CBD in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

by Simy Wandering Turtle

Many scars that people have do not occur on the outside of the body.  They do not cause you to limp or need bandages or prosthetics, but these scars require just as much treatment as any physical injury.  These are scars on the psyche, the feeling that you cannot cope; these are the scars left by suffering from PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What is PTSD and how do you recognize it?

PTSD is a mental problem that often develops when people have experienced situations of very high stress.  These include experiences such as witnessing a life threating incident, combat situations, domestic violence or a motor vehicle accident. After living through such a traumatic event, it is usual to have nightmares, relive the incident in your mind and feel uneasy.  If after some weeks you still feel like this and are having difficulty relating to your job and family, it is highly likely that you are experiencing PTSD.

PTSD is more commonly found in people who have experienced combat or sexual assault, and the person’s age and gender can have an impact on whether or not you develop the symptoms of PTSD.  Also, the care that you receive after the event will have an impact on the development of the symptoms.  Care and support can minimize the likelihood of PTSD developing while stress can exacerbate the likelihood of this condition developing.

While suffering from it, you may find yourself having trouble concentrating and sleeping, you may find yourself easily startled, and you lose your temper quickly and feel irritable all the time.  These depressed feelings and destructive thoughts may lead to overuse of alcohol or the use of drugs or other destructive behavior. A very successful method of treating PTSD is the use of CBD or Cannabidiol.

What is CBD?

CBD is a major chemical compound found in cannabis, but it carries none of the psychoactive properties of its more famous partner tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  You will not get ‘high’ from using CBD; it will relax but not intoxicate.

For many years healers both from mainstream medicine as well as alternative practices have ignored the potential of CBD as THC took center stage and cannabis was considered an intoxicating drug and criminalized.

In the past few decades research in CBD, in the form of oil, has shown enormous promise for use as an anti-inflammatory, an antidepressant, an analgesic, and as an anti-psychotic.   Patients are dealing with chronic conditions such as cancer and epilepsy use a form of the oil extracted from varieties of medical cannabis that have very high CBD content.

How does CBD work?

CBD is extracted from the resin glands of the female cannabis plant and is one of over 80 chemical compounds that are collectively known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are known as agonists which bind with receptors, known as cannabinoid receptors, in your cells. Cannabinoid receptors are found in almost all the organs of your body including the skin, reproductive organs, and digestive tract, but they are found in concentrated numbers in the central nervous system.

An easy way of thinking about agonists and receptors is to think of agonists as the keys that fit receptor locks in your body.  When you consume CBD you are giving your body the keys that fit the locks in your cells which, together with other agonists and receptors, constitute the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in your body.  Your body naturally produces molecules called endocannabinoids that fit the receptors, so in technical terms, CBD is known as a phytocannabinoid as it comes from a plant.

This ECS is a huge network of cell receptor proteins that fulfill many functions such as moods, memory, immune function, motor functions, pain reception, appetite, bone development, sleep, and reproduction.  It had four main functions, and these are stress recovery, immune system balance, neuroprotection and homeostatic regulation (energy balance within the body). CBD can emulate the natural cannabinoids produced by the human body and tap into this huge neurotransmitter system in the body producing its therapeutic effects.

Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids and they both lock into cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), which is concentrated in the central nervous system, but in slightly different positions, so they interact with the human body in different ways.  This is why THC is psychoactive, and CBD is not.  In fact, CBD can reduce the ‘high’ from THC.  In the past when cannabis was used purely for its psychoactive properties, growers cultivated strains that were high in THC and very low in CBD but this is now changing, and growers have developed strains that are very high in CBD and low in THC, the so-called medicinal cannabis.

Research is turning up discoveries around CBD on a regular basis, and there is still much to learn about this chemical and its effect on the body.  At this time there is a body of evidence around the effect of CBD on pain receptors, sleep-wake receptors, and mood and stress management receptors.

How does CBD help with PTSD?

Much of the evidence that supports claims that CBD will help with PTSD is anecdotal, the attitude toward the drug is changing with many researchers believing that it is a viable companion to psychological therapy.

CBD is not an alternative to psychological therapy, but it is useful as it reduces many of the superficial symptoms of PTSD and allows people to lead better lives while undergoing therapy to relieve their PTSD.

Helping to treat flashbacks

The constant reliving of the events leading to the PTSD is very traumatic for many people living with PTSD.  Users of CBD report that this product helps them to experience the memories without the ill effects that were, in the past, triggered by the memory

Insomnia

PTSD causes the sufferer a huge degree of stress and stress releases the ‘fight or flight’ hormones within our body.  The excess of this hormone in the body means that sleep is almost impossible.   The lack of sleep makes it very difficult for the person living with PTSD to function anywhere close to normal.  CBD has a powerful sedative effect, and people living with PTSD find that they get healthy rest at night which leads to them being able to focus during the day.

Reduction of anxiety

Prolonged stress leads to high levels of anxiety.  As people living with PTSD struggle with stress, it is inevitable that they will be dealing with anxiety as well.  There are many medications on the market today that treat anxiety, but many of them have very unpleasant side effects.  CBD will help with anxiety as it promotes a feeling of well being without any mental impairment.

Substance abuse

People living with PTSD are in constant pain.  Their symptoms are difficult to deal with, and many turn to alcohol or other substances to try and numb the pain.  The effect of this is temporary, and the abuse causes major problems in both personal and professional lives.   The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that recovering addicts who used CBD were less likely to relapse and in the case of people living with PTSD the twin issues of anxiety and substance abuse can have serious consequences.

People living with PTSD face a debilitating condition that is too often treated with disdain by friends and family.  It is a very real condition with very real symptoms that CBD can relive and give the patient time to recover and come to terms with the horrendous circumstances that they were forced to endure.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22729452
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691841/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26341731