Cannabis and PTSD: How It Can Help Healing After Trauma
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects approximately 7.7 million Americans over the age of 18. While many people associate PTSD with military combat, it can occur in response to any life-threatening event, from assault to natural disasters like our recent wildfires. While many people fully recover from trauma, others suffer lasting effects that impact their daily lives.
Symptoms and severity vary by person but often those suffering from PTSD experience three main types of disruptive reactions: re-experiencing the event, numbing and avoidance, and arousal symptoms like angry outbursts or inability to concentrate. Cannabis is effective for treating all three.
Re-experiencing the Event
People who have experienced trauma often re-experience the event through intrusive memories. When these memories are hyper-realistic, they’re called flashbacks. Even when they’re not as severe as a flashback, traumatic memories can impact normal living. These memories bring back the feelings of terror and helplessness felt during the original event and the effects manifest both mentally and physically. This can lead to uncontrolled crying, anger or other outbursts. Since these memories can strike at any time without warning, many PTSD sufferers isolate themselves to avoid painful triggers.
The compounds in cannabis mimic chemicals already found naturally in our brains. These mood-elevating compounds are often enough to release the mind from negative and intrusive thoughts as well as providing a euphoric sense of calm.
Avoidance and Numbing
Avoidance symptoms manifest in the attempts to avoid reminders of the event. Anything can be a trigger for someone with PTSD. For one person it may be a specific location like a park or bank, for another it could be a smell or sound. For some it’s a combination. Over time, PTSD sufferers experience more and more triggers, giving them incentive to isolate in order to avoid them.
Numbing symptoms range from memory loss to a loss of enjoyment in things and activities that previously brought happiness. Trauma survivors may lose interest in socializing, lack motivation, experience depression and feel an impending sense of doom.
The calming effect of cannabis can relieve anxiety and reduce the fear response making it easier to venture out where potential triggers lie in wait. The extra time needed to process incoming information while using cannabis gives the brain a chance to accurately assign a level of perceived danger, reducing the fight-or-flight response.
Cannabis has always been a communal substance. It appeals to a broad range of people, crossing geographic, racial, religious, and income barriers. With cannabis legalized in many states, the cannabis community is more visible than ever. This community could become a valuable social support for an isolated PTSD sufferer. Likewise, the sharing of cannabis naturally fosters communication. Sharing cannabis with a friend may make someone with PTSD more comfortable with talking about and sharing their experience with others – a critical part to healing trauma.
Arousal symptoms cover a range of issues from insomnia to extreme irritability. A person with PTSD may be hypervigilant, prone to angry outbursts or startle easily/overreact to minor stimuli. Insomnia, which is extremely common in PTSD, exacerbates other symptoms as well as impairs a person’s ability to handle stress and anxiety.
Once again, the soothing, calming nature of cannabis can help reduce these issues by helping the trauma victim regulate their mood, experience improved sleep and relax instead of being “on guard.” Both THC and CBD help sleep problems, including relieving physical pain and discomfort and allowing the mind to release negative, harmful thoughts. THC has been shown to diminish nightmares and night terrors in people with PTSD.
Are you interested in trying cannabis for PTSD? We carry a wide array of medication options in both CBD- and THC-rich products to help with mood, insomnia, pain control and more. Let us help you find the right product for you!