Call for More Research into Cannabis as a PTSD Treatment

September 6th, 2019

By Nikki Harper

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

A new study by UCL in the UK has found that cannabis compounds hold promise as treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder but has highlighted the difficulties with obtaining sufficient evidence.

Cannabis is already an approved treatment for PTSD in US states which permit medicinal cannabis use. In the UK, however, although medicinal cannabis was legalised in September 2008, there have been major practical problems with its implementation, and it’s thought that fewer than 100 patients have actually benefited [2].

UCL researchers found that significant numbers of PTSD patients – it’s a condition thought to affect 1% of the UK population – already self-medicate, some with prescriptions obtained from the US. However, few previous studies have been undertaken, due to legal restrictions, and researchers found that the quality of the evidence in those previous studies was poor. With insufficient clinical evidence, the UCL team concluded that they were unable to make any recommendations about its use for PTSD in the UK [1].

Nevertheless, the study reports that cannabinoids appear to be effective in treating PTSD in a number of different ways, and importantly, the study, published in the journal Dual Diagnosis, calls for further research to be undertaken, citing a significant clinical need [1].

How Does Cannabis Treat PTSD?

It is known that the body’s own endocannabinoid system plays a role in memory consolidation and retrieval [3]. By activating receptors in this system, cannabinoid compounds from cannabis could prevent the retrieval of traumatic memories or create neurotransmitters which promote happiness and wellbeing [4].

The studies looked at by UCL researchers do show evidence that cannabinoids appear to help reduce nightmares and help healthy sleep in PTSD sufferers, as well as influencing how the brain accesses the underlying memories [1].

Two Options: THC or CBD

Researchers note concerns that cannabinoid use may be dangerous for people with a history of psychosis [5]. Since previous studies mostly focused on veterans, a population which reports high levels of hallucinations [6], it is likely to be important moving forwards to focus on CBD as a potential solution. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis, and its use is intensely restricted in the UK. CBD, the non-psychoactive compound which can be extracted from hemp, is more widely accepted.

Studies have shown that people suffering from PTSD have significantly lower than normal levels of anandamide [7], a natural endocannabinoid which has a role to play in depression and memory. It appears that CBD can act as a natural booster for anandamide, offering a potential route towards PTSD treatment which would eliminate the concerns which tend to mask possible treatment with THC.

Furthermore, UCL researchers acknowledge that treatment with cannabinoids could well be a clinically safer option than current pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD. As the report says, “the use of cannabinoids may be more effective and with less risk of addiction in comparison to alternatives such as benzodiazepines or opiate-based medications, thereby providing a safer therapeutic alternative.”

Potentially good news indeed for PTSD suffers in the UK, whose treatment options are lagging behind those of their US counterparts.

Article sources:

About the author:

Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and current editor for Wake Up World.

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