Post-traumatic stress disorder also is known as PTSD. This psychological condition is not as common as some other disorders but can be incredibly disruptive to those who are afflicted. Cannabis has become an emerging tool in supporting those with mood disorders and easing symptoms.
However, marijuana can increase paranoid and agitate psychosis. This has much to do with the THC found in marijuana. Hemp, on the other hand, is very low in THC, and rich in CBD. CBD for PTSD is thought to be a better option than marijuana for this reason.
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What is PTSD?
PTSD is a psychological condition that impacts many people who have suffered trauma. That trauma can be related to military service, being a victim of crime or violence, so some other traumatic event. An estimated 3.6% of U.S. adults had PTSD in the past year according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Orsolini, et al. (2019) define PTSD as follows:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common psychiatric disorder resulting from a traumatic event, is manifested through hyperarousal, anxiety, depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbances.Use of Medicinal Cannabis and Synthetic Cannabinoids in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A Systematic Review
Orsolini, et al (2019) explain that PTSD manifests through a broad range of symptoms. These symptoms can influence cognition, mood, and emotions and create major disruptions to living a normal life.
- Repeated recall of the event
- Intrusive thoughts
- Depression and anxiety
- Psychological instability
- Impulsivity and hyperarousal
- Impaired social abilities
One thing to note about PTSD is that it does not discriminate, it can happen to anybody despite your age, sex, gender or race after a person experiences or witnesses some traumatic events such as violent, crime, bad accident, hurricane or death of a close family member.
Traditional antidepressants and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) pharmaceuticals are the conventional treatment for PTSD according to Orsolini, et al. (2019). These include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (sertraline, paroxetine, and fluoxetine)
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) (venlafaxine)
- Second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) (risperidone, quetiapine, and olanzapine)
Trauma-focused psychotherapy (TFP), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are also part of a standard PTSD treatment plan in addition to pharmaceuticals.
Cannabis and CBD for PTSD
Researchers are still unsure whether cannabis can really benefit people who suffer from mood disorders. Marijuana is known for its calming effects, but this is not experienced by all users. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can agitate and induce psychosis, especially in those with predispositions. It can also make some people feel paranoid and uncomfortable. While marijuana for PTSD may not be the safest option, hemp products are naturally very low in THC and do not get you high.
Iffland and Grotenhermen (2017) explain that cannabidiol (CBD) has properties that may relieve symptoms of anxiety and psychosis. CBD can also counteract the disruptive effects of THC and reduce its psychoactive effects. With these features in mind, and knowing that the body's endocannabinoid system can work to help balance neurotransmitters like serotonin, there is hope that CBD for PTSD (and CBD/THC combinations) may be a good option under medical supervision.
Research on CBD for PTSD
Elms, et al. (2019) took a retrospective look at a small case study of eleven PTSD patients. They found that ten of the patients given CBD experienced a reduction in PTSD symptom severity over an eight-week course of treatment. The dose in the study ranges from 25mg CBD to 100mg CBD, and the type of CBD used in the study was not discussed. Patients did continue their routine PTSD treatments in addition to taking CBD for the study.
The research team notes that CBD seemed to uniquely help with the nightmares some PTSD patients suffer:
A surprising number of patients with significant symptomatology related to PTSD nightmares reported subjective improvement in these symptoms. It is unclear whether this is due solely to the placebo effect or an effect of CBD based on a previously unknown mechanism of action. Due to the current paucity of medications approved for PTSD nightmares, further investigations should examine whether CBD has a clinical benefit for patients with PTSD-related nightmares.Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series
This human case study is very small and anecdotal and does not recommend PTSD patients go off their current medication or stop having medical supervision. However, it does offer hope that CBD could help PTSD sufferers whose symptoms are not well controlled by conventional treatment.
What is the Best Strain of CBD for PTSD?
When it comes to CBD for PTSD, hemp pre-rolls and smokable hemp flower allow people to know exactly how much of a cannabinoid they are getting. The test results for each batch show the amounts of CBD and THC for each batch. Hemp is a natural agricultural product, so even hemp of the same strain can have very different test results based on how it was grown.
Hemp also comes in different strains. Unlike marijuana, hemp is not "indica" or "sativa" though. Hemp strains can trace genetic heritage to those types of marijuana, but it is its own classification. That being said, some hemp strains can have effects that some may perceive as more energizing or more calming. Those effects are not notable for all hemp strains. For those hemp flower strains with heritage linking to marijuana notable effects may be detected.
Kush vs Haze
Hemp strain names give some clues to their genetics in some cases. CBD kush, for example, is a distant relative of Afghani indica strains of marijuana. The name "kush" is also used to imply Afghani heritage in marijuana. However, some kush strains are also classified as sativa.
In contrast, "haze" strains of hemp flower usually are distant relatives of sativas. The name "haze" is also used in marijuana strain names to imply sativa heritage. Overall, the terms "indica" and "sativa" tell very little about a cannabis strain.
Despite these classifications, the amount used and the individual using them are much more relevant. It is best to look at the actual test results of a strain and note the potency of the different cannabinoids as well as the terpene profile. Tracking these quantifiable traits will provide a more reliable experience than a strain's name.
- Elms, L., Shannon, S., Hughes, S., & Lewis, N. (2019). Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 25(4), 392–397.
- Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154.
- Orsolini, L., Chiappini, S., Volpe, U., De Berardis, D., Latini, R., Papanti, G. D., & Corkery, J. M. (2019). Use of medicinal cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A Systematic Review. Medicina, 55(9), 525.