Winning PTSD Combo? Low dose THC combined with therapy is effective, finds new study
A new study published in the medical journal Neuropharmacology reveals that low-dose THC plus specific types of therapy can work to help people manage PTSD symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental condition that affects some people after they have experienced or witness an event that is shocking, traumatizing, or dangerous.
While most people can recover from the intense emotions that come with facing a traumatic situation, other people struggle with recovery and thus develop PTSD. It’s more common for war veterans and anyone who has served in the military to have PTSD because of the many different types of traumas that the role exposes you to such as deployment to war zones, accidents in training, seeing and hearing gun shots, bombs, and so much more. However, regular civilians can also suffer from PTSD after experiencing mental, physical, or sexual assault, a serious accident, miscarriages, domestic abuse, and much more.
PTSD is one of the more difficult conditions to treat especially when the traumatic event experienced is severe. This painful memory becomes deeply embedded in the brain, making it difficult to forget. There are varying degrees of PTSD though: some with mild conditions can get better right away after a few sessions of psychotherapy, while others will need medication, psychotherapy, and a lot of time to feel much better.
Thankfully, there is hope for traumatized individuals in the form of marijuana.
A new study published in the medical journal Neuropharmacology reveals that low-dose THC plus specific types of therapy can work to help people manage PTSD symptoms. The researchers from Wayne State University utilized double-blind trials on 51 individuals who were either given doses of 7.5mg of THC, or a placebo pill. They were then made to undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a medical procedure that analyzes even minimal changes in the brain’s blood flow, enabling the researchers to assess the mental state of participants.
They were given emotional regulation tasks after they were given THC or the pills. These tasks included making them face triggering images, which were done repeatedly, so that the participants could analyze the images and give them the opportunity to regulate their emotions. This process is referred to as cognitive reappraisal.
“Cognitive reappraisal is one therapeutic emotion regulation strategy that has been widely studied among individuals with mood and anxiety disorders, and numerous differences in brain activation patterns have been shown between individuals with and without PTSD during tasks of cognitive reappraisal,” they wrote.
The researchers found that those given THC were successfully able to manage any negative emotions. THC was also found to activate parts of the brain among which are normally known to be deactivated in people who have PTSD. “THC may prove to be a beneficial pharmacological adjunct to cognitive reappraisal therapy in the treatment of PTSD,” wrote the study authors.
There have been many other studies documenting the efficacy of cannabinoids for treating PTSD.
In a 2021 study, the FDA regulated a study for the first time to analyze the benefits of inhaled cannabis among people with this condition. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study was peer-reviewed. Participants were given either 11% CBD, 9% THC, or a blend with both 8% THC and CBD.
“This study served as the first randomized placebo-controlled trial comparing the therapeutic potential of varying ratios of THC and CBD for treating symptoms of PTSD,” explains the study’s lead author, Dr. Marcel O. Bonn-Miller. They specifically found that those who consumed 9% THC experienced the most significant improvements though they note that more research is needed to determine the most effective doses. “It would help to determine the minimally-effective doses of THC needed to safely treat individuals suffering from PTSD,” said Bonn-Miller. “It will also mitigate risks of cannabis dependence in this vulnerable population,” he adds.
Then in 2020, an observational study which was published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research analyzed 150 PTSD patients over the course of a year. The researchers wanted to examine the difference among people who medicated with cannabis and those who did not. The study did not make use of controls though patients were analyzed every 3 months using self-administered tests that helped researchers understand the frequency of cannabis use and consumption methods.
The researchers discovered that patients who medicated with cannabis demonstrated a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms throughout the year. They were also more than twice as much likely to no longer meet the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Why Cannabis Works
It’s extremely common for people with PTSD to turn to substances such as alcohol and drugs to distract them from the nightmares and negative emotions. However, other booze and other drugs can only make it worse. On the other hand, cannabis and CBD products are the safest substances to medicate with for PTSD.
The human body’s endocannabinoid system helps to regulate bodily processes including those that are imbalanced due to trauma. These include the hormones responsible for sleep, memory, and fear. Consuming THC and CBD interact with your very own healing endocannabinoid system, thus influencing processes that can help you recover from PTSD. Many people can already access PTSD in states that have made it a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Determining how much to take to help mitigate your symptoms may require some trial and error process since everyone reacts differently.
More research is ongoing to determine how we can maximize the cannabis plant to recover from PTSD. In the meantime, you can reach out to a marijuana-informed doctor to learn more about using cannabis for managing PTSD symptoms.