Treating PTSD with Cannabis
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a psychiatric disorder. It is generally found in people who have been exposed to life-threatening or terrifying situations. For this reason, it is a common disorder among veterans. Although persons with PTSD are not limited to living through life threatening/terrifying situations, other causes for PTSD can be physical or sexual abuse. Other PTSD causing events could be the death of someone close to you, car accidents, natural disasters, you get the idea.
PTSD has a wide range of possible symptoms. Many people living with PTSD often relive their experiences through flashbacks or nightmares. They can also suffer from anxiety, insomnia, hypervigilance, and often develop additional disorders such as substance abuse, depression, and various cognitive disorders.
While many can get temporary PTSD from a traumatic event, you cannot get diagnosed as having PTSD unless symptoms persist for a month or longer. In addition to your symptoms persisting for a month or longer, you also have to suffer from these three key symptoms to be diagnosed with PTSD. Re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance and numbing symptoms, and arousal [hypervigilance] symptoms.
Dr. Mechoulam is an Israeli scientist best known for his work Identifying and synthesizing tetrahydrocannabinol, as well as discovering the brain’s endocannabinoid system. Another discovery of his was the link between the endocannabinoid system and a process known as ‘memory extinction’. Memory extinction is a process in which a conditioned response gradually diminishes over time as an animal learns to uncouple a response from a stimulus.
Say you administer a shock after a specific noise to an animal with an endocannabinoid system. The animal will eventually forget the shock, once this happens when the noise is played alone it will illicit no response from the animal. Take the same experiment but use mice with no endocannabinoid system instead. Even days after the shock, the mice continue to cringe at the sound that was played. This, among other evidence, suggests that the endocannabinoid plays a pivotal role in ‘memory extinction’.
Treatments (such as vaporizing marijuana) that target the endocannabinoid system can help PTSD patients with many of their symptoms. Largely regarding memory extinction in relation to re-experiencing symptoms, but also with insomnia, stress, and anxiety.
Congress passed the Veterans Equal Access Amendment to the 2017 military appropriations bill, on the 20th. It was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer. An attempted passing of a similar amendment failed the previous year by a few marginal votes. Said amendment will allow veterans access to medical marijuana via the Veterans Administration in states where it’s legal. As current law stands, some veterans may have access to medical marijuana, but they would have to pay to hire a private physician. If the new legislature gets signed into effect by President Obama, the VA will cover all expenses.
“A lot of them [veterans] are suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, and these are all conditions that have been shown to respond to medical marijuana.” Blumenauer said in an interview following the vote.