Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD for short, is a problem that plagues millions of people across the US. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, “About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.” This trauma-induced illness impacts individuals in many different ways. While there is no known cure at the time of this writing, researchers are looking at new routes for treatment.
Combat veterans are the most commonly known to develop PTSD, but this illness can impact anyone who experiences trauma. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “The course of the illness varies: Although some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last for a year or longer.” Symptoms can vary from person to person and can include:
- Avoidance of thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
- Flashbacks, reoccurring memories, or dreams related to the event
- Irregular mood swings and outbursts
- Depression and anxiety
While the full list of symptoms is much longer, these highlight the struggles those with this illness face every day. PTSD has no age limit and can impact anyone, making this a serious issue in need of immediate focus by the medical community.
Can CBD Help With PTSD?
Studies using CBD as a potential treatment for symptoms of PTSD have gained recognition in recent years. The focus on CBD and neurological illnesses has become a focal point in the medical and scientific communities through various studies and trials. While much of the research is still considered preliminary, it has shown promising results, creating new pathways of options.
For example, a 2019 paper published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports on a case series where researchers explored the use of CBD in the treatment of PTSD. While the human trial was small, their results found, “Administration of oral CBD in addition to routine psychiatric care was associated with PTSD symptom reduction in adults with PTSD. CBD also appeared to offer relief in a subset of patients who reported frequent nightmares as a symptom of their PTSD.”
The group of 21 individuals who participated in the study were observed through follow-up appointments over an 8-week period after being prescribed CBD for their symptoms. Of all the individuals who completed the study, a 28% decrease in PTSD symptoms was reported. Of the original 21, four individuals continued to receive CBD for 36 weeks or more. These individuals saw a continued decrease in symptoms.
A similar paper published in Frontiers in Neuroscience reported, “The effects of CBD on the different stages of aversive memory processing make this compound a candidate pharmacological adjunct to psychological therapies for PTSD. CBD also shows an action profile with fewer side effects than the pharmacological therapy currently used to treat this type of disorder.”
Researchers explored the therapeutic effect CBD has on our CB receptors and interact with the way our brain processes functions such as memory, sleep, and mood. They cite, “studies have also shown that chronic CBD treatment may facilitate neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a structure well known for its important role in processing memories, and that is found reduced in patients with PTSD.”
Potential PTSD Treatments Using CBD
It was studies like these that laid the groundwork for larger studies like the one conducted in April 2022 by researchers at the Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Researchers used a mouse PTSD model to investigate the effects of CBD on PTSD-like behaviors. Over 26 days, various tests were administered to observe how CBD impacted mice with PTSD-like symptoms. These tests included the elevated plus maze test, social interaction test, and open field test.
Results found, that “CBD (10 mg/kg, i.p.) administration alleviated main PTSD-like symptoms in the mouse pre-shock model by attenuating trauma-related fear memory and anxiety-like behavior, and increasing social interaction behavior.”
These results mirrored the findings of previous trials, further opening up the pathway to a potential alternative in PTSD treatment. Studies like these are important for furthering our understanding of how CBD and other cannabinoids impact our brain and the illnesses associated with it.
Researchers concluded, “CBD produced anti-PTSD-like actions in mice and disrupted trauma-related fear memory by interfering with multiple aspects of fear memory processing. These findings indicate that CBD may be a promising candidate for treating PTSD.”
Even the federal government has explored the use of CBD as part of PTSD treatment. A press release by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (or VFW for short) in 2021 announced the findings of The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies regarding cannabinoid usage in the treatment of PTSD in combat veterans. This 150 person study found, “Over the course of a year, the study found that cannabis users reported a greater decrease in the severity of their PTSD symptoms. They also were more than 2.5 times as likely to no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD as those who did not use cannabis.”
The press release also announced a larger, more in-depth trial to follow exploring a more diverse cast of individuals, placebo use, and a longer duration of observance. The VFW press release ended with the statement, “As approved and amended at its 118th National Convention in 2017, the VFW continues to stand and support federally funded research of medicinal cannabis for veterans being treated by the VA for service-related chronic pain.”
Most studies surrounding PTSD have centered on animal and small numbered human trials. Results have provided promising outcomes, opening up the need for further in-depth studies involving longer treatment times and larger human study groups. These kinds of studies and trials may take months, if not years, to gain a fully comprehensive look at how CBD can be used in PTSD treatment.
While there are no FDA-approved CBD treatments for PTSD, research has been making outstanding strides in recent years. PTSD is a complicated neurological illness with no known cure. Creating alternative pathways opens up possible cures and treatments for future generations. Cannabinoids such as CBD offer a new ray of hope for treatment.