Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a distressing and challenging disorder that can develop following exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms can begin almost immediately but may also appear years later, affecting not only the mind but the body and spirit as well. Many who suffer from PTSD seek out medical cannabis as a more natural remedy to help with their symptom relief.
Individuals with PTSD may experience anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, hallucinations, physical symptoms, and social isolation. PTSD has also been shown to affect the immune system, hormone levels, and the cardiovascular system.
Let’s explore how PTSD affects the endocannabinoid system, how cannabinoids can help alleviate symptoms, and the recommended ways to consume cannabis to aid in PTSD symptom reduction.
The Endocannabinoid System and PTSD
The Endocannabinoid System helps regulate and control many of the body’s functions. Think of it as our body’s internal feel-good and self-healing system. One of the most important roles it plays is in the control of our emotions and memories.
Dysregulation of the Endocannabinoid System has been associated with PTSD. Chemical compounds our bodies make, called endocannabinoids, interact with the endocannabinoid system to help regulate stability. Studies have shown that people who suffer from PTSD make less of these compounds, which, in turn, may be the cause of this dysregulation.
Since the cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant, like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), mimic the endocannabinoids and can interact with the endocannabinoid system, these cannabis compounds can be used as a supplement to help return stability to the endocannabinoid system.
A 2021 review of studies showed that cannabis was associated with a reduction of overall PTSD symptoms and helped improve quality of life.
Let’s look at some of the ways cannabis may be beneficial for PTSD.
Fear Memory Extinction
Research has shown that CBD, THC, and CBD/THC in combination can reduce the brain’s ability to consolidate and retain fear memories. Reducing these negative, fearful emotions can lead to less hypervigilance from overactive fear-or-flight responses and anxiety.
Some research suggests that individuals with severe PTSD may have higher levels of inflammation in the brain. Chronic inflammation can lead to mental issues and mood disturbances. Animal and human studies show that decreasing inflammation can help diminish PTSD symptoms and help relieve pain.
Cannabis is well-known for its sleep-enhancing qualities. Many have experienced relief from PTSD symptoms such as insomnia and night terrors when their sleep routine is enhanced with cannabis.
How Cannabinoids Can Help With PTSD
The cannabis plant produces many different cannabinoids, but the 2 most abundant cannabinoids are CBD and THC. They each offer their own benefits, but when used together, they enhance each other’s special properties. Understanding these benefits is important to helping you find the right balance to help with your symptom relief.
Here’s how these cannabinoids can help severe PTSD symptoms and how to find the right ratio for you.
CBD’s therapeutic effects are particularly beneficial for relieving many symptoms.
A 2018 clinical review shows it can change how the brain processes traumatic memories.
Another 2021 clinical review found CBD calms activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that has been associated with emotional memory and fear conditioning. This area can become overstimulated by traumatic stress.
CBD also works on receptors that increase serotonin and it can increase the number of endocannabinoids we make, helping to relieve anxiety responses.
CBD doesn’t cause a ‘head high’ and is best for daytime use as it can be stimulating. It generally works best when taken daily, 2-3 times throughout the day to keep a steady level in the body.
THC, in small amounts, can help relieve stress and uplift mood. Larger amounts may sometimes cause a worsening of symptoms by increasing stress and paranoia levels. Finding the amount that works best for you is important to avoid adverse effects.
THC can also be beneficial in helping with sleep impairments. It increases melatonin production in the body, promotes slow-wave sleep (deep sleep), and helps us not remember our dreams.
Finding Relief With a High CBD to THC Ratio
CBD and THC act synergistically and are often most effective when used in combination.
Incorporating high doses of CBD with lower amounts of THC can be effective for daytime relief of anxiety and hypervigilance.
For times when PTSD triggers an acute panic attack, taking a larger CBD/THC dose can help produce calming effects that can help relieve some of the stress of the trigger.
For sleep, THC-rich relaxing flower strains or vape cartridges can help you fall asleep by quieting the mind, and THC-rich edibles can help you stay asleep.
As with all things cannabis, start low and increase slowly to find the right amount for your body and symptom relief.
Different Ways To Consume Cannabis To Alleviate PTSD Symptoms
There are many different methods of consuming cannabis. The best method for you will depend on your needs.
Below are some ways to consume cannabis and the benefits of each method.
These include smoking cannabis flower or utilizing vape cartridges. Inhalants are the fastest-acting delivery method and can produce calming effects within 15 minutes when quick relief is needed.
Flower strains high in the terpenes Linalool and Limonene, especially in combination with CBD, can provide powerful anti-anxiety benefits. These powerful effects can last 1-4 hours, making it an effective treatment option for rapid relief.
Tinctures are a liquid form of relief, offering drop-by-drop precision and ease in helping relieve PTSD symptoms. Onset times, when taken sublingually, take effect within 15-45 minutes and last 2-6 hours.
Combining a CBD-rich tincture with a relaxing THC tincture can further enhance symptom relief. The ratio of CBD to THC that a person will need is different for everyone, so experiment to see what ratio works best for you.
These can offer long-lasting relief for symptoms. Edibles take longer for the effect to be felt–30 minutes to over 2 hours–but their effects generally last 4–10 hours.
CBD/THC combination edibles can be beneficial for daytime use, and THC edibles can be helpful in promoting longer-lasting sleep.
It will take some patience and experimentation to find how cannabis may be able to help you with your PTSD symptoms. When in doubt, consulting with a reputable medical cannabis dispensary can point you in the right direction.
Our Friendly Medical Cannabis Dispensary Staff Is Here To Help!
At Verdes Cannabis, our cannabis dispensary deeply cares for every client that walks through our doors. Our knowledgeable cannabis educators are here to guide you on your wellness journey by educating you on the benefits of medicinal cannabis and how it can help you experience relief.
We understand that the symptoms of PTSD can be draining and painful to deal with. That’s why we want to give you natural remedies to help you increase your quality of life and more effectively manage your symptoms.
Browse our selection of medical cannabis products to see how they can help you today!
As the Head of Education & Culture for Verdes Cannabis, a legacy cannabis company in New Mexico, Kelly is responsible for researching, creating, and delivering cannabis education to not only staff but also to clients and the community. She has extensively studied cannabis for the last 5 years, receiving several certificates from the Medical Cannabis Institute and Medical Marijuana 411. She continues her studies by attending medical cannabis conferences and monthly webinars with the top researchers and doctors in the field of medical cannabis. She enjoys being able to use her extensive knowledge and training in cannabis to educate and help others learn about this amazing plant.