Cannabis and Mental Health: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Number of people use cannabis to treat their mental health conditions, whether using a state-approved ID or by self-medicating on the illegal market. A lack of factual data remains due to federal restrictions, preventing the understanding of plant’s true efficacy. People in need aren’t waiting for that day to come. Instead, they are going off subjective evidence and the available scientific data to validate their self-medicated treatment plans.
We’ve come to find out that many of these cannabis-based treatments have alleviated symptoms in several health conditions. However, in some, cannabis could prove to be either ineffective or even harmful to the person’s well-being.
For this series, I spoke with medical professionals and those suffering from mental health conditions to better understand how cannabis plays a part as a remedial herb. While this won’t provide the irrefutable data the market needs, it will hopefully shine a more focused light on how cannabis affects people and their conditions.
In this edition, we explore Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
The Scientific Evidence
The public has noticed PTSD more in recent years thanks to an increased awareness by returning veterans and trauma survivors. Today, we are more knowledgeable of the condition that has common symptoms such as flashbacks, hyper-alertness, avoiding people and places, negative thoughts and a heightened flight or fight response.
Col. Dr. Philip Blair is a family physician. He is also a consultant in disease management as well as the medical director of Pro Health Adviser and the CBD brand Elixinol. Dr. Blair is also a graduate of West Point’s 1972 class. He noted that with PTSD, scientific evidence shows that there is a disproportion in cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This includes a 2013 New York University study that exposed a connection among cannabinoid quantities and PTSD.
While the first study to inspect the clinical benefits of CBD for PTSD patients began in May 2019, many doctors warmed to cannabis as a treatment alternative years ago. That includes Col. Dr. Blair.
For the past five years, Blair has helped patients with PTSD using organic hemp-derived CBD. “I’ve seen some stunning results,” he said. “I’ve conducted pre-clinical trials with veterans with PTSD with cannabidiol, and in many cases, within a week of including CBD oil as part of a daily routine, participants reported sleeping through the night, reduced anxiety, and feeling calm and peaceful.”
The First-Hand Accounts
The effects of PTSD are so bad on patients that it can take away their sleep, the ability to work or managing pain. In many cases, it has driven people to take their own lives. With people seeking remedies, cannabis has become one of the ideal treatment options.
The Veteran Farmer is an organization that grows and consults in Canada’s medical cannabis space. Founder Lloyd Farmer collected answers from several veterans who gave their permission to share their experiences for this story. Each set of answers appeared to mirror the other. Combat and several deployments led to the previously mentioned pains that come from PTSD. Each veteran decided to use cannabis to overcome their pain.
One unnamed person detailed how cannabis changed their life. “I went from six or seven pills a day to no pills,” they wrote. Another unidentified veteran wrote, “I will never go back to pharmaceutical meds again.”
The group appeared to show no remorse in their cannabis use. When asked if they had the option, would a veteran choose marijuana as a remedial option again? One person wrote: “I wouldn’t wait as long before trying it.”
In the US, former Green Beret Adam Smith has taken up a similar mission to help Veterans and first responders. The 17-year veteran has never been officially diagnosed with PTSD but wrote via email he experiences all the symptoms. Smith used cannabis to self-medicate. This includes during a 2015 bicycle ride he was doing with a friend and fellow PTSD patient to raise awareness for the condition.
“During that trip, it was the first time that my counterpart and I were completely disconnected from the military and were in a state where we could try cannabis to treat symptoms,” described Smith. “We went to a dispensary and bought cannabis legally. The effects were absolutely astounding.” He reported experiencing a pleasant sleep, no anxiety and the ability to process information slowly.
Smith found himself in a state with no cannabis allowance after his ride completed. He stopped using marijuana and was without any medication. Smith turned to alcohol to sleep, and in order not to feel. He couldn’t find work and attempted to take his own life. This was the lowest point, Smith recalled.
Eventually, he turned a corner and began to feel better. “Once I had a new mission brought forward, a way to provide for my family, and serve a purpose, I began to find light. Once CBD became legal, I immediately began using it. It increased my clarity 10x and ability to speed my recovery.”
Today, Smith works as an advisor to the R&D Company Allied Corp., which focuses on creating cannabis health solutions for veterans with PTSD.
Zoey Bullock, also known as Betty Chronix, experienced PTSD at a young age after being raped when she was 12. She explained the ordeal of having to locate her attackers with police and the impact of having a parent with alcoholism.
She turned to cannabis for treatment at a young age. “Not long after going through trauma, my friends from the neighborhood introduced me to cannabis,” she explained. “The doctors had me on a number of medications that made me even more depressed to the point where I would cry my eyes out unbearably. Cannabis was the only thing that gave me relief to be able to cope with my symptoms.”
The following years would be a combination of psychiatrist visits and multiple antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, which she said did not work. At 14, she attempted to take her own life. By the time she graduated high school, she was working two jobs, living on her own, putting herself through college, graduating with an MBA and a 3.97 GPA. She also quit her medications cold turkey.