For years, word-of-mouth has pointed to the benefit of using cannabis to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Yet, despite medical cannabis having been authorized by 24 US states for the treatment of PTSD, most doctors won’t prescribe it for their patients, citing a lack of epidemiological and clinical trial evidence. (South Dakota is the latest example of a state creating a medical marijuana program explicitly to help patients with PTSD.)
Now, a new study has provided the type of evidence they’re looking for and shows that the type of cannabis products legally available in US dispensaries do indeed help treat PTSD.
The study followed 150 Colorado residents with PTSD for one year, the majority of whom were military veterans.
Patients who used recreational or medical cannabis from a dispensary—primarily smoked, high-THC cultivars—were compared every three months to those who did not use any cannabis.
The researchers found those who used cannabis had a greater decrease in the severity of their PTSD symptoms over time and were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to no longer meet the diagnosis of PTSD at the end of the year.
Interestingly, measurements of psychosocial functioning, sleep and insomnia, and physical activity were not significantly different between those who used cannabis and the control group.
This study identified many of the most common traumatic triggers, including combat exposure, sexual or physical assault, and accidents.
PTSD is a mental health problem caused by traumatic events and may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the events. About eight million Americans suffer PTSD in any given year, including up to 30.9 percent of US military veterans who experience the condition over their lifetimes.
While this observational study is based on self-reporting—neither the cultivar nor amount of cannabis smoked is standardized either within or between test groups as it would be in a clinical trial—it suggests cannabis may provide an alternative to conventional PTSD therapies.