal symptoms. Reduced pain lowers trauma response and memory changes help in extinction therapy.

Understanding Anandamide

Anandamide along with 2-Ag are the two main molecules of the endocannabinoid system. THC increases levels of these molecules, which leads to larger responses in the associating systems.

Of note, THC aids in pain responses (as does CBD) while also providing an increase in the pleasure/reward response. Anandamide response comes most commonly from exercise and may be referred to as “runner’s high”. Lacking in anandamide makes rewarding experiences feel less so, which makes participating in otherwise challenging activities feel hollow.

Therapy Combinations

Some of the effects of cannabis, such as appetite and nausea control make using antidepressants and antipsychotics a possible positive drug regiment. Without the feelings of nausea, some living with PTSD would be able to return to a normal routine. Essentially they would get the best of the pharmaceuticals while reducing the worst of the side effects.

CBD rich strains or oils aid in cognitive therapies by aiding patients in the receptivity of treatment and enhancing the extinction of traumatic memory responses.

THC provides a boost to reward responses, this helps cognitive therapy to stick. This also aids in reducing avoidance behavior caused by mental or physical pain. Elevated mood also produces better results for therapy.

Finally, sleep is enhanced which lowers problems caused by the exacerbating effects of sleep deprivation.


Of course, access to medicinal cannabis remains difficult in some areas. Continuing research opens new avenues and seemingly every year more states become open to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

As access becomes more open and available, the stigma of treatment will also go down, which help those living with PTSD to find treatment without feeling like criminals or outcasts. Two feelings which compound the already difficult symptoms of PTSD.

Be Informed

Learn more about medical cannabis and PTSD. Spreading information helps people to be well-versed in the uses of marijuana in treatment. Conversely, this helps to remove the stigma surrounding the ongoing research and acceptance of marijuana in modern society.

Every day researchers work to find out more about what medical cannabis can do to aid humanity. New areas of treatment are found and others get explored more deeply. Lists of treatable conditions and corresponding information on what CBD, THC, and cannabis, in general, can do continue to grow.

Find more about treating PTSD with CBD here: What You Need To Know About PTSD and Cannabis

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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