Medical Marijuana and the Lasting Effects of Trauma

When we think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often, veterans reliving the horrors of war are the first thing to come to mind. And veterans are an extremely important demographic that needs comprehensive wellness treatment for reducing the symptoms of PTSD. However, veterans aren’t the only people who can suffer from these life-long after-effects of trauma. Children who have been abused, women who’ve survived sexual assault, partners who’ve escaped domestic abuse situations, victims of terrible car accidents, and myriad others are also in need of effective PTSD treatment. Unfortunately, real trauma often stays with us long after the traumatic event is over. When it affects your ability to function and maintain a decent quality of life, well, that’s one of the saddest outcomes, especially because there are ways to help.

Medical marijuana is becoming increasingly popular for its ability to manage symptoms of many different conditions. MMJ doctors recommend medical marijuana for back pain, anxiety, epilepsy, Crohn’s, wasting syndrome, and, of course, PTSD. Why? It turns out that traumatized people share neural similarities that make medical marijuana effective for their symptoms specifically. So, what are some main symptoms of PTSD? And how does medical marijuana help?

Common Symptoms of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest itself in a lot of ways. Some common symptoms are:

  • Isolation
  • Mood instability
  • Nightmares and/or night terrors
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Negative outlook and/or depression
  • Memory loss
  • Avoiding things that might remind you of the event
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks
  • Hypervigilance and exaggerated startle response

Medical Marijuana’s Biocompatibility with Trauma Neurology

A couple things medical marijuana doctors know for certain now are that, (1) ingesting medical marijuana pills, oils or edibles reduces amygdala activity, and (2) the research on medical marijuana and PTSD is too conflicting to say anything more than that. The amygdala is the part of our brain that deals with instincts; you know – fight or flight. Reduced amygdalic response to threats means less anxiety, less hypervigilance, less exaggerate startle responses, and less nightmares. All good things, right? And interestingly enough, our body’s endocannabinoid system plays a huge role in trauma responses. Basically, in people with PTSD, the endocannabinoid system is impaired, which prevents them from the process of “extinction learning,” whereby we realize a threatening situation is over and move past it. This causes them to continue to relive the trauma and perceive that a threat always remains when it, in fact, does not. Introducing THC (cannabinoids) to a patient with PTSD enhances the function of their body’s endocannabinoid system, aiding in recovery. Pretty interesting, right?

Now, it’s important to note that MMJ doctors nearly never recommend medical marijuana alone as a treatment for PTSD. It’s often recommended alongside cognitive behavioral therapy or cognitive processing therapy. Changing cognitions is the real long-term solution to recovery, especially because the same biocompatibility that makes medical marijuana effective at treating PTSD symptoms also makes it more likely that those people will develop tolerance and dependency issues. So, as with everything, comprehensive treatment is key to holistic recovery, and this includes trauma recovery.

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