How Does Cannabis Help With PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a very common disorder with more than 3 million US cases per year. The symptoms of PTSD are often uncomfortable, including nightmares, avoidance of certain activities, heightened reactions, depression, and anxiety. 

The most common treatment for PTSD in the United States is a pharmaceutical medication that often carries with it a long list of serious side effects. Those suffering from PTSD often feel relegated to a life of pharmaceutical drugs – that is, until they stumble upon the wonderful healing effects of CBD. 

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an all-natural, plant-based supplement derived from hemp, any many anecdotal reports show positive results when using CBD for PTSD. Although PTSD itself is not curable – because the event can’t be un-lived – it’s symptoms no longer have to run your life. Interestingly enough, PTSD is one of the approved conditions for medical marijuana in many states.

Preliminary evidence suggests that CBD may be an effective option for treating PTSD, as well as some of the symptoms related to the disorder, like sleep troubles and anxiety. However, the evidence is limited and further scientific advancement is necessary before CBD can be officially established as a treatment option for the disorder. 

In order to understand how CBD helps may provide relief from PTSD symptoms, we turn to a series of medical studies that have been conducted over the past ten years. These studies evaluated CBD’s medical efficacy in treating those who suffer from various types of PTSD. We will address the results below.

What Studies Exist to Support the Use of CBD in PTSD?

Evidence of the CBD molecule emerged in the 1940s, but researchers have been mostly interested in studying THC until much more recently. Now, however, studies have worked to uncover many of the benefits of CBD, which could include anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects, which may make it useful for combating certain symptoms related to PTSD.

Further, research has begun to uncover the mechanism by which CBD interacts in the body, a system of neuroreceptors called the endocannabinoid system. Studies have shown that this system is partially responsible for regulating and managing a variety of brain functions, including many that link directly to post-traumatic stress disorder. 

While studying the endocannabinoid system, researchers also found a link between endocannabinoid deficiency and patients with PTSD. For this reason, many experts believe that CBD may help to balance an “upset” in the endocannabinoid systems of people with the disorder. 

Even more, research has looked at the impact of CBD when utilized alongside popular PTSD therapy options and found it to be beneficial to the process of deleting fear memories. Plus, studies show that CBD may have the ability to help manage other side effects related to the anxiety condition, like nightmares. 

Studies concerning the health effects of CBD are rapidly advancing, and researchers have shown quite a bit of interest in the area of anxiety disorders. Of course, much more evidence is needed on CBD for PTSD before it can be officially accepted as a treatment method. Research efforts regarding the use and benefits of CBD for PTSD are expected to continue to grow as well, but for now, the following studies secure a link between the plant-based supplement and the condition:

1. Cannabidiol blocks long-lasting behavioral consequences of predator threat stress: possible involvement of 5HT1A receptors.

A 2012 study investigated the anti-anxiety actions of CBD administration in a model of PTSD that was simulated by being exposed to a predator. The study found that “Repeated CBD administration prevents the long-lasting anxiogenic effects observed after predator exposure probably by facilitating 5HT1A receptors neurotransmission. Our results suggest that CBD has beneficial potential for PTSD treatment and that 5HT1A receptors could be a therapeutic target in this disorder.”

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2. Mitigation of post-traumatic stress symptoms by Cannabis resin: a review of the clinical and neurobiological evidence.

A 2012 medical review presents a “case report of a 19-year-old male patient with a spectrum of severe PTSD symptoms, such as intense flashbacks, panic attacks, and self-mutilation, who discovered that some of his major symptoms were dramatically reduced by smoking cannabis resin…This review shows that recent studies provided supporting evidence that PTSD patients may be able to cope with their symptoms by using cannabis products. Cannabis may dampen the strength or emotional impact of traumatic memories through synergistic mechanisms that might make it easier for people with PTSD to rest or sleep and to feel less anxious and less involved with flashback memories. The presence of endocannabinoid signalling systems within stress-sensitive nuclei of the hypothalamus, as well as upstream limbic structures (amygdala), point to the significance of this system for the regulation of neuroendocrine and behavioural responses to stress. Evidence is increasingly accumulating that cannabinoids might play a role in fear extinction and antidepressive effects.”

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3. Bidirectional Effects of Cannabidiol on Contextual Fear Memory Extinction

A 2016 study looked at the ability of cannabidiol to aid contextual fear memory extinction and showed “under conditions of strong fear conditioning, CBD reduced contextual fear memory expression both acutely during the extinction session as well as later at a fear retention test.”

