Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that occurs after an individual suffers a trauma or life-threatening event. Although this disorder in itself is important to discuss, we are also going to address how cannabis makes the lives of those suffering from it more bearable. Although PTSD is common amongst war veterans, anyone can suffer from its symptoms. Unfortunately, individuals with PTSD find it incredibly difficult to function day-to-day. For example, some suffering from PTSD must wear earmuffs on the 4th of July in fear of the loud bangs, for others, simply being touched in a certain way can trigger flashbacks and anxiety. PTSD can alter someone’s life is so many ways: behaviors, interests, relationships and wellbeing are all affected. Oftentimes, sufferers of PTSD have difficulty sleeping due to their hyper aroused state and anxiety. This leads to a higher probability of one committing suicide.
Although PTSD isn’t “curable,” using medical marijuana can minimize these symptoms—so much so that veterans from all over America have created an organization named Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access.
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The Science Behind It
In one of his articles, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam mentions that marijuana is not a cure for PTSD, rather it is the equivalent of aspirin for a headache. Your body actively produces cannabinoids, which is also found in cannabis. By administering cannabinoids into your body in one way or another you can change the way you brain processes certain triggers—but more importantly, it disassociates it with fear. Meaning that trauma triggers virtually disappear for a short amount of time. In short, this means that when under the influence of marijuana, users may experience periods of comfort, allowing them to live without worrying.
So if it works, why isn’t it readily available to all suffers of PTSD? Well the answer to that is fairly complicated, but from what studies show it could be due to the long term side effects of marijuana.
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When reading articles about medical marijuana and PTSD you’ll find the word “but” hundreds of times. This is because while the use of medical marijuana with various levels of THC helps to temporarily rid anxiety and give users a night of restfulness, the other effects of prolonged marijuana use and dependence can lead to unwanted side effects.
Just like with any treatment, using medical marijuana to treat PTSD comes with the risk of side effects. In this case side effects can include short-term memory loss, an overactive appetite that can lead to overeating, and impaired motor skills. This, of course, is subjective—it all depends on the user’s dependence levels. It’s true that marijuana holds no addictive properties, but users may become psychologically dependent on the drug. If you smoke marijuana recreationally, these may not seem like side effects to you, but when someone uses it medically to treat certain symptoms, the other effects of the drug may not be so appealing. Therefore it may not be safe to prescribe (at least that what the studies indicate).
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So Does It Help?
With all of that said and done, does it actually help individuals suffering from PTSD? The answer is—yes, it can help, but it will not cure. Medical marijuana will allow suffers of the disorder to find temporary relief of their symptoms and possible triggers while under the influence. This does not mean that being “permafried” is a cure. This simply means that the marijuana, more specifically the cannabinoids within it, helps individuals with PTSD to relax and have a couple of hours where they can live comfortably.
The downsides of medical marijuana use for treating PTSD include dependence and long-term residual effects such as short-term memory loss, however, since the studies that are being conducted are so young, it’s hard to draw conclusions as to what long-term effects could potentially be in a medical point of view. This doesn’t mean that marijuana isn’t safe; it would seem that it is actually the most helpful substance to those suffering with PTSD—especially our war veterans.