Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Arguably the word part about a traumatic experience is that it impacts you even after it happens. Many people who go through trauma develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a severe anxiety disorder. We usually associate PTSD with war veterans, but anyone who goes through a traumatic experience can deal with the condition. People with PTSD have symptoms like mood changes and intrusive memories.
PTSD patients usually receive a combined treatment of medication and therapy. But, mental health medication can be unreliable and lose effectiveness over time. So, some people with PTSD turn to medical marijuana, which can improve mood and sleep issues.
Roitman et al., a team including famous medical cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam, evaluated oral THC as a PTSD treatment. Current therapies for PTSD don’t entirely cure it, so they wanted to see if THC could fill the gaps. Using THC to help PTSD patients could bring us one step further to giving them true relief.
The team worked with 10 PTSD patients who received a diagnosis between one and three years after their trauma. Each patient had an existing medication regimen, and Roitman et al. supplemented it with five milligrams of oral THC twice a day. After three weeks, the researchers noted any changes in symptom scale scores.
At the end of the study period, the patients showed improvement in sleep, emotional responses and other PTSD symptoms. None of them had to stop taking the THC due to side effects, and only four had mild adverse effects like dry mouth and dizziness.
Cameron et al. investigated nabilone’s usefulness for treating PTSD in inmates. As a synthetic cannabinoid, nabilone works like natural cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. Previous studies showed that nabilone could treat symptoms like chronic pain and sleep issues. Since nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid, it has no street value.
They reviewed the medical charts of 104 patients in a combination mental health/correctional facility. Every patient received nabilone treatment at some point during a three-year period. The team recorded changes in hours slept per night, frequency of nightmares and global PTSD symptoms connected to the nabilone regimen.
On average, the nabilone treated 3.5 conditions and symptoms at one time. Many patients experienced improvement in insomnia, nightmares, pain and global PTSD symptoms. The inmates could often stop taking medicine with a higher risk of negative effects thanks to the nabilone, and they showed no signs of abusing their nabilone medication.
Jetly et al. also examined nabilone’s ability to treat PTSD, but they focused on the nightmares it causes. Nightmares not only make sleeping unpleasant, but they also make it harder to fall asleep. Not every patient with PTSD gets relief from typical treatments.
They recruited 10 Canadian military members with PTSD for the study. These personnel still had nightmares despite receiving treatment. The team administered either nabilone or a placebo treatment and monitored the subjects for seven weeks. After a two-week washout, the subjects received the other treatment for seven more weeks.
When the patients took nabilone, they experienced lower nightmare frequency and intensity. Five out of 10 patients experienced significant improvement on nabilone, while only one felt it on the placebo. Jetly et al. concluded more research should be done on nabilone and PTSD, especially for other symptoms.
If you haven’t found success with typical PTSD treatments, there’s still hope. Our guide to PTSD and medical marijuana can teach you how cannabis medicine can treat PTSD. If you want to talk to a professional about medical marijuana treatment, a marijuana-trained doctor can help.