Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects roughly 10 percent of the population at some point in their lives. It is a debilitating condition that has enormous social, economic, and personal costs. Treatments have improved substantially in recent years but there are currently no approved pharmacological (drug-based) effective treatments available for PTSD sufferers.
Antidepressants can work to alleviate the anxiety and depression that result from the condition, however, they do nothing for the intrusive and traumatic memory recall that is the defining characteristic of PTSD. Recent advances in endocannabinoid system understanding have shown that it presents a novel potential pathway to aid with the extinguishing of memories and block their reconsolidation. This was demonstrated in rodents with the drug cannabidiol (CBD).
Here is the full scientific article if you wish to download it.
This review collates the evidence available for the potential use of CBD in treating PTSD and concludes that it is a therapeutic opportunity that should be explored with considerable haste.
Although some relief from depression and anxiety caused by PTSD can be had from administering antidepressants, there are no drugs that have been proven to help extinguish traumatic memories and prevent them from returning. The mechanisms of memory are complex and it was only recently that the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS, or eCB system in this paper) in memory was partially elucidated.
The processes of learning and emotional responses require the endocannabinoid system in humans, especially in traumatic memories. While the use of cannabis has long been known to affect short and long-term memory, how this effect happened and whether it could be exploited for therapeutic use was not known until recently.
When memories are accessed, the brain strengthens their connections, both making them stronger and more likely to recur. With traumatic memories, this can produce a negative spiral of worsening symptoms, which in many cases is debilitating to the extent the patient cannot function properly. This system has been proven to involve a dysregulated endocannabinoid system.
Cannabidiol has a proven positive safety profile. It does not produce psychoactive effects and is very tolerable. Even at high doses, it is safe in the short term and believed to be so in the long term. Safety, a lack of side effects (especially psychoactive ones) and tolerability are all essential for a drug to treat PTSD. In animal models, CBD has been shown to affect memory consolidation and recall at several stages, which clearly demonstrates the need for investigation.
Administering CBD changes fear-related and traumatic responses in animals. Currently, no safe drug has been shown to have this effect. Both behavioural changes and changes in the structure of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is essential for memory, upon administration of CBD, have shown that it can affect the complex mechanisms that are involved in memory formation, consolidation, and recall.
There are no reliable data for treating PTSD with CBD or any cannabinoids in humans. Although many patients report self administration of cannabis, the varying concentrations of cannabinoids, doses, and methods of administration, alongside the lack of reliable data, make it impossible to recommend CBD on this basis alone. Research into the use of PTSD should be undertaken.
CBD shows significant promise for treating PTSD but there are no data to prove it yet.