Can medicinal cannabis help with PTSD symptoms?

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For years, PTSD patients have been claiming that cannabis has been a helpful tool in the treatment of their symptoms. However, previous research in this space was limited and inconclusive. In this blog post, we will be discussing recent study findings that indicate that medicinal cannabis may be a healthy and effective treatment for PTSD symptoms for some patients.

Quote from Dr Waseem:

“Our clinical experience with patients suffering from PTSD is that medicinal cannabis may be a useful adjunct for the long-term symptoms of PTSD and also for improving quality of life.”

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

There are four categories of PTSD symptoms.

  • Intrusion — Someone with PTSD may have intrusive thoughts such as distressing dreams and traumatic flashbacks.
  • Avoidance — Avoiding people, objects, discussions and places that trigger the person with PTSD to think of the traumatic event.
  • Alterations in cognition and mood — PTSD can cause a person to not be able to recall important aspects of the traumatic event, have a distorted view of reality, and struggle to feel positive emotions.
  • Alterations in arousal and activity — Angry outbursts or feeling irritable are another common symptom of those with PTSD, alongside sleep troubles and self-destructive behaviours.

Although many people may experience these symptoms immediately following a traumatic event, when these symptoms persist for more than a month a person may now be experiencing PTSD.

Can medicinal cannabis help with my PTSD symptoms?

Research suggests that people who suffer with PTSD have found improved quality of life due to medicinal cannabis helping reduce the intensity of the brain’s response to a trigger. 

People with PTSD have lower levels of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that binds to CB1. When anandamide levels are low, the brain produces more CB1 receptors, and people with PTSD have more of these receptors in the parts of their brain that respond to stress and anxiety. 

CBD could help regulate these receptors and reduce anxiety, and when THC binds to these receptors, it could also help by reducing nightmares and improving sleep for those with PTSD.

What does the research suggest?

One study found that cannabis can help reduce the response of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain associated with our response to threats. In the study, one group were given a low dose THC, and another no dose, then they were exposed to triggers and the brain response was monitored. Those who had taken the low dose of THC had a reduced fear response compared to those without the dose.

Another study demonstrated that medicinal cannabis can help those with PTSD move forward from their traumatic experiences by overwriting them, a process called extinction learning. For example, if someone has a car accident, they may have a stress response to being in a car again, however, over time as they have new memories of being in a car and not being in an accident, these new memories overwrite the trauma response of the old memory. This is extinction learning — something which people who suffer from PTSD are unable to do. 

Researchers have looked through all the relevant cannabis research from 1974-2020 and found evidence that taking medicinal cannabis may help those with PTSD improve their ability to complete extinction learning, and reduce their anxiety response — and without any significant negative effects.

Is it a healthy coping mechanism for my PTSD symptoms? 

The symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating and when left untreated can alter the course of a person’s life. Medicinal cannabis could be a healthy way to help those who experience PTSD by alleviating these symptoms both immediately and in the long-run. This is especially true when used in conjunction with other healthy forms of treatment like therapy and taking care of your basic needs with a healthy diet, exercise, sleep schedule and routine.

How can I check if this treatment may be right for me?

Starting any new medication can feel daunting, especially when you are unsure of its effects. If you are struggling to manage your PTSD symptoms, it may be worth checking whether our team of qualified Doctors and Nurses believe this could be a suitable treatment option for you. Our friendly team will be happy to help answer any questions or concerns you may have. Click the link below to begin your journey with us.

We hope that you have learnt more about managing PTSD symptoms with cannabis. Book an appointment with one of our experienced doctors to discuss whether medicinal cannabis is right for your medical journey. 



Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider. 

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