Does marijuana help PTSD?
Yes, it can.
It really can. And considering there’s no medication designed specifically to treat PTSD, it’s not surprising that some patients break the law to use marijuana as a PTSD treatment.
PTSD kills. Marijuana can save lives.
Each year, more veterans die from suicide than do in combat. Suicide is the leading cause of death in the military.
In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that every day, 22 veterans commit suicide. 22. Every. Day.
Overall in the US, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death.
PTSD patients are at particularly high risk for suicide. Approximately 27% of PTSD patients also attempt suicide.
Ways Marijuana Helps PTSD?
These are some of the PTSD symptoms that marijuana may help relieve:
- can eliminate nightmares
- can improve sleep
- can decrease hyperarousal
- can soothe intrusive thoughts
- can slow down thoughts
- can improve impulse control
- can lift depression
- can help ease aggression & anger
- may help consolidate fear memories
- may spur neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells)
Why Patients Should Exercise Caution
Patients must be educated. Treating PTSD with cannabis is NOT about getting high. Cannabis can be a helpful medication, but patients must exercise caution as well, for a number of reasons.
For example, patients must realize that every strain of cannabis can cause a different physical reaction. Some strains of cannabis can cause anxiety and increase the risk of panic attacks in some individuals.
Additionally, how much cannabis you use, impacts the health effects you will experience. Read: Dosing: How much cannabis should I use?
Also, keep in mind that cannabis can interact with some medications, for example, Zoloft and Weed can interact.
Educate yourself and use cannabis responsibly under the guidance of a licensed healthcare practitioner.
How Cannabis Has Helped Me
I use medical marijuana to treat muscle spasms and nerve damage from a spinal injury. For me, MMJ has been an incredible pain treatment.
I also happen to suffer from PTSD. Shortly after starting medical marijuana, I realized that MMJ was also treating my PTSD (a welcomed as a side-effect!) I’m amazed at how differently I feel.
Until I began consuming weed on a regular basis, I never understood how much PTSD impacted my life. When I reflect back, I can easily recognize the differences.
READ more about my experience: My Daughter Saved My Life
Treating PTSD With Medical Marijuana
- I sleep like a rock. My insomnia is gone. For the first time, I actually enjoy sleeping.
- Cannabis chases away my nightmares. I’ve battled vivid scary nightmares for years. I still occasionally experience night sweats and now and then, I might wake up startled, but when I do, I don’t experience the same internal anxiety I used to.
- Racing and intrusive thoughts slow down enough that I can recognize and rationalize my way through them.
- I’m more in tune with my body and mind. I don’t feel like I’m always on guard. I can recognize triggers with enough time to calm myself down.
- Better impulse control in high-stress situations.
READ: Marijuana Gifts Cannabis Users Love
Marijuana for PTSD – The Science
You don’t have to take my word for it, science explains the reasons medical marijuana helps PTSD.
Every Human NEEDS Cannabinoids
The bodies of all mammals naturally make cannabinoids.
In fact, in the 1990’s an entirely new system of the human body was discovered, the endogenous cannabinoid system.
All mammals need a balance of internal cannabinoids to function effectively. A cannabinoids imbalance can lead to disease and disorder.
What’s a cannabinoid?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors.
Our bodies naturally have cannabinoid receptors widely distributed throughout our brain and body.
Our bodies naturally make cannabinoids. We NEED these cannabinoids in order for our bodies and brains to function properly. One of the most common natural cannabinoids is called anandamide.
Cannabinoids are also the active components in marijuana.
READ: 25+ Unique Marijuana Pipes on Amazon
The Endogenous Cannabinoid System & PTSD
The Brains of PTSD Patients are Different
PTSD Patients Have Low Levels of Natural Cannabinoids
In 2013, The NYU School of Medicine used brain scans to demonstrate that patients suffering from PTSD have chronically low levels of the natural cannabinoid, anandamide, in their brain.
