Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and CBD


Staff member
Mar 28, 2019
Many people will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at least ones in their lifetime, and the prevalence is approximately two-fold greater among Veterans. PTSD involves persistent psychological distress following exposure to a traumatic event such as exposure to actual or threatened death or injury. There are number of symptoms:
  • Recurring intrusive memories, thoughts, and dreams associated with a traumatic event.
  • Avoidance of places, people, and situations that remind an individual of the event.
  • Abnormal arousal such as feeling anxious, agitated, or experiencing sleep disturbances.
  • Cognitive or mood disturbances, including impaired memory, feeling depressed, and a diminished motivation to participate in or derive pleasure from enjoyable activities.
Because of these symptoms, individuals who suffer from PTSD have difficulty functioning in society and maintaining social relationships. They are also at a greater risk for suicide and suicidal thoughts, particularly in veteran populations. Current therapies for PTSD are intensive (requiring multiple follow-ups), ineffective for many (~30%), and have potential for unwanted side effects. Therefore, it is critical to explore new and more effective forms of treatment for the general public or vulnerable populations who benefit even less from traditional treatments.

There has been considerable research conducted over the last 20 years demonstrating the involvement of the endocannabinoid system (ECS the system in the brain/body through which cannabis exerts its effects) in the regulation of stress, anxiety, and PTSD. Therefore, when cannabinoids like THC and CBD are consumed, they act on the ECS and can potentially modify stress, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms, if given at the right dose.

There is some evidence that CBD reduces anxiety and improves mood, likely through actions on serotonin receptors, a common target of anti-depressants. THC has been found to improve sleep and could be useful for promoting safety learning (learning that something previously associated with a traumatic event, such as loud noises, is no longer predictive of harm), something that is typically impaired in individuals with PTSD.

Research also indicates a positive correlation between PTSD symptom severity and cannabis. This relationship may be explained by the fact that individuals with PTSD report that cannabis alleviates their symptoms (such as negative mood, anxiety, and sleep disturbances) and improves factors that contribute to quality of life (e.g., social relationships) .

Cannabis holds great potential for treating PTSD in individuals considered to be low risk for substance abuse and can be considered in instances where traditional therapies are ineffective or as an adjunct to an existing treatment plan. While some studies show that PTSD symptoms can improve with cannabis use, it should be noted that others did not find a relationship, and there is a need for controlled clinical trials on cannabis’ use in the treatment of PTSD. As with all medications, patients considering cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and mood disorders should first speak to a health care practitioner to determine the options that are right for them and an appropriate treatment plan.