Cannabis And PTSD: Combating Trauma With THC And CBD
Lynette Shaw opened one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in California. From day one, she had veterans of all ages and wars flock to her store in search of relief for phantom limbs, sleepless nights and the trauma that followed them home from the battlefields. Through trial and error, and a lot of patient feedback, Lynette pieced together information on the relationship between THC, CBD and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“We didn’t know it was CBD helping veterans in the early days. We would make brownies with Bakersfield Brown for the spinal injury patients because it helped with the swelling.” Years later, Lynette co-founded Veterans Cannabis Group with Iraq War Veteran, Sergeant Aaron Augustis. Their main goal was and remains to educate and support veterans struggling with the residual traumas of war.
PTSD is a disorder resulting from a traumatic experience. Whether from warfare, an accident, disaster, abuse or another type of serious event—PTSD can affect all types of people from all walks of life. A person with PTSD may be triggered to feel stressed or frightened long after the danger has passed. This prolonged “fight-or-flight” mode may cause nightmares, flashbacks and/or isolation. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eight percent of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
For those struggling with mental health issues, particularly PTSD, a good night’s sleep is crucial for healing the mind and body. To achieve a full night’s rest, strong purple or fruity indicas have been reported by users as a great way to combat nightmares. Eating edibles before bed gives a user longer-lasting effects as ingesting marijuana has a slower release time.
CBDs have become increasingly popular because of the seemingly endless list of benefits. CBD has been reported to help a wide range of ailments from chronic pain to epilepsy. For those suffering from PTSD, CBDs are best for relieving inflammation and are especially useful for those who do not want the psychoactive high that comes with THC.
While many find relief in CBD-dominant strains, Lynette recommends medicating with both THC and CBD for optimal affects as they have been known to enhance one another. High-THC strains, particularly sativas, can stimulate patients and promote feelings of wellbeing. Lynette, who has also struggled with PTSD, says that she is particularly fond of Sour Diesel for lifting feelings of heaviness and depression. Sativas or sativa-dominant hybrids are also helpful in physically stimulating and encouraging patients to get moving and explore the outside world.
“We didn’t know it was CBD helping veterans in the early days. We would make brownies with Bakersfield Brown for the spinal injury patients because it helped with the swelling.”
Many patients who medicate with marijuana don’t realize that different strains produce different effects. Lynette always asks about personal cannabis experience when meeting a new patient. Hybrid strains, CBD:THC ratios, dosages and ingestion methods all play important roles in medicating properly with cannabis. Each patient responds differently to cannabis so it is important to start with small doses and observe how the strain interacts with an individual’s body chemistry.
Up until 2004, American veterans could lose their military benefits if they consumed marijuana. The current military marijuana policy is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and VA doctors are unable to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients. Luckily, medical marijuana is legal in California, and there are many veterans support groups looking for ways to reduce or get off heavy medications such as opiates, sleeping pills and anti-psychotics.
As marijuana is still a Schedule I substance with, “No currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” it is difficult to scientifically study the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Because of this, many of the reported health benefits from THC and CBD are user-generated. Care By Design, a Santa Rosa CBD company, makes their own CBD-to-THC concentrates. Their products come in five different CBD-to-THC ratios allowing patients greater control over their personal dosage. Care by Design has begun to conduct their own research into the effectiveness of medical marijuana. They recently interviewed hundreds of veterans who reported that their marijuana use was comparable to conventional treatments for PTSD.
While the Federal Government does not recognize the medical potential of cannabis, the DEA does allow limited studies on medical marijuana. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) headquartered in Santa Cruz was approved to research the affects of THC and CBD on veterans suffering from PTSD. Researchers on the project believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of THC and CBD alone will provide therapeutic benefits for PTSD sufferers. The study will follow 75 veterans suffering from PTSD who will be given either high-THC, high-CBD, a THC/CBD combo or cannabis placebo during the study.
The most recent statistics released by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs report that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide each day—one every 65 minutes. It is crucial for institutions to continue to explore the role of cannabis in alleviating symptoms of PTSD—the lives of countless men and women, both veteran and civilian alike, hang in the balance.