Cannabinoid Treatments for Veterans With PTSD
Updated: Oct 3, 2022
It’s no secret that PTSD patients could benefit from medical cannabis. When we think of PTSD, many of us think of veterans and PTSD caused by events of war.
The Wayne State University School of Medicine received $12.5 million from the Cannabis Regulatory Agency to study how cannabis could help veterans who have PTSD.
The school conducted two controlled clinical trials in order to gain a better understanding on the subject. Read more to learn more about the study and PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can show up in people who have experienced a traumatic event. Any type of traumatic event could cause PTSD to arise in a person, but some of the most common examples may include war, a rape or robbery, or a natural disaster of some sort.
PTSD doesn’t only affect the person involved in the distressing event; it can affect a person witnessing the event as well.
You may have heard people refer to PTSD as “shell shock” or “combat fatigue” when speaking on the traumatic events that occurred during World War I and II. Many PTSD patients in the United States consist of war veterans.
Studies show that about 3.5% of US adults are known to suffer from PTSD and about 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with the disorder at some point. Anyone can develop PTSD, but women are typically more prone to it.
Patients with PTSD are known to show a variety of symptoms, and the severity may vary quite a bit depending on the person and situation. According to psychiatry.org, here are the four main categories of symptoms for PTSD:
Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories; distressing dreams; or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Flashbacks may be so vivid that people feel they are re-living the traumatic experience or seeing it before their eyes.
Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include avoiding people, places, activities, objects and situations that may trigger distressing memories. People may try to avoid remembering or thinking about the traumatic event. They may resist talking about what happened or how they feel about it.
Alterations in cognition and mood: Inability to remember important aspects of the traumatic event, negative thoughts and feelings leading to ongoing and distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted”); distorted thoughts about the cause or consequences of the event leading to wrongly blaming self or other; ongoing fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame; much less interest in activities previously enjoyed; feeling detached or estranged from others; or being unable to experience positive emotions (a void of happiness or satisfaction).
Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Arousal and reactive symptoms may include being irritable and having angry outbursts; behaving recklessly or in a self-destructive way; being overly watchful of one's surroundings in a suspecting way; being easily startled; or having problems concentrating or sleeping.
Wayne School Studies
One study done by students at Wayne State was called: Cannabinoid Adjunct to Prolonged Exposure and Recovery.
The study hypothesized that modest doses of THC may help PTSD patients with emotion regulation, especially when combined with cognitive reappraisal therapy. Compared to those given a placebo, PTSD patients given THC had much fewer negative feelings when doing cognitive reappraisal tasks.
Cognitive reappraisal is basically the process in which we rethink the source of our anger in a new light. It is used as a common treatment for PTSD.
The brains of the THC users in the study also showed much more activity in regions that are usually less active in PTSD patients.
Students at the University conducted a study using 51 people. Each of these people were given either a placebo or 7.5mg of THC.
During the peak of their high, or non-high, participants were put through cognitive reappraisal and asked to reflect on certain experiences brought about by being shown triggering images that brought back memories. They were also evaluated on their emotional state.
The study basically found that the patients who took THC showed boosted brain activity compared to the study’s placebo group. This is significant, as reductions in brain activity have been linked to PTSD.
Basically, THC may improve the long-term outcomes of PTSD therapies such as cognitive reappraisal by assisting patients in reevaluating images that trigger stress.
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