“You know that feeling you get when someone jumps out and scares you, and you are on high alert for a few minutes? That alertness never goes away for me.” So says Holly M. describing her experience of post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, we’re going to talk about the use of CBD for PTSD.
CBD for PTSD at a glance
What the claims are: CBD can help relieve the symptoms and complications of PTSD, such as heightened anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. CBD can also help mitigate the effect of traumatic memories.
What the studies show: There is a lot of work to be done here to gauge the long-term effects of CBD for PTSD, but early studies show great promise.
What the facts say: More research is required to determine how CBD for PTSD might work in the long term. That said, both anecdotal evidence and early research show that adopting a CBD regimen can be beneficial for those suffering from PTSD by addressing many of the symptoms and potential co-existing conditions related to this disorder.
What exactly is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is incited due to a triggering, horrific event. That event might be experienced by the person suffering from this mental health condition, but PTSD can also be caused by witnessing such an event. Events often cited as root causes of PTSD include (but are not limited to):
- Exposure to combat
- Childhood physical abuse
- Sexual violence
One of the most intrusive symptoms of this condition can be chronic and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. People suffering from PTSD often describe these memories as hyper-realistic, and feel as if they’re forced to relive the event over and over. Other common symptoms include:
- Being easily startled
- Being hypervigilant/on guard for danger
- Extreme anxiety
- Self-destructive behavior
- Irritability or aggressive behavior
- Difficulty concentrating
- Negative thoughts
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling numb
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
While PTSD can present within a month after the initial event, it can also lay dormant for years before it shows itself. Symptoms often change in severity, becoming more serious during times of high stress or during triggering events (which could be something like the sound of a backfiring car or even just a smell that the brain connects back to the inciting incident).
At this time, while there are many treatments for PTSD which can include therapy, medication, or some combination of the two, there is no known “cure.”
How can CBD be used to help PTSD?
CBD (cannabidiol) interacts with our bodies’ own cannabinoid receptors and can affect many of its physiological functions. Some of those effects can provide symptom relief for people suffering from PTSD. This is especially notable as many of the medications used to treat PTSD can have some potentially troublesome side effects such as weight gain, nausea, issues with sexual function, fatigue, and insomnia.
For some people, CBD alone can make a world of difference, and they find that they can manage their symptoms when on a CBD regimen. For others, CBD for PTSD might not be effective as a singular treatment option. That said, using it in conjunction with other treatments might mitigate some of the side effects caused by more traditional medications while also assisting with the anxiety, depression, and other potential complications related to PTSD.
Medical studies related to CBD for PTSD
Because of the stigma often associated with cannabis and its related compounds, in the past, CBD as an option was often dismissed out of hand. Now, it seems as though doctors and scientists are really starting to see its potential despite not completely understanding how it works. Because of this, more and more studies are being funded so that the long-term effects of CBD for PTSD can be examined.
Even now, new clinical trials are being done to see how CBD can work in conjunction with prolonged exposure therapy to help veterans manage their PTSD symptoms. And clinical trials to determine the efficacy of using CBD to assist those suffering from PTSD related alcohol use disorder (AUD) are also currently underway.
Some early research is promising. One study showed that CBD can block the long-lasting behavioral consequences of predator threat stress.
Another study indicated that CBD can augment the extinction of conditioned fear by working with the body’s own endocannabinoid system.
Finally, separate studies have shown that CBD may also help with a host of other conditions and issues that often present along with PTSD such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
What are the risks of using CBD for PTSD?
One of the more notable facts about CBD is that it’s generally well-tolerated by people who take it, and it comes with very few potential side effects. As with anything, though, CBD for PTSD might not be the answer for everyone.
Anecdotal evidence seems largely positive, but some find that it doesn’t alleviate their symptoms at all. We also found a few posts from people who felt their symptoms were made worse by utilizing CBD for PTSD.
It also bears mentioning again that CBD seems to affect the memory. This may be beneficial with those struggling due to horrific, repetitive memories. But, because there haven’t been clinical trials done on CBD for PTSD for the long haul, we can’t know for certain if there are any long-term effects to our memories from continued use.
Lastly, if you’re currently taking any prescription medications to treat your PTSD symptoms, it’s always a good idea to check with your pharmacist to ensure that CBD won’t interact with any of them in a negative way.
Should I give CBD for PTSD a try?
Many people dealing with PTSD are finding that CBD can help alleviate their symptoms. Because some of the medications used to treat PTSD present potential side effects, researching CBD for PTSD might be a good option as CBD might mitigate some of those side effects.
As always, you should check with your medical provider before adding anything new to your healthcare routine and find out if using CBD for PTSD is right for you.
- Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
- Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System
- Enhancing cannabinoid neurotransmission augments the extinction of conditioned fear.
- Cannabidiol blocks long-lasting behavioral consequences of predator threat stress: possible involvement of 5HT1A receptors.
- Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol
- Cannabidiol disrupts the consolidation of specific and generalized fear memories via dorsal hippocampus CB1 and CB2 receptors.
- Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol.
- Antidepressants: Get tips to cope with side effects
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Cannabidiol as a Treatment for AUD Comorbid With PTSD
- Cannabidiol and Prolonged Exposure (CBD-PE)
- 19 People Describe What It’s Like to Have PTSD