Study: Medical cannabis reduces symptoms of PTSD

June 17, 2020

Washington State University has published the results of an observational study. It states that patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder were able to reduce their symptoms such as flashbacks, anxiety and irritability by using medical cannabis.

People who have gone through an extreme situation are at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such extreme situations can include serious accidents, life-threatening illnesses, mistreatment in childhood or adulthood. But also, witnessing wars, captivity or terrorist attacks can be triggers for this mental illness. It does not necessarily occur immediately after the traumatic experience. Even weeks, months or even years later, various symptoms can still appear.

Typical symptoms manifest themselves in the form of intrusions and flashbacks when those affected are overwhelmed by the emerging memories of the trauma. Intrusions and flashbacks are usually triggered by key stimuli. For example, when a war victim hears a loud bang or a burn victim perhaps smells smoke. Other symptoms of PTSD can manifest themselves as follows:

  • Nightmares
  • Wild outbreaks
  • Tachycardia and shortness of breath
  • Swindle
  • Anxiety, irritability and nervousness
  • Depression

Treatment of PTSD

Those affected need above all psychological care and in severe cases also an inpatient stay in a psychiatric clinic. Therapy usually consists of three phases: creation of a safe environment, stabilization and overcoming trauma.

Drug therapy is usually only used if the person concerned suffers from severe sleep disorders, restlessness, anxiety or depression, for example. Various studies have already shown that medical cannabis can be used as a supportive therapy in PTSD to alleviate the symptoms.

Results of the current observational study

404 medical cannabis users with PTSD used an app over a period of 31 months to track changes in their symptoms (flashbacks, intrusions, anxiety, irritability) depending on different cannabis varieties and doses before and after inhalation.

The results show that the symptoms were reduced by more than 50 percent after inhalation of medical cannabis. In the further course of time, a decrease in intrusions and irritability were also observed, especially at higher doses.

Washington State University researchers stated that medical cannabis could be used temporarily to relieve PTSD symptoms. But according to the researchers it may not be suitable as a long-term treatment, because in the observational study, those affected increased the dose steadily. This could indicate the development of tolerance.

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