Anxiety and stress follows you every single day and there are only a few exceptions when you are not stressed out? More and more acts of terrorism and the sense of threat that accompanies a large part of humanity have led us to today’s article. Another important reason is that new law in New York City, whose main hero is, of course, medical marijuana. Recognising the benefits of cannabis in effectively combating post-traumatic stress disorders, Senator Andrew Cuomo of New York signed a bill in November that now allows patients to use medical cannabis to treat the post-traumatic stress syndrome.
As you can read in the New York Daily News, the new law allows police officers, firefighters and war veterans, as well as victims of domestic violence who suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, to seek help without consuming prescription drugs – opiates. Medical cannabis has so far been legal in New York City because of several other serious ailments and conditions it treats, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and certain spinal cord diseases.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental state that develops after experiencing personally a traumatic event. People with PTSD suffer from strong anxiety, nightmares and uncontrolled recurrence of thoughts about the event. They often feel stressed and in danger, even though there is no real danger. The symptoms of PTSD occur in three phases: re-experience, avoidance and hyperactivity (this translates into retrospection, social isolation and insomnia). The persistence of post-traumatic stress over time is attributed to changes in the brain chemistry that occur when the adrenaline and stress hormones react excessively. PTSD symptoms are listed in more detail by the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA: being away from places or events resembling traumatic experiences, numbness or guilt, loss of interest in past activities, easy to be surprised, feeling of tension, sleep problems and experiencing anger bursts.
PTSD occurs primarily in war veterans, but can also develop after all kinds of traumatic events such as assault, kidnapping, car accident, air crash, physical attack or a natural catastrophe. Today, the disease is often treated with various psychotherapeutic therapies and the antidepressants are often prescribed to relieve feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety and numbness. These medicines can sometimes cause side effects such as headache, nausea, insomnia or drowsiness, agitation and sexual problems.
Professionals have long been looking for a safe solution to relieve and treat PTSD. Let’s see how the results of the research on the influence of cannabis on patients with PTSD are presented in this context.
Presented in January last year in Frontiers in Pharmacology, the results of the study suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) is effective in treating post-traumatic stress syndrome and other specific phobias. A study, led by Chenchen Song of the University of Birmingham, has shown that CBD provides both violent and long-lasting effects to reduce memory of fear. Injection of 10 mg of CBD into animals has been effective in reducing freezing symptoms in rats previously exposed to strong fear. The so-called freezing is a common reaction to fear among predatory animals. Moreover, rats receiving CBD were much less likely to be afraid of later dates when the same stress conditions were applied to them. As Dr. Song and her research team explained, the administration of CBD has been effective in stopping the development of fear. Similarly, CBD can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, cognitive disorders and discomfort in patients with social phobia.
Another research centre for PTSD and medical cannabis is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Martin Lee is a MAPS partner and CBD Project Director, who has thoroughly tested cannabinoids for the PTSD treatment. It was based on the discovery by scientists that people with PTSD have lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD. In other words, one of the pillars of this disease is the deficiency of endocannabinoids: the body stops producing enough endocannabinoids to fill the receptor sites and it is here that the cannabinoids present in medical marijuana enter the stage with their therapeutic role. Normal CB-1 receptor signalling deactivates traumatic memories and gives the gift of forgetting, but disturbed due to endocannabinoid deficits, CB-1 signalling only further worsens the elimination of fear, consolidation of memory causing aversion and chronic anxiety, i.e. characteristics of PTSD. By supplementing the missing endocannabinoids with those found in cannabis, PTSD patients are relieved.
Finally, a progressive voice from Canada, Dr. Mike Hart from Ontario, who has earned a reputation for effectively treating post-traumatic stress, chronic pain and neurological conditions with both cannabis and rigorous lifestyle interventions. Dr. Hart started using medical cannabis in his clinic three years ago. The main reason for this attempt was the fight against the opioid epidemic – many patients used opioids and did not receive adequate relief in return. However, they had many different side effects, such as high fatigue, constipation, low sex drive, etc. They had a lot of different side effects. Two years after opening his practice and following numerous scientific publications on the subject, Dr. Hart contacted the Canadian group called Marijuana for Trauma and soon afterwards began to treat veterans with medical cannabis. The legalization of not only the medical but also the recreational use of cannabis in Canada, and the emergence of state-controlled sites like the Cannabismo opened a whole new world for people suffering from not only the serious conditions like the PTSD, but also the less severe ones like the minor depression and anxiety. They didn’t have to hide anymore in the shadows.
But how does the doctor explain the therapeutic power of CBD and THC in relation to PTSD?
According to Hart, post-traumatic stress concerns mainly the “learned” fear. The more fear you have experienced throughout your life, the more powerful eternal vigilance it causes, which in turn can cause insomnia and nightmares. The Canadian doctor has found evidence that CBD can reduce learned fear through three different mechanisms. And whenever you try to reduce this fear, you always try to get to the source of the particular problem, so cannabis is increasingly seen as an effective cure to combat PTSD.
Cannabis not only helps to reduce fear reactions in people with PTSD, but also has many other measurable benefits. As with other psychiatric drugs, CBD administration prior to therapeutic sessions can help to calm patients and enable them to respond better to treatment.
Although cannabis has enormous medical potential, it is only one piece of the puzzle. While different cannabinoids can help to reduce the learned fear and temporarily correct imbalances in the endocannabinoid system, their action is most beneficial if they are integrated with significant lifestyle changes, mainly with appropriate diet and exercise. Anandamide, whose deficiency affects PTSD patients, is released during exercise. This means that it’s good to get out and move. In addition, in order for the body to produce anandamide, a diet rich in healthy fats is necessary. This is the basis for the overall health and wellbeing of not only the PTSD patients, but everyone.
Finally, let us go back to the most common cases of PTSD, that is, to war veterans who use cannabis mainly for regulation of emotions or for the increasing tolerance of stress. Another motivating factor is to improve the quality of sleep in people suffering from insomnia or nightmares. The more severe the symptoms are, the more war veterans want to use cannabis. However, there is evidence to suggest that the benefits of cannabis for patients with PTSD go beyond the temporary ones. The results of many studies confirm that cannabis has the potential to weaken the strength and emotional impact of the traumatic memories. In addition, the administration of cannabinoids shortly after exposure to a stressful event can help prevent the development of PTSD-like symptoms.
Based on amazing articles about the CBD and THC health benefits by Aleksandra’s Barczy
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca