People suffering from PTSD report that cannabis reduces the severity of their symptoms. Research shows that it actually reduces by more than half at least in the short term. This is according to a recent study led by Carrie Cuttler, an assistant professor of psychology in a Washingston State University.
Cuttler and her colleagues analyzed data for more than 400 people. These people tracked changes in their PTSD symptoms before and after cannabis use. They used Strainprint to track these changes. This is an app developed to help users learn what types of medical cannabis work best for their symptoms. The group used the app more than 11,000 times over a 31-month period.
The study was recently published in Journal of Affective Disorders. It shows that cannabis reduced the severity of intrusions, returning thoughts of a traumatic event. These intrusions reduced by about 62%; flashbacks by 51%, irritability by 67% and anxiety by 57%. The symptom reductions were not permanent.
“The study suggests that cannabis does reduce symptoms of PTSD acutely, but it might not have longer term beneficial effects on the underlying condition,” said Cuttler. “Working with this model, it seems that cannabis will temporarily mask symptoms, acting as a bit of a band aid, but once the period of intoxication wears off, the symptoms can return.”
PTSD is a disorder affecting people recovering from traumatic events. This impacts women at about twice the rate as men with a 9.% to 3.6% lifetime prevalence. The primary recommended treated is therapy. With this, Cuttler said there is growing evidence that many people with PTSD are self-medicating with Cannabis.
“A lot of people with PTSD do seem to turn to cannabis, but the literature on its efficacy for managing symptoms is a little sparse,” Cuttler said.
This study provides some insight into the effectiveness of cannabis of PTSD symptoms but as the authors note. The reliance on a self-selected sample of people who self-identify as having PTSD limits these symptoms.
Also it is not possible to compare the symptom reductions. These reductions experienced by cannabis users to control a group using a placebo.
While some placebo-controlled clinical trials have been done with nabilone, a synthetic form of THC. Few have examined the effects of the whole cannabis plant on PTSD.
In this study, Cuttler and her colleagues looked at a variety of variables. She found no difference in the effect of cannabis with different levels of THC and CBD. These are two of the most studied constituents of cannabis. It implies that it is some combination of THC, CBD and some of the many parts of the cannabis plant that create the therapeutic effect. This includes up to 120 Cannabinoids. 250 terpenes and around 50 flavonoids.
“We need more studies that look at whole plant cannabis because this is what people are using much more than the synthetic cannabinoids,” said Cuttler. “It is difficult to do good placebo-controlled trials with whole plant cannabis, but they’re still really needed.”