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4. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report

A 2016 study looked at the effectiveness of Cannabidiol oil in the treatment of pediatric anxiety and insomnia as a result of PTSD. “The main finding from this case study is that CBD oil can be an effective compound to reduce anxiety and insomnia secondary to PTSD. This case study provides clinical data that support the use of cannabidiol oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep in a young girl with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

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Which CBD products help with PTSD?

When designing a CBD-infused wellness routine to combat symptoms of PTSD, it’s important to note that CBD has not been proven as a PTSD treatment.  If you still want to try a natural approach to combating symptoms, you may consider regular CBD doses. After you establish a baseline concentration of CBD in your system, you may also find Cannabidiol useful for combating acute flare-ups. 

There are many promising products on the market, but for managing PTSD, we recommend ingesting full spectrum CBD oil daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules

These two products are identical in formulation, and the main difference between the two is form factor—one is a sublingual oil and the other is in pill form. Regardless of the method you choose, ensure that the tincture or capsule includes high-quality MCT oil, a key ingredient for the absorption of CBD in the body.

In addition to the CBD regimen outlined above, many people find that they still need to manage occasional flares. CBD may help combat these acute flare-ups as well, and there are several options depending on your preference. 

Whether it’s triggered by a recent event or a certain smell– we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute PTSD flare-ups. Vaporized CBD provides a prominent benefit in that the effects kick in almost instantly. CBD isolate is a type of cannabidiol that is 99% pure, and vaporizing it can provide symptom-relieving benefits within 10 minutes.

You can also choose to take an additional dose of the CBD tincture or capsule you choose, but keep in mind that ingestible products take longer to take effect– about 90 minutes.

Generally, people find that they get the best results when combining multiple CBD products for preventative and therapeutic coverage that lasts all day. Below are some CBD products we’ve put up to our Buyer’s Guide test that we recommend for PTSD.

What is the correct CBD dosage to help treat PTSD?

Finding the best dosage for you will take some consideration of personal factors, like your weight and tolerance to cannabidiol, as well as the type and severity of the condition you wish to treat. 

We suggest those suffering from PTSD start with 25mg per day of CBD. If this dose does not provide complete relief, we recommend that you increase by 5-10mg daily until the desired effects are achieved. One simple method for doing this is by using a CBD tincture, which makes it easy to increase your dose by a small, accurate increment each time. 

Other products, like CBD gel capsules, offer the convenience of pre-measured doses that often come in a range of dosing sizes that make them convenient for users with different needs. If the CBD product you choose offers a dose slightly higher than the recommended 25mg, you can still give it a try as you cannot overdose on CBD nor are there any serious side effects

Then, you can increase your dose as needed, but leave plenty of time in between adjustments to monitor the effects. Note that ingestible CBD products provide sustained relief quite a while – many people find they provide relief all day long! Keep in mind the delayed onset time of ingestible products, as it can take up to 90 minutes to feel the full effects of the tinctures or capsules.

CBD vaporizers provide a different dosing experience because it is difficult to accurately measure the dose without a metered timer on your vaping device. However, the quick onset of effects you feel from vaporized CBD helps counteract this drawback. You can easily start with one puff and wait ten minutes to monitor the effect. Then, simply stack another puff or two on top of your dose to increase the effects as needed, until desired relief is achieved.

A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions

Several organizations, like the World Health Organization, have analyzed and confirmed the safety profile of CBD. While CBD may be safe on its own for most adults, it’s important to consider the risk of drug interactions. CBD is metabolized by cytochrome P450 liver enzymes, the same enzymes needed to break down many medications prescribed today. This is the same way that grapefruit juice may inhibit the absorption of some substances, hence the “do not take with grapefruit juice” warning on the label of many medications. 

Interactions could include many of the prescription medications taken for PTSD, like anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, which require the same cytochrome P450 enzymes for absorption. These interactions are not necessarily dangerous, but they may inhibit the medications ability to perform properly, which means it could be dangerous if the medication is meant to treat life-threatening conditions. 

CBD’s effect on liver enzymes is only temporary, and many people can circumvent this issue by taking CBD and their regular prescriptions at a separate time. Just make sure that you talk to your doctor before using CBD if you already take medications or have a chronic illness, since he or she will be able to decide if you are at risk for drug interactions.