According to statistics from the National Center for PTSD, in the U.S., seven to 8 percent of the population will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. While PTSD is more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault, it can happen to anyone.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a common psychiatric disorder resulting from a traumatic event that can manifest through a broad range of symptoms that can cause incapacitating alterations in personal and social functioning. Those suffering from this condition have reported symptoms involving cognition (i.e. repeated recall of an event through intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares), mood (i.e. depression and anxiety), and emotion (i.e. psychological instability, impulsivity, and hyperarousal). The pathophysiology of the disorder involves several neurotransmitters, including the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and other systems that the ECS helps to regulate, like serotonin and opioid pathways.
A recent systematic review of the use of cannabis in treating PTSD demonstrated that cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids, both acting on the endogenous cannabinoid system, may have potential therapeutic use for improving PTSD symptoms by helping to reduce anxiety, modulate memory-related processes, and improve sleep. A new report out of Canada has found similar evidence.
Hope is On the Way
Researchers from the British Columbia Centre on Substance Abuse (BCCSU) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) recently reported that Canadian PTSD sufferers who do not consume cannabis to treat symptoms are seven times more likely to have experienced a recent major depressive episode and nearly five times more likely to have thoughts of suicide compared to cannabis consumers not diagnosed with the disease.
The study was published last week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and analyzed health survey data collected by Statistics Canada from more than 24,000 Canadians. Among the eligible respondents, 420 reported a current clinical diagnosis of PTSD, with 28.2 percent, or 106 people, reporting past-year cannabis use. This number is almost three-fold the 11.2 percent of Canadian consumers not diagnosed with PTSD, the study reported.
“We know that with limited treatment options for PTSD, many patients have taken to medicating with cannabis to alleviate their symptoms,” Stephanie Lake, a research assistant at the BCCSU and PhD candidate at UBC’s school of population and public health, commented in the UBC website announcement. “However, this is the first time that results from a nationally representative survey have shown the potential benefits of treating the disorder with cannabis.”