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Does CBD Help With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD?

By Jesse Li | Feb 13, 2019 in CBD Blog | 4 min read

Picture of army helmets resting on a shelf

Cannabidiol has been shown to have numerous health benefits when used properly to treat various ailments. Recent clinical studies have shown CBD (cannabidiol) to have a role in treating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Within this article we wanted to showcase the relationship between CBD and PTSD, and the benefits it can have. 

Extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD has been studied for its ability to help those coping with PTSD symptoms and progress through treatment.

Numerous studies have shown hemp as a viable supplement for reducing PTSD symptoms such as anxiety and fear. Current pharmacological therapies for PTSD have been shown to be inefficient and produce considerable side effects.

In this article we will discuss what PTSD and cannabidiol are, and how CBD is being used as a treatment for those suffering from PTSD.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s a non-psychoactive cannabis compound that’s extracted from the hemp plant. CBD is being widely used and researched for its potential health benefits.

The potential benefits range from relief of anxiety, pain, inflammation, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

CBD is said to have these benefits because of the way it reacts with our endocannabinoid (ECS) system. The ECS is a network of receptors that exist throughout the central nervous system.

CBD and other cannabinoids bind to these receptors which stimulate positive communications between your body and brain.

We are going to focus on CBD and the effects it can have on people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

man covering eyes with hand

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is a condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Certain things (depending on the trauma) can trigger flashbacks and dissociation.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, "Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assault."[1]

This disorder can manifest itself at different levels through different symptoms. It is reported that 1 in 11 people will get diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life.

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Re-experience the trauma: flashbacks, nightmares
  • Increased arousal: difficulty sleeping and concentrating, easily startled and angered.
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Reduced social skills: emotionally numb, becoming detached, avoiding places, people, or activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Substance abuse

These are just a few of the main symptoms. Symptoms may vary depending on age and type of traumatic experience.

PTSD is a disorder that stems from trauma. A person will relive a traumatic event repeatedly after a portion of the brain that controls fear is triggered.

How CBD Might Help Those Struggling with PTSD

There are treatments to reduce the effects of PTSD. Some include exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and presented centered therapy. Some people argue that PTSD cannot be fully cured, but forgoing treatment can aid in diminishing the symptoms/effects.[2]

The newest form of treatment for PTSD is the use of hemp extracted CBD. Studies are beginning to surface showing CBD as a viable treatment for reducing PTSD symptoms.[3]

How CBD and the Endocannabinoid System affect PTSD

neuron activity

Cannabidiol’s therapeutic effects come from its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. CBD binds to certain endocannabinoid receptors which stimulates anxiety relief, a main symptom of PTSD.

Martin Lee, director of Project CBD, has researched clinical treatments of PTSD patients. Lee wrote, "Innate to all mammals, anandamide [an endogenous cannabinoid compound] triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant." By providing deficient endocannabinoids to patients, we can expect to give relief to PTSD patients.[4]

"Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide... compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD."[4] This cannabinoid deficiency explains how supplementing with hemp extracted cannabidiol can help combat these deficiencies. The CB-1 receptor is responsible for memory function.

A cannabinoid deficiency weakens the ECS receptors making them less functional. A weak CB-1 receptor may not suppress traumatic memories which can lead to flashbacks.

Researchers have found that the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors (the primary receptors affected by cannabinoids) have significant effects on memory when stimulated. Both endogenous (produced in the body) cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids (provided by cannabis) bind to receptors in the ECS.

Researchers found that people suffering from PTSD have lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound. CBD is a phytocannabinoid found in plants that helps correct this deficiency. This explains how supplementing CBD can help PTSD patients.

The future of CBD

CBD can provide relief for common PTSD symptoms such as anxiety and fear. For this reason, state legislators have created medical marijuana programs to examine the potential benefits of CBD as a PTSD treatment. We recommend consulting a healthcare professional before treating PTSD symptoms with cannabidiol. We've created an interactive benefits of CBD chart you can use for your reference.

Resources

  1. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd
  2. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/treatment
  3. "PTSD patients saw a 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms, as measured by the Clinical Administered Post traumatic Scale, when they were using cannabis compared to when they were not."https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24830188
  4. "Innate to all mammals, anandamide [an endogenous cannabinoid compound] triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant."https://www.projectcbd.org/science/cannabinoid-science-sheds-new-light-darkness-ptsd
  5. Symptoms of PTSD https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms

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