Veterans Day: Cannabis & PTSD

Nov 8, 2023 | Autumn Brands News

On this Veterans Day, we honor and remember the brave men and women who have served their countries with unwavering dedication. Behind their sacrifices and courage lies a hidden battle, one that often remains unseen and unspoken—post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For many veterans, the scars of war extend far beyond the battlefield, affecting their mental and emotional well-being long after they return home. In recent years, a growing body of research has explored the potential of cannabis as a therapeutic option to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of PTSD, offering new hope for veterans struggling with this condition.

The Burden of PTSD Among Veterans

PTSD is a complex and debilitating mental health condition that can result from exposure to traumatic events, such as combat experiences. Among veterans, the prevalence of PTSD is alarmingly high, with approximately 11-20% of those who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and about 12% of Gulf War veterans experiencing this condition, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

PTSD manifests through a range of symptoms that can significantly impact a veteran’s quality of life. Common symptoms include intrusive thoughts or memories, nightmares, hyperarousal and emotional numbness. These symptoms often lead to severe anxiety, depression, and impaired social functioning, making it difficult for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life.

The Role of Cannabis in PTSD Treatment

While traditional treatments for PTSD, such as psychotherapy and medication, have shown some efficacy, they do not work for everyone, and many veterans continue to suffer, leading researchers to explore alternative treatments, including cannabis.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors and molecules within the human body play a vital role in regulating various physiological processes, including mood, stress, and memory.

Researchers believe that the therapeutic potential of cannabis for PTSD may be linked to its interaction with the ECS. Cannabis contains cannabinoids like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), which can bind to ECS receptors. THC is known for its psychoactive properties, while CBD is non-psychoactive but has potential therapeutic effects. It is believed that the right combination and dosage of these compounds may help regulate emotional responses and alleviate symptoms of PTSD.

Several studies have investigated the potential benefits of cannabis for PTSD and the results are promising. A 2021 study by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) revealed improvements among PTSD patients receiving cannabis doses with higher levels of THC. A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2019 found that cannabis use was associated with a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms in a group of 91 veterans. The researchers noted that cannabis appeared to help with sleep, anxiety, and overall well-being. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2015 indicated that cannabis may help reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares, a particularly distressing symptom for many veterans with PTSD.

While more studies are needed to understand its potential benefits and risks fully, cannabis should be considered as a potential option for veterans. By continuing to explore alternative treatments and supporting research initiatives, we can honor our veterans not only in words but also in actions, offering them the care and relief they deserve.