In this week’s drip, we will be diving into PTSD and looking at an alternative from the traditional treatment options. PTSD is life altering, affecting one’s everyday experiences – losing out on things as simple as a good night’s rest, happiness, and overall mental clarity. This article will drip into the following topics;
- What is PTSD
- Cannabis (CBD) as an alternative treatment
- How CBD can help
- Is CBD safe
What is PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects about 8million Americans, with 37% experiencing severe symptoms. PTSD can occur at any age, causing symptoms of stress, anxiety, flashbacks, insomnia, nightmares, isolation, depression, and ultimately affecting one’s overall quality of life. PTSD affects everyone differently, triggering after they experience traumatic events like; physical assault, sexual assault, natural disaster, accidents, or military combat. For some, PTSD can be a life-long challenge, more so for women.
With today’s technology, brain scans are able to shed more light and offer hope and understanding to those suffering. Although, they are not able to treat and diagnose, they are able to help researchers understand how the brain is affected, and study its change in volume and function.
The most common treatment for PTSD is extensive therapy paired with prescription medication; anti-depressants, antipsychotics, and sometimes medication that has not necessarily been tested for PTSD, but instead similar symptoms. It is important to understand these medications do not treat PTSD, but instead mask the symptoms making your life more manageable. More so, these medications have proven complications sometimes leading to opioid addiction, dry mouth, drowsiness, constipation, sexual dysfunction, disorientation, etc.. Which begs the question, are their other treatment options available? Something without side effects as debilitating as the illness itself?
Cannabis (CBD) as an alternative treatment
To answer that, I will ask you; what do you know about Cannabis? I am not talking about 1970’s Mexican brick weed you smoked in high school, instead I am talking about medical grade, tracked from seed, legal, Cannabis. Over the last 30 years, our culture towards Cannabis has changed, opening doors to view cannabis as a viable treatment option.
Within the last few decades, scientist have discovered Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System, (ECS) and now doctors are beginning to learn and understand the connection between the two.
The most important, yet least talked about system within your body is your Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Your ECS is your body’s largest neurotransmitter network working to achieve homeostasis, or balance. Our ECS maintains balance by regulating; our mood, energy levels, immunity, and how we experience pain, stress, hunger, sleep, and overall mental clarity.
It is important for our health and well-being that our ECS remains balanced and nourished, but as with anything in life, our ECS becomes withered as we take on life’s challenges, depleting our naturally produced endocannabinoids. But, just like we replenish our energy with caffeine, our bliss with serotonin, or regulate our sleep with melatonin, cannabinoids can do the same for our ECS.
When choosing Cannabis as a treatment option, it is important to know that not all cannabinoids are psychoactive, meaning you will not have the feeling of being “high” or “stoned”. One of the most effective, non-psychoactive cannabinoids is Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD has been everywhere lately, but it is not without good cause.
CBD nourishes your ECS, so that your body continues to put out optimal results regardless of the external stressors you are experiencing – to an extent, of course. But, how exactly does this relate to symptoms of PTSD and more specifically how has CBD helped?
How CBD can help
Your ECS regulates how your brain processes and stores your memories - both good and bad. Naturally, your brain is able to do this by producing endocannabinoid, Anandamide – your bliss molecule, but as with anything – your body can only produce so much. Eventually, Anandamide is depleted and your ECS is no longer able to continue the fight on its own. Supplementing CBD prompts your brain to produce neurotransmitters promoting happiness, pleasure and memories – essentially mimicking Anandamide.
There was a small study conducted by NYU Langone Medical Center that showed people suffering from PTSD had dramatically lower levels of Anandamide throughout their brain. This is where CBD plays a crucial role, filling that void by producing an increase in pleasure and alternation of memory processing, as the cannabinoids work to block the continuous retrieval of the traumatic event, reducing its overall impact and associated anxiety. Reducing anxiety ridden feelings is a major step to gaining back your mental clarity, and overall well-being.
The second vital role of your ECS, pertaining to PTSD, is regulating and improving your quality of sleep. A good night’s sleep is key to maintaining your health. Those suffering with PTSD unfortunately, do not usually receive a good night’s sleep, often plagued with insomnia, hellish nightmares, and sweats.
There was a small study completed in Canada, researching Cannabinoids and PTSD. The study consisted of 47 patients who despite extensive therapy and pharmaceuticals, continued to experience poor sleep plagued with nightmares. Concluding the study, 72% receiving cannabinoid treatment reported no nightmares or a significant reduction in the nightmare intensity, improvement in their quality and amount of sleep and significant improvement on daytime flashbacks and night sweats.
CBD continues to provide positive reinforcement, but without further studies it is hard to provide definite answers as to whether Cannabis is better than pharmaceuticals for the treatment of PTSD. It has however provided hope to those suffering, and an alternative option to those curious enough to try. The silver lining being, the side effects of Cannabis are minimal to none.
Is CBD safe
Now you may be considering CBD as an option, but is it safe for everyone? We can’t make a blanket statement but we can leave you with what the World Health Organization had to say; classifying CBD as generally safe, non-toxic, and not addictive.
But what about Legally? As long as your CBD is manufactured from Hemp plants and contains less than 0.3% THC, then yes, it is federally legal in all 50 states. But this does not mean, all CBD is created equally. With so many products on the market, it is important you remain vigilant about where you are getting your CBD products, ensuring the hemp is grown ethically, product is manufactured in a clean facility, and the finished good is always third party tested – an honest company will be able to walk you through their process and provide third party lab test.
Lastly, when opting in to a new treatment it is always best to consult with your primary physician. They may not always be well versed in Cannabis treatment, if this is the case, you can talk to your local pharmacist. Pharmacist have vast knowledge when it comes to medication and what you can and can’t mix it with – so although they are not able to provide you with medical advice, they can help you get a better understanding of incorporating CBD into your daily routine.
Cannabis, more specifically CBD, continues to provide signs of hope, shining light on options outside of the pharmaceutical world. Many veterans have already started to adopt Cannabis as a treatment option, and with today’s research we have reason to believe it is only a matter of time until being offered as a mainstream alternative. Until then, it is up to you to decide what is best for your health.