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Marijuana has been used for millennia to treat mental health disorders. Modern psychiatry has taken a long time to catch up. Post-traumatic stress disorder is something that as many as 1 in 4 people will suffer from in their lifetimes. Some pre-clinical trials have shown that cannabinoids, the active chemicals in marijuana, could be used to help.
Unfortunately, there is very little data to look at. This study has compiled what was known in 2017 about using whole-plant marijuana to treat PTSD.
Studies that have looked at how cannabinoids work in the body have shown that some of them interact with the parts of the brain that are affected by PTSD. The two main cannabinoids that have been looked at are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is psychoactive (it gets you high) and CBD is not. They both affect how the other works and are often more effective taken together. There are about 60 other cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant, but nobody knows much about them yet.
CBD has proven anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) effects. THC can sometimes induce anxiety. One of the most affecting symptoms of PTSD is the paralysing anxiety that comes from the trauma. In other studies, CBD has been shown to help people with anxiety through activating the CB1 receptor in the brain.
One of the most exciting discoveries talked about in this paper is the way that activating CB1 receptors in mice seems to stop them retrieving traumatic memories. It can also help to extinguish them, so they are less likely to occur. This is only pre-clinical data and is from mice, who have considerably less complicated brains than humans. It is impossible to draw conclusions from it but it does look hopeful.
THC is known to cause psychosis and schizophrenia in some people. Giving a drug that does that to already mentally ill patients is not a good idea. These risks are what cause the researchers to be very cautious. However, some useful data has shown that CBD can help reduce the negative qualities of THC and make it more tolerable.
Most of the data looked at in this study is for full-plant marijuana, or the entire mix of cannabinoids in the plant. With so many different strains and concentrations of different cannabinoids, it is hard to interpret the data from the studies accurately. Knowing which cannabinoid had the effect is basically impossible at this time.
There needs to be much more research into cannabinoids for treating PTSD. The preliminary results are hopeful but they are not conclusive. There have been positive reports and anecdotal evidence suggests that it works but there have been no large-scale clinical trials carried out yet.
Click here to download the research paper.
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