It’s believed the administration of medical marijuana may help restore the correct balance of cannabinoids in PTSD patients
Understanding Dynorphin & Kappa Opioid Receptors
Aside from balancing internal cannabinoids, studies show that marijuana also stimulates kappa opioid receptors.
Proper functioning of kappa opioid receptors is essential to healthy stress relief.
When the healthy body begins to experience stress, the body releases a natural opiate called Dynorphin. Dynorphin binds to Kappa Opioid receptors in the brain and that stops feelings of depression and unease (dysphoria).
Brains With PTSD Exhibit Unavailable Kappa Opioid Receptors
A 2013 study published in JAMA Psychiatry demonstrated that the dynorphin process is in inhibited in patients with PTSD.
If someone has PTSD, their kappa opioid receptors hide in the cells and refuse to bind with dynorphin. This can explain depressive symptoms that PTSD patients often experience.
Cannabis Stimulates Kappa Opiate Receptors
Studies show that the administration of cannabis stimulates kappa opiate receptors (cannabis makes the kappa opiate receptors available).
When a PTSD patient uses cannabis, the cannabinoids the kappa opiate receptors become available. This allows dynorphin to bind with the receptors, thus providing natural relief.
Risks & Aversions to Medical Marijuana as a PTSD Treatment
According to current research and extensive anecdotal evidence, cannabis can be a surprisingly safe treatment for PTSD. No one has ever overdosed from cannabis. Plus, the side effects of cannabinoid treatment are usually less disabling than traditional pharmaceuticals.
However, like all medications – all substances – cannabis has risks. Marijuana can cause side-effects or adverse reactions in some patients.
Risk For Cannabis Addiction
PTSD patients have been more frequently diagnosed with “cannabis use disorder” than otherwise healthy individuals. Unfortunately, the accuracy of this statistic is affected by the fact that anyone illegally self-medicating is officially considered to suffer from cannabis use disorder. Self-medicating individuals may not be suffering from true addiction.
Still, cannabis is potentially addictive. It has about the same addiction rates as alcohol, around 9%. The risk for addiction isn’t nearly as high as the risk for addiction to opiates.
Additionally, withdrawal from cannabis feels more like withdrawal from caffeine and isn’t as intense or deadly compared to alcohol withdrawal.
In Many Places Cannabis Is Still Illegal
Illegal use still has terrible repercussions for millions. While the government withholds this medication, heroes are dying every day.
Patients who risk breaking the law to use illegally face prosecution including jail time. It’s ludicrous.
Here are the states where PTSD qualifies for medical marijuana.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia (program not yet operational)
- Washington DC
*Colorado does not include PTSD on their list of qualifying medical conditions, but PTSD patients can still access recreational marijuana in CO.
Medical Mairjuana Is Expensive
It all depends where you live.
In many places where patients are able to access medical marijuana, it’s often cost prohibitive. In NJ, a monthly supply can cost over $1,000 each month.
It’s EXTREMELY RARE for any health insurance to cover the cost of medical marijuana. It doesn’t matter if the state has approved medical marijuana, insurance companies still don’t have to cover it.
*Veterans living in Az, CO, CA, MI, NV, NM or OR may qualify for medical marijuana assistance from Grow for Vets.
Cannabis May Increase Anxiety & Risk of Panic Attacks
Some strains of cannabis can cause anxiety and increase the risk of panic attacks in some individuals. Also, cannabinoid therapy is extremely individualized. The strains and amounts that work for me might not work the same for you.
Educate yourself and use cannabis responsibly under the guidance of an experienced doctor. Start small and use caution.
A medical dispensary should be able to best guide you on selecting strains to help treat your specific condition.
Patients Should Be Cautious of Drug Interactions
Drug interactions are uncommon with marijuana, but considering biochemistry, they are possible. If you’re taking prescription medication, you should speak with your doctor before beginning cannabis treatment.
Read more about mixing antidepressants and marijuana.
What PTSD Feels Like:
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