Heroes in the Shadows: The Battle with PTSD and the Promise of Cannabis

For many, the words “veteran” and “first responder” evoke images of bravery, sacrifice, and resilience. Yet, behind the uniforms and valor, a silent battle rages on for many of these heroes: the struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 11-20% of veterans who served in operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD in a given year. Similarly, a survey from the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology (2016) reported that up to 37% of fire-fighters, a category of first responders, exhibited symptoms consistent with PTSD. The numbers also reflect a grim reality for women in the military, where as many as 23% have reported sexual assault, which further exacerbates PTSD prevalence.

This debilitating condition, often stemming from traumatic experiences on the battlefield, during emergency responses, or, for many women in service, from personal assaults, leaves profound psychological scars. While traditional treatments, ranging from therapy to medication, have been the mainstay, a new beacon of hope has emerged in recent years: cannabis. With an evolving global perspective towards accepting cannabis for medicinal uses, there’s now a pressing need to examine its potential role for those heroes grappling with PTSD. Let’s dive deep into the latest research on this subject.

The Science Behind Cannabis and PTSD: A Closer Look

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has long challenged patients, clinicians, and researchers with its complex symptomatology and treatment options. With growing interest in alternative therapies, cannabis emerges as a potential player. But what does science say about cannabis and PTSD?

1. Cannabis as Symptom Relief

A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (2014) found that patients reported a 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms when they used cannabis. This suggests that cannabis might help alleviate some of the most challenging symptoms of PTSD, such as insomnia, anxiety, and flashbacks.

Source: Bonn-Miller, M. O., Babson, K. A., & Vandrey, R. (2014). Using cannabis to help you sleep: Heightened frequency of medical cannabis use among those with PTSD. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(1), 8-13.

2. Endocannabinoid System & PTSD

Research from the New York University School of Medicine (2013) sheds light on the endocannabinoid system, suggesting that its therapeutic manipulation could help treat and even prevent PTSD. The study indicates that the system may play a crucial role in modulating memory consolidation, retrieval, and extinction – processes significantly impacted in PTSD.

Source: Neumeister, A. (2013). The endocannabinoid system provides an avenue for evidence-based treatment development for PTSD. Depression and Anxiety, 30(2), 93-96.

3. Improved Nightmares & Sleep Quality

A clinical trial in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology (2009) showed that nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, could significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of PTSD-related nightmares. Patients also reported improved sleep time and reduced daytime flashbacks.

Source: Fraser, G. A. (2009). The use of a synthetic cannabinoid in the management of treatment-resistant nightmares in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 29(1), 84-88.

In Conclusion

While cannabis shows promise as a therapeutic avenue for PTSD, it’s crucial to approach its use with caution and guidance from healthcare professionals. Individual responses can vary, and long-term effects need more research. The exploration of cannabis for PTSD and other mental health disorders is an evolving science, but early results highlight its potential role in offering relief to those grappling with such conditions.

Stay updated with the HeroGrown Journal as we continue to bring light to cutting-edge research in the realm of cannabis and mental health.

HeroGrown cannot offer medical advice or assist in a mental health crisis. If you or someone you know needs help,  please contact 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ — If you or someone you know is in danger or needs immediate medical attention, please call 911.

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