Study Finds Cannabis May Relieve PTSD Symptoms

Researchers found that the level of anxiety suffered by PTSD patients declined by 57% when using cannabis, while other symptoms were also similarly reduced.

A new study has found that patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can potentially reduce the severity of their symptoms by more than half using cannabis.

The study was led by an assistant professor of psychology for Washington State University, Carrie Cuttler, and analysed data taken from over 400 patients.

The study suggests that cannabis does reduce symptoms of PTSD acutely, but it might not have longer term beneficial effects on the underlying condition. Working with this model, it seems that cannabis will temporarily mask symptoms, acting as a bit of a band aid, but once the period of intoxication wears off, the symptoms can return. Washington State University Assistant Professor of Psychology, Carrie Cuttler

Cuttler's research team examined changes in patient's PTSD symptoms by making use of Strainprint—and app developed to help users manage their medical cannabis use—over a 31 month period.

During this time the app recorded more than 11,000 data points, which eventually led researchers to conclude that cannabis can indeed reduce the severity of recurring traumatic thoughts by roughly 62%. The study—which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders—also found that flashbacks, irritability, and anxiety were reduced by 51%, 67%, and 57%, respectively.  

"A lot of people with PTSD do seem to turn to cannabis, but the literature on its efficacy for managing symptoms is a little sparse," Cuttler said.

"We need more studies that look at whole plant cannabis because this is what people are using much more than the synthetic cannabinoids. It is difficult to do good placebo-controlled trials with whole plant cannabis, but they're still really needed."

However, the study's focus has also been called into question, as its sample size is limited to patients who self-identify as suffering from PTSD.

The researchers were also unable contrast the level of symptom reduction with those experienced by a placebo control group.

The study also attempted to determine whether THC or CBD was the key factor influencing the therapeutic qualities of cannabis, although it could not identify a meaningful difference between the two molecules' efficacy.

The researchers instead concluded that it must be a combination of CBD and THC—and potentially other compounds in the cannabis plant—that produces the therapeutic effect, which echoes previous research into the infamous "entourage effect".


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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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