A shocking, scary, or dangerous event can cause the body to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is natural to feel fear during and immediately after a traumatic situation. Split second decisions are made in the “fight or flight” response. But, when a person does not recover naturally from a trauma, the long-term effects can be devastating.
Step One: Talk to your Organic Remedies Pharmacist
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD and are considering medical marijuana therapy, Organic Remedies Pharmacist Shannon Ye says, “Information gathered from non-professional sources may not always provide the best results. Treatments can greatly differ among patients. Efficacy is closely tied to finding the appropriate dose and strains.”
While the most studied type of medications for treating PTSD are antidepressants, which may help control symptoms including sadness, worry, anger, and feeling numb inside, medical cannabis may also be helpful in alleviating many different symptoms as well. Other common problems associated with PTSD, that may be helped by medical cannabis, include loss of sleep and nightmares.
Right now, the National Institute of Mental Health says medical professionals and patients should work together to find the best medication or medication combination, as well as the right dose. Ye agrees that this is important with medical cannabis as well, saying, “For example, a dose too high in THC and pinene may worsen PTSD related symptoms therefore agitating anxiety and irritability. Having a traumatic experience from cannabis may not only worsen PTSD symptoms but may also prevent a patient from trying cannabis again in the future.”
The NIMH also recommends psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” for people with PTSD, but stresses every patient is different. What works for one, often does not work for another. “I always ask the patient about their goals of therapy and what dosage forms they may feel most comfortable using,” says Ye. “Although more research is needed, there is evidence that supports cannabis alleviates difficult to treat symptoms of PTSD such as insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, and irritability. There is also evidence that cannabis can help a PTSD patient experience a "trigger" without an associated terror response.”
Not having that terror response to a particular “trigger” is key in treatment. Ye says, “The success in treating symptoms may be due to PTSD patients having changes in their endocannabinoid system. However, it is not realistic for patients to expect medical cannabis to cure their PTSD as it is not a substitute for conventional treatment.”
PTSD is Personal
PTSD diagnosis is based on many factors including re-experiencing symptoms, avoiding certain things, and changes in mood and cognition. With so many things to consider, both patient and pharmacist can work together to find a way to improve the quality of life.
Ye says every case is one-of-a-kind, “As an example, one of my recent patients I spoke to was suffering PTSD due to a car accident from 2 years ago. Ye says the symptoms were paralyzing, “They were experiencing anger that led to blackouts and anxiety that caused panic attacks when in a car. They have noticed significant improvement in managing PTSD symptoms since starting cannabis.”
Finding the Right Combo
Ye says finding a particular strain for PTSD patients is important but when she digs deeper into therapy, Ye finds hope in the terpenes. “It may be best to avoid strains high in pinene, as the alerting effects may be anxiety-provoking and memory-enhancing to past trauma. However, strains higher in linalool may be anxiolytic and calming.
With an Organic Remedies’ Pharmacist guidance, quality of life reports continue to improve with the help of cannabis. Ye’s patient from the car accident is getting results from a higher CBD strain during the day. “Any 1:1 (CBD/THC) may be a suitable option, especially during the day. Limonene is an uplifting, antidepressant terpene that may be preferable during the day as well.”
With quality of sleep ranking high in PTSD patients another treatment may help at night. Ye says, “higher THC indica-dominant "Kush" and "Purple" strains may be effective towards the evening in treating sleep disturbances.”
An Organic Remedies pharmacist is always available to answer questions.
From National Institute of Mental Health
Some factors that increase risk for PTSD include:
- Living through dangerous events and traumas
- Getting hurt
- Seeing another person hurt, or seeing a dead body
- Childhood trauma
- Feeling horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
- Having little or no social support after the event
- Dealing with extra stress after the event, such as loss of a loved one, pain and injury, or loss of a job or home
- Having a history of mental illness or substance abuse
Some factors that may promote recovery after trauma include:
- Seeking out support from other people, such as friends and family
- Finding a support group after a traumatic event
- Learning to feel good about one’s own actions in the face of danger
- Having a positive coping strategy, or a way of getting through the bad event and learning from it
- Being able to act and respond effectively despite feeling fear