Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
WHAT IS PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or experiencing something distressing, such as an assault, accident, combat, or natural disaster. The brain’s normal fight-or-flight response becomes altered, and the person continues to feel stressed and anxious long after the event.
Approximately eight million people in the U.S. suffer from PTSD. Around 10 percent of women develop PTSD during their lives, while only about 4 percent of men are affected. PTSD is common among veterans of military combat. Anyone of any age can get PTSD. Some people get it after a friend or family member experiences trauma, or when someone close to them dies suddenly.
PTSD is treated with a combination of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy to help people understand their anxiety, and exposure therapy to help them face their fears. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, combines exposure therapy with guided eye movements that help people process their responses to traumatic memories.
Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are prescribed for PTSD symptoms, and adrenaline blockers sometimes help with insomnia. However, these medications have undesirable side effects that often discourage people from continuing to take them. A significant number of PTSD patients do not respond well to.
SYMPTOMS OF PTSD
- Re-experiencing the trauma in recurring thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks
- Sleep problems
- Irritability, depression, anger, and aggressive behavior
- Poor concentration
- Fear and avoidance of places, people, and experiences associated with the traumatic event.
These symptoms are normal right after you have been through a traumatic experience, but when they continue for more than a few weeks, or resurface months or years later, you may be suffering from PTSD.
PTSD is typically diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must experience the following during a period of one month:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least three occurrences of fear or avoidance
- At least two hyper-arousal symptoms, such as irrational anger, despair, or aggression
Symptoms that interfere with daily life, such as school or work, being with friends, or taking care of important tasks.
BENEFITS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR PTSD
Studies of people with PTSD who take medical marijuana have shown that it helps alleviate sleep disorders, calm aggression, soothe anxiety, and stabilize mood swings. Families of PTSD sufferers report an improved quality of life. Even cases of treatment-resistant PTSD have shown improvement with medical marijuana.
Synthetic cannabinoids have been found to alleviate nightmares in PTSD patients.
Laboratory studies have demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system plays a part in memory extinction, the natural process of separating negative associations from stimuli. It is possible that medical marijuana could aid this process in PTSD patients.
Stress and anxiety cause the release of a fatty acid, FAAH, which breaks down the endocannabinoid system, increasing neuronal excitability in an area of the brain that controls anxiety. Medical marijuana could inhibit this anxiety-inducing mechanism by binding with CB1 receptors.
In 2017 the FDA approved a study on the effects of medical marijuana on veterans with PTSD.
Veterans with PTSD who use recreational marijuana do not always experience beneficial results. THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can increase anxiety and induce psychosis in some people. For this reason, you should use medical marijuana under the guidance of a qualified doctor who can monitor the results and adjust the dosage if necessary.