Using Cannabis to Treat PTSD
In the past decade, the medical benefits of cannabis have become increasingly well known. Today, 37 U.S. states recognize its potential to treat a variety of conditions, and have legalized cannabis for medical use. Under Florida law, there are ten conditions for which treatment with medical marijuana is approved. One of the approved conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), will affect nearly 10% of individuals at some point in their life. Research on how cannabis may help this prevalent and debilitating disorder continues to increase.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD, is a psychological disorder in individuals who have witnessed or experienced traumatic events.
Examples of traumatic events that can cause PTSD are:
- abuse and assault of all types
- military combat
- car accidents
- death of a loved one
- natural disasters
These are just a few of the examples.
PTSD affects millions of Americans, and can interfere with an individual’s quality of life by disrupting their day-to-day activities.
Who Can Get PTSD?
Almost anyone can experience PTSD at any age in their lifetime. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are slightly more likely than men to experience PTSD, and there may be individuals whose genetics make it more likely for them to develop PTSD. There are certain risk factors that can make people more susceptible to PTSD, like already having a mental health diagnosis or having little to no support after experiencing a traumatic event.
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms of PTSD typically show up about three months after an individual experienced trauma, but they can start to appear years after a traumatic event. PTSD has several categories of symptoms, and in order to be diagnosed, an individual must experience a particular amount of specific symptoms. Symptoms of PTSD are categorized into re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood.
Re-experiencing symptoms are probably what you think about when you think of the impact post-traumatic stress disorder can have on an individual’s life.
Re-experiencing symptoms literally makes the person involuntarily feel like they are reliving the traumatic event. Symptoms can include experiencing frightening thoughts, having bad dreams, and flashbacks. When someone has a PTSD flashback, they relive the traumatic experience over and over again, which is normally accompanied by physical symptoms like heavy sweating and trouble breathing.
Avoidance symptoms occur when someone changes their behavior to specifically avoid things that trigger memories of the traumatic event, and can cause individuals with PTSD to change their entire daily routine. Individuals typically avoid people, places, or things that have association with the traumatic event in their mind, and sometimes they try to avoid the thoughts and feelings associated with the traumatic event as well. For example, if an individual experienced a bad motor vehicle accident, they might avoid the location where the accident took place.
Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms
Arousal and reactivity symptoms are categorized as constantly occurring, unlike avoidance and re-experiencing symptoms that are usually triggered responses. Arousal and reactivity symptoms include constantly feeling on edge, being suspicious of others’ intentions, engaging in dangerous self-destructive behaviors, and irritable or aggressive behavior. It’s not uncommon for arousal and reactivity symptoms to affect an individual’s ability to do daily tasks, like sleeping, eating, and concentrating on important tasks.
Cognition and Mood Symptoms
Cognition and mood symptoms heavily impact an individual’s thoughts and feelings. They can include feeling negative about oneself, experiencing distorted feelings like shame or guilt, trouble remembering key details about the traumatic event, and a loss of interest in activities that an individual otherwise enjoys.
Physical Symptoms of PTSD
Physical symptoms can be byproducts of "mental" symptoms, and sometimes people only notice the physical symptoms.
This can prompt them to see a doctor. Physical symptoms of PTSD include:
- increased blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- back pain
- muscle tension
- joint pain
Does Cannabis Work as a PTSD Treatment?
Research shows that cannabis may help treat a variety of mental health conditions, and PTSD is one of them. Multiple studies have shown that the use of cannabis for PTSD has successfully resulted in a reduction of the severity of symptoms and, in some cases, the reduction of symptoms altogether over a period of time.
In September of 2020, a research paper published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found considerable evidence suggesting that the use of medical marijuana can reduce symptoms of PTSD. In a study of over 400 cannabis users who self-identified as having post-traumatic stress disorder, researchers found that after using medical marijuana, individuals’ PTSD symptoms were dramatically reduced. After inhaling cannabis, the participants reported that their symptoms were reduced up to 50%, and they did not experience any negative side effects. The study concluded that medical marijuana use was effective in temporarily treating the symptoms of PTSD.
In March of 2021, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) released a peer reviewed paper analyzing results of a randomized clinical trial on the short-term impacts of smoked cannabis on the symptoms of PTSD. The study of over 70 war veterans between the ages of 24 and 77 found evidence that suggests that cannabis may be a safe, effective treatment for the symptoms of PTSD.
All veterans who participated in the study reported that the severity of and overall number of symptoms was decreased with cannabis use with little to no other side effects. The reported side effects were limited to what you would normally expect from consuming cannabis, including dry mouth and cough. The conclusion of the study found that self-administered cannabis use may help veterans manage their PTSD, without the risk of adverse side or health effects.
