June 15, 2024

Vitavo Yage

Best Health Creates a Happy Life

How it works and what to know

7 min read

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active compounds from the cannabis plant. While there is emerging evidence that CBD may help reduce and manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), research is still in its infancy.

According to the National Institute on Mental Health, PTSD can develop after exposure to a potentially traumatic event that is beyond a typical stressor. Around 6.8% of people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.

Although there are several treatments for PTSD, there is increasing evidence that CBD may help people manage symptoms.

People should not use CBD to treat PTSD symptoms without first discussing doing so with a doctor. There may be a risk that taking CBD alongside any other medication might lead to adverse or unintended side effects.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

PTSD is a mental health condition a person may develop after experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD can happen to anyone of any age, affecting approximately 3.6% of adults per year in the United States.

Most people may associate PTSD with war veterans. However, traumatic events, such as witnessing or being involved in an assault or accident and living through a natural or human-made disaster, may lead to this condition. Adults and children who live through traumatic events over a long period may develop complex PTSD.

People who have PTSD may have re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms. Examples of these symptoms include:

  • Re-experiencing: These symptoms include flashbacks, recurring dreams, distressing thoughts, and physical signs of stress.
  • Avoidance: These symptoms include avoiding places, memories, or thoughts that trigger memories of the traumatic event.
  • Arousal and reactivity: These symptoms include being easily startled, having difficulty concentrating, feeling irritable or having angry outbursts, and doing dangerous or reckless activities.
  • Cognition and mood symptoms: These symptoms include being unable to remember parts of a traumatic event, finding it difficult to feel positive emotions, and having ongoing negative emotions, such as feelings of guilt, anger, and shame.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of PTSD here.

COVID-19 and PTSD

COVID-19 was a traumatic experience for many people. Research has found that the pandemic caused a large increase in the number of people experiencing PTSD in a short amount of time.

A 2023 study of 329 participants who survived hospitalization after contracting the virus found that 26.7% developed PTSD symptoms. The researchers discovered that females who had a cough and difficulty breathing were more likely to display PTSD symptoms.

COVID-19 also affected people who were not hospitalized. One study found that adolescents were greatly affected, with older teens living in urban areas more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD.

A report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commissioned states that over half of public health workers experienced symptoms of a mental health condition during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, 36.8% had PTSD-related symptoms.

Current methods of treating PTSD include medication and psychotherapy.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), medications include antidepressants, which may help control symptoms of depression and anxiety. Doctors may also prescribe medication to help people sleep and reduce nightmares.

Other therapies include psychotherapy or talking treatment, which usually lasts 6–12 weeks. People who have PTSD may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can include memory extinction (exposure) therapy.

There is also evidence that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is effective in the treatment of PTSD and trauma-related disorders. This therapy may help reduce traumatic memories with eye movement, which disrupts the brain’s association of trauma and memories.

The NIMH also states that people can try to manage symptoms at home. People can join support groups, take up mild physical activity to reduce stress, and set realistic goals that they can break down into easily manageable steps.

A 2019 literature review on medical cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids, and PTSD found that CBD may help reduce PTSD symptoms. However, there is limited research on CBD’s safety and effectiveness when using it to manage PTSD, and more study is necessary.

Some older research suggests that taking CBD immediately after a traumatic event might make it more difficult for the brain to form memories that may later develop and cause PTSD symptoms. However, this field of research is still new, and more study is necessary to determine how CBD affects traumatic memories.

Researchers are still unclear as to why CBD may work as a treatment for PTSD. However, according to a 2018 paper, CBD may affect the amygdala and the hippocampus in the brain. The article notes that people with PTSD have a hyperactive amygdala, which may worsen symptoms. CBD may cause the hippocampus to grow and reduce hyperactivity of the amygdala.

Multiple studies investigate whether CBD is an effective treatment for PTSD. Some of the studies use topical CBD, such as oils, and others use edible CBD, such as gummies. Some studies looking at the different forms of CBD found the following information:

  • CBD capsules: A small 2019 study of 10 people found that people with PTSD who took CBD capsules alongside traditional counseling saw a reduction in their symptoms.
  • CBD oil: A 2019 study into 18–19-year-olds in Japan found a reduction in anxiety-related symptoms when participants received 300 milligrams of CBD oil orally. However, this study did not specifically investigate CBD oil on PTSD.
  • CBD with THC: A 2018 literature review suggests that a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD may help treat PTSD symptoms.

However, THC may have more severe side effects than CBD. According to a 2020 systematic review, THC may cause an increased risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia in people already at a higher risk of developing these conditions due to family history. Researchers should carry out further studies to determine whether CBD products containing THC are a safe and appropriate treatment for PTSD.

Individuals with a family history of psychosis or schizophrenia should discuss using CBD products with a healthcare professional who is knowledgeable in this area, particularly if these products also contain THC.

CBD has few side effects compared to other cannabinoids, such as THC. However, people may still experience some side effects and increased risks while using CBD. These include:

  • drowsiness and sleepiness
  • suicidal thoughts and behavior
  • people with a history of alcohol or drug use disorder may find THC addictive
  • allergic reactions
  • to avoid liver damage, people should proceed with caution when using CBD alongside certain medications, such as valproate

Most reported drug interactions are through affecting drug metabolism enzymes such as cytochrome P450 (CYP450). Cytochrome P450 metabolizes several exogenous cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, which are supported by clinical data on THC and CBD metabolism.

If a person has PTSD symptoms that last for 1 month or more, interfere with their ability to work, or interfere with personal relationships, they may want to contact a medical professional to discuss treatment options. Symptoms can include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • being on edge
  • flashbacks
  • bad dreams
  • frightening thoughts
  • trying to avoid places, objects, and other reminders of the traumatic experience
  • distorted feelings

Early evidence suggests CBD may help reduce PTSD symptoms. However, there has not been enough research into its safety or effectiveness. People should not use CBD instead of, or alongside, their current treatment unless a healthcare professional advises otherwise.

There are two main strains of cannabis: sativa and indica. CBD can come from both strains, but many CBD products use hemp from the cannabis sativa plant.

While some companies may state that indica and sativa have different effects on the body, there is no clear evidence to support this. More research is necessary to determine whether these strains have different benefits and which one is best for PTSD.

The American Psychological Association strongly recommends the following PTSD treatments:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • cognitive processing therapy
  • cognitive therapy
  • prolonged exposure

Healthcare professionals may also recommend other treatments, such as medication or other types of therapy. People can work with their healthcare team to find the best way to treat PTSD anxiety.

There is not a fast way to get rid of PTSD flashbacks. People with PTSD should work with their healthcare team to find out which therapies work best to help reduce symptoms such as flashbacks.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a long lasting mental health condition that people may develop after experiencing a traumatic event.

Various traditional treatments are available, such as medication and therapy. However, evidence suggests cannabidiol could also help symptom management, such as reducing fatigue and stress and promoting relaxing sleep.

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