Study Summary: Cannabinoids for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Welcome to Higher Learning LV's Study Summary series. This series reviews and summarizes peer-reviewed research studies and was developed specifically for cannabis industry professionals. These study summaries provide easily digested quick reads for a variety of important issues regarding the commerce and chemistry of legal cannabis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) "is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event—either experiencing it or witnessing it." The famous clinic listed PTSD symptoms that include "flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, [and] uncontrollable thoughts about the [trigger] event."


PTSD Statistics

Metrics from the National Institute of Mental Health reveal that "one half of all U.S. adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, but most do not develop PTSD."


During the past year, almost four percent of adults in the United States experienced PTSD. According to official reports, this condition is suffered more by women than men, with about five percent of women diagnosed with PTSD while just under two percent of men are diagnosed. Over their entire lifetimes, about seven percent of adults in the U.S. experience PTSD.


PTSD is suffered more by women than men, with more than five percent of women diagnosed with PTSD while just under two percent of men were diagnosed. Over their entire lifetimes, about seven percent of those in the U.S. experience PTSD.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury." The organization reported that roughly 8 million Americans experience PTSD in a given year. According to the Sidran Institute, about nine percent of all adults, or one of 13 people in the United States, develops PTSD at some point during their lifetime.


The Study

A 2021 peer-reviewed research study entitled "Use of Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder" that was published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology investigated the potential therapeutic support provided by the cannabinoids produced by cannabis and hemp for PTSD.

The study reported that current PTSD treatment options "include various psychotherapies, but not all patients respond to them." Thus, medical doctors, psychiatrists, and other wellness professionals are continually seeking "different pharmacological approaches...as potential adjuvants, including using cannabinoids to target the endocannabinoid system to reduce the symptoms" [of PTSD, including] "associated fear memories," wrote the researchers.


The study found that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC "were shown to improve overall PTSD symptoms, including sleep quality and quantity, hyperarousal, and treatment-resistant nightmares."

"For this review, four cohort studies, four randomized clinical trials, one case report, and one case series were obtained from PubMed within the last 10 years," wrote the study's authors. This literature review study found that the prior studies had employed "cannabis extracts, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and synthetic cannabinoids...to target the [endocannabinoid] receptors CB1 and CB2.


The Results

The study found that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC "were shown to improve overall PTSD symptoms, including sleep quality and quantity, hyperarousal, and treatment-resistant nightmares."

The researchers noted that the randomized clinical trials they analyzed "were designed properly to obtain the most accurate results" and that this involved "randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study designs, making them the 'gold standard' of epidemiology studies."


Conclusions

The research concluded that the prior studies it evaluated "reveal promising evidence in favor of cannabinoids as a treatment option for individuals with PTSD." Its authors described the cannabinoids CBD and THC as "effective treatments for PTSD symptoms overall, as well as enhancing consolidation of extinction training used to eliminate conditioned fear."


Major cannabinoids can be employed to "treat the PTSD symptoms at the source of the cause."

The study also revealed that Nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid developed for medicinal purposes, "provides the same benefits as the cannabis extracts, but with fewer adverse effects." It summarized that the underlying mechanisms involved in the ability of CBD and THC to improve PTSD symptoms involve "treating the fear memories and aiding with their extinction" and that the major cannabinoids can be employed to "treat the PTSD symptoms at the source of the cause."


View the original study.


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