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Anyone suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) watching a loved one battle the disorder, knows how debilitating it is. Research shows impressive results from one of the oldest medicinal herbs – cannabis.
Cannabinoids can achieve 75% reduction in symptoms, giving new hope to long-time sufferers of PTSD. Read on to see how.
Sadly, post-traumatic stress disorder is a relatively common disorder. Seven to eight percent of the population in the US will develop PTSD at some time in their lives. So what is it, exactly?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a stress response to a real or perceived fear, that remains over time, long after the actual threat has gone. It can be due to an event that was experienced personally, or that was witnessed happening to someone else.
The inability to switch off the fight-or-flight fear response means the disorder presents symptoms such as the following:
The disorder is absolutely debilitating. People experiencing PTSD may find it hard to leave their house, connect with loved ones, or to feel excitement or joy. It has knock-on effects on careers, families and general health and wellbeing.
While it is very normal to experience fear after a traumatic event, it is termed post-traumatic stress disorder when the symptoms are severe, and last longer than a month after the event.
While it is typically associated with refugees, war veterans (VETS), or emergency services workers, it is common for people to experience PTSD after other after traumatic or terrifying events, such as:
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder can start as soon as one month after a traumatic event, but in other cases may take years to surface. For refugees, it is a common experience to not see PTSD until their lives and safety and settled in a new country, potentially a decade or two after they fled war.
Symptoms can vary greatly among patients and can change over time.
Sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder is triggered suddenly by an event that triggers a previous trauma, such as a news story on sexual assault or showing war scenes.
It is thought that some people may have a predisposition to the disorder due to the existence of other mental disorders, of personality/temperament factors. Some of the risk factors include:
At a biological level, post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by disruptions to the endocannabinoid system, along with other disorders like alcoholism and epilepsy. This is what led researchers to try medical cannabis as a way of treating the disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder has been a disorder that is resistant to treatment for a long time. Typical treatments have included pharmaceutical drugs or counseling. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Strong medication such as antidepressants, opioids, and anti-anxiety medication, or therapy. These have had results for some users but often come with their own side-effects and dangers.
Antidepressants, sedatives, and opioids can leave patients feeling numb. While it decreases their anxiety levels, it can also numb their feelings of joy. Often the reason they tried medication in the first place was to experience emotions and joy again.
Medications can also cause constipation, low sex drive, weight-gain and present additional issues. The risk of addiction to opioid medication is becoming more apparent by the day in the US. Many sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder prefer to experience their anxiety symptoms rather than feel numb on medication.
Counseling covers many different types of talk therapy. Talk therapy is perhaps the best-known traditional treatment for PTSD. Often it is thought if people will just ‘talk through’ their traumatic experience they will be able to ‘get over it’.
What this idea fails to understand is that for people experiencing PTSD, discussing the trauma can be retraumatizing.
If a patient is experiencing intense fear responses in the process of talking about their trauma, they can’t really concentrate on what their therapist is trying to teach them.
So, while therapy can be beneficial in many cases, patients often need the assistance of a relaxant to be able to benefit from this therapy.
This is assuming that the therapist is a specialist in PTSD, mind, as a therapist inexperienced in PTSD work can cause far more damage than good.
There have been cases of inexperienced therapists inadvertently causing patients to create memories of childhood abuse.
It takes a lot of supervision and experience before a qualified therapist can assist a patient with PTSD by discussing trauma in stages, to slowly desensitize them from the anxiety.
One of the newest breakthroughs in PTSD treatment actually happens to be one of the oldest medicinal herbs put to use by humankind. It is being used not only for PTSD but many other illnesses and disorders that are difficult to treat. Cannabis.
There has been a boom in the use of derivatives of the cannabis plant for medical use. You have no doubt heard about the growing list of medical issues helped by medical cannabis, such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and even arthritis.
Cannabis is a very powerful painkiller, with few side effects, and this has been key to its growing popularity in chronic medical issues.
PTSD is yet another medical disorder that research suggests medical cannabis can help. These cannabinoids (CBD) are particularly effective if used in combination with therapy.
The drug can calm the patient prior to a session, freeing them t work through their traumatic memories without the extreme fight-or-flight fear response it would ordinarily generate.
What cannabinoids essentially do is to dial-down the debilitating anxiety and fear. They can help patients with sleep, and generally, reduce their symptoms. But how? Let’s talk biology again
Cannabis has two cannabinoids – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). They interact with our endocannabinoid system – the system that helps to maintain emotional balance and which also plays a role in memory storage and retrieval.
PTSD patients report it helps significantly in reducing their anxiety symptoms during the day and helping them to sleep at night.
What is often misunderstood about CBD, is that it does not leave patients feeling high. Cannabidiol is a component of marijuana that has an impressive therapeutic potential but does not have psychoactive properties.
It gives the mind-calming and relaxation benefit of cannabis without giving a high.
The component of cannabis that gives the psychoactive ‘high’ is Tetrahydrocannabinol, abbreviated as THC. The THC component can also be effective in treating PTSD by assisting in relaxation and sleep at night-time. The recommended treatment is CBD, as it can reduce symptoms without impacting on daily activities of the patient.
The recommendation of health professionals is to try CBD in concert with a healthy diet a daily activity. Emotional and social supports are also critical in maintaining good mental health and ongoing recovery.
While some argue that post-traumatic stress disorder may never really go away, a combination of CBD therapy, talk therapy, and a healthy lifestyle are the key to taming the beast.
The recommended dosage of CBD to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. It will change depending on the severity of symptoms a patient is experiencing at any point in time. It will also change depending on dosage, as CBD is available in different forms:
The best advice is to read CBD research and consult a medical doctor. Ensure the medical doctor you connect with is experienced in prescribing cannabinoids for disorders like PTSD.
If you or someone you love experienced or witnessed a traumatic event and have life-affecting anxiety symptoms that have lasted over a month, its time to talk to your doctor.
Perhaps you have been in treatment with professionals for a long time with little results and would like to see if the impressive results generated by CBD work for you too.