Ongoing research on using cannabis as a potential treatment for PTSD can help determine more factors, and provide insight on long-term versus short-term use. As medical marijuana is becoming more commonplace, the ability to continue to conduct research on the treatment of PTSD with cannabis is opening more doors and providing relief to millions of Americans. If you are considering using medical marijuana as a treatment for your PTSD symptoms, MÜV dispensaries carry a diverse assortment of products to suit your unique needs.
Using Cannabis to Treat PTSD
Cannabis can be administered in a variety of ways, each having their own benefits. For treating PTSD it’s best to find products that are not only formulated THC, but also CBD. Most individuals have one or two specific ways they prefer to consume cannabis. At MÜV, we have a range of products to meet almost any personal need.
When discussing the topic of administering cannabis, most people think of smoking flower. Flower, also known as bud, can be ground and combusted, and then inhaled by the patient. Marijuana flower comes in a wide range of different types, commonly referred to as strains.
The best cannabis strains for PTSD are as follows:
OG Kush is a hybrid whose pleasant, euphoric effects make it one of the most ideal strains for those with PTSD. The THC levels in OG Kush are relatively high, typically around 20 to 24 percent, and the strain has a pretty low CBD ratio of around 0.2 percent.
It’s more than likely that you’ve already heard of Pineapple Express. It’s one of the most popular hybrid strains on the market today and is commonly used for treatment of anxiety and depression. For individuals looking to reduce the severity of and general symptoms of PTSD, Pineapple Express is a great choice. The strain is well-balanced and generally leaves consumers feeling clear-headed. The THC levels of Pineapple Express typically sit around 20 percent, and its CBD content is around 0.1 percent.
Indica-dominant, Slurricane crosses Do-Si-Dos with Purple Punch. The flower presents strong notes of peppery spice, with notes of citrus. According to MÜV Patients, is adept at easing mood disorders and testing a little higher with CBD (0.22%).
Other Cannabis Products for PTSD
If you’re not interested in inhaling medical marijuana smoke when using flower, consider using cannabis edibles instead. In Florida, dispensaries sell edibles in many forms, including chocolates, soft chew gelatins, baked goods, and special drink powders. Some individuals prefer to use edibles as a treatment for PTSD because of their lengthy effects that can last anywhere from four to eight hours.
Just like edibles, capsules are a smoke-free option that provides a consistent dose each time. Capsules can be made in different ways, from combinations of cannabinoids like CBD and THC to different types of oil within the capsules like activated distillate to RSO. Some capsules, like MÜV EnCaps, are fast-acting, while others may not be. It’s always best to consult with your Cannabis Advisor to know which capsule option may be best for you and your needs.
Tinctures are another smoke-free, digestible option. Usually administered as sublingual drops under the tongue, tinctures can provide the lasting effects of edibles but with a much shorter onset time. In addition to tinctures, there are other oral administration options, like oral sprays. When using a tincture, it’s recommended that you start with the “Golden Ratio,” or a 1:1 THC to CBD ratio.
If you’re looking for a mess free, hassle free way to administer cannabis, using a transdermal patch or gel may be the solution for you. Using a marijuana patch is a great way to administer a micro dose of THC in a discrete way and can last up to three days. Transdermal patches begin working almost immediately, in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. The effects wear off about 45 minutes after removing the patch, for those that no longer want to feel the effects.
More Research on Cannabis and PTSD
As medical marijuana becomes legalized in more and more states, the potential for further research on cannabis and PTSD is expanding more and more. Continued research can help individuals become more confident in the benefits of medical marijuana, and helps destigmatize outdated opinions. The more we are able to use scientific studies to confirm that cannabis use for PTSD is a safe, effective option, the more individuals will be able to use medical marijuana to help them manage and treat the symptoms of their mental health disorders.
- National Institute of Mental Health (2019). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health Publication. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_2239
- LaFrance, E. M., Glodosky, N. C., Bonn-Miller, M., & Cuttler, C. (2020). Short and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders, 274, 298–304. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.05.132
- MAPS. (2022). First Controlled Trial of Cannabis for the Treatment of PTSD Raises No Safety Concerns, Further Research is Needed to Determine Efficacy. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Clinical Trial Data Publications. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://maps.org/news/media/first-controlled-trial-of-cannabis-for-the-treatment-of-ptsd-raises-no-safety-concerns-further-research-is-needed-to-determine-efficacy/
- Rehman, Y., Saini, A., Huang, S., Sood, E., Gill, R., & Yanikomeroglu, S. (2021). Cannabis in the management of PTSD: a systematic review. AIMS neuroscience, 8(3), 414–434. https://doi.org/10.3934/Neuroscience.2021022
Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.