Can Medical Marijuana Help Sufferers of PTSD?
Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the legalization of marijuana. Its use as a medicine has been in debate for quite some time, but gradually, as more and more research studies have been released, its medicinal qualities have proven to be quite effective in treating a wide range of ailments.
For more than a century, marijuana was the primary choice of pain relief until aspirin was introduced to the world in 1897. Since then, people in general have been told to consider marijuana to be a dangerous drug rather than what it really is, a potent vegetable that can be used to improve health in many ways.
Now, it seems that everything has come full circle again and the medical community has taken notice of all the many benefits that can be gained from using marijuana for medicinal purposes. One of those conditions that has proven to be very promising is in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).
How It Works
While testing is still underway to determine the extent of the benefits of medical marijuana in cases of PTSD, research has shown that medical marijuana has been able to drastically reduce the levels of anxiety and stress that result from triggering traumatic memories. According to The Medical Daily, "The use of marijuana for anxiety disorders, and just plain stress, comes from the fact that the brain naturally produces cannabinoids, which are the active chemicals in marijuana – namely, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – and what help regulate how fear is processed in the brain."
By being able to control the flow of these active chemicals in the brain, scientists have realized that they can also control the brain's response to memories of traumatic stimuli in a sufferer. Research studies on rats with PTSD showed lower levels of anandamide in the brains, a chemical that maintains the memory centers that could trigger the disorder.
Through the analysis of several experiments, researchers have been able to demonstrate the neuroprotective effects of the brain after suffering traumatic injuries. These effects, they believe, may not only be able to help those with PTSD, but patients who have other neurological and psychiatric challenges in the future, which could extend benefits to Alzheimer's patients or those who suffer from Parkinson's disease as well.
While analyzing the results of these studies, scientists realized that the brain's cannabinoid system is closely connected to a patient's memory centers, specifically in relation to memory extinction. This can allow patients to be able to eliminate the stimuli that caused the trauma in the first place. According to the Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, this benefit holds lots of promise for those who have to deal with PTSD in many ways, "This has implications for patients with PTSD, who respond to stimuli that remind them of their initial trauma even when it is no longer appropriate. By aiding in memory extinction, marijuana could help patients reduce their association between stimuli and the traumatic situations in their past."
While more studies are underway to determine just how this drug can relieve the lives of PTSD sufferers, the evidence of its potential is extremely promising.
Today over 5 million people have to deal with the symptoms that result from PTSD. The new research that is currently underway suggest that medical marijuana may be the answer to an improved quality of life in many people, and could even prove to be more effective than drugs that are currently on the market.
A research study published in the Journal Neuropsychopharmacology, suggests that administering synthetic cannabinoids in rats who had experienced trauma was able to prevent both behavioral and physiological symptoms of the disorder. This was done by triggering shifts in the centers of the brain that have long been connected to maintaining traumatic memories.
This one study is just another addition to a growing collection of research that allows researchers to get a better understanding of the brain functions and the relationship between cannabis and PTSD.
To date, all of the studies dealing with medical marijuana and PTSD have been in animals. But the evidence is strong enough for research teams to seriously contemplate going to the next level and starting human trials in the near future. As explained in the Huffington Post, "While the research is preliminary, it does suggest that human trials should be conducted to examine marijuana's promise as a treatment option for PTSD. … And in recent years, there has been an increase in focus on the potential benefits cannabis may have for veterans suffering from PTSD."
Today, nearly 30 percent of those veterans that served in the Iraq or the Afghanistan wars are presently suffering from PTSD. The results of these studies show that the potential for medical marijuana to give them back their normalcy and an improved quality of life is quite high.