Cannabis Shown To Alleviate the Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
As a long time sufferer of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and long-term medical cannabis user (and proud of it thank you very much), it came as no surprise to me when it was recently announced that a team of international researchers from the UK. US, and Germany found that cannabis “dramatically reduced” PTSD symptoms in a 19 year old male test subject.
The research synopsis stating:
“It is known from clinical studies that some patients attempt to cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by using recreational drugs. This review presents a case report of a 19-year-old male patient with a spectrum of severe PTSD symptoms, such as intense flashbacks, panic attacks, and self-mutilation, who discovered that some of his major symptoms were dramatically reduced by smoking cannabis resin. The major part of this review is concerned with the clinical and preclinical neurobiological evidence in order to offer a potential explanation of these effects on symptom reduction in PTSD. This review shows that recent studies provided supporting evidence that PTSD patients may be able to cope with their symptoms by using cannabis products. Cannabis may dampen the strength or emotional impact of traumatic memories through synergistic mechanisms that might make it easier for people with PTSD to rest or sleep and to feel less anxious and less involved with flashback memories. The presence of endocannabinoid signalling systems within stress-sensitive nuclei of the hypothalamus, as well as upstream limbic structures (amygdala), point to the significance of this system for the regulation of neuroendocrine and behavioural responses to stress. Evidence is increasingly accumulating that cannabinoids might play a role in fear extinction and antidepressive effects. It is concluded that further studies are warranted in order to evaluate the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in PTSD.”1
While media covered the story with this:
“Thursday, 05 July 2012
Hannover, Germany: The use of cannabis and cannabinoids likely mitigates symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a review of clinical and preclinical evidence published online in the scientific journal Drug Testing and Analysis.
An international team of investigators from Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom reported that the use of cannabis “dramatically reduced” PTSD symptoms in a single 19-year-old male patient. Authors reported: “In the case report presented in this review, the patient displayed a grave pathology involving anxiety, dissociation and heavy flashbacks as a consequence of PTSD. … The patient stated that he found cannabis more useful than lorazepam. … It is evident from the case history that the patient experienced reduced stress, less involvement with flashbacks and a significant decrease of anxiety.”
Authors also cited “accumulating clinical and preclinical evidence that cannabinoids may mitigate some major symptoms associated with PTSD.”
They concluded: “Cannabis may dampen the strength or emotional impact of traumatic memories through synergistic mechanisms that might make it easier for people with PTSD to rest or sleep and to feel less anxious and less involved with flashback memories. … Evidence is increasingly accumulating that cannabinoids might play a role in fear extinction and anti-depressive effects. It is concluded that further studies are warranted in order to evaluate the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in PTSD.”
Last year, administrators at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) blocked investigators at the University of Arizona at Phoenix from conducting an FDA-approved, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the use of cannabis in 50 patients with PTSD.
Under federal law, any clinical trial evaluations involving cannabis must receive NIDA approval because the agency is the only source of legal cannabis for FDA-approved research purposes. In 2010, a spokesperson for the agency told The New York Times: “[O]ur focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use. We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
Wow!! What was that?
“[O]ur focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use. We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana.”
Let’s look at this for a moment…
Prescription Drug Deaths in the US in 2010 total 82,724, Tobacco related deaths in the US total 443,000 deaths per year, Alcohol related deaths in the US is estimated to be at 75,000 per year. Cannabis? Zero! Reefer stupidity comes to mind. Or are we talking about negative effects such as the largest prison industrial complex in the world, the destruction of families and lives, and the odd random shooting of a dog or two for massive drug seizures such as a joint or two? Yes, there certainly are some negative consequences of marijuana use (call me sardonic!)… No one can dispute that.
U.S. Drug War Claims War Veterans Lives
According to a recent article in the New York Times, “an American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan, while veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began”
If anecdotal evidence were the standard, acceptance of marijuana’s calming properties among PTSD sufferers would be a topic relegated to the past. Statistical evidence to support that hypothesis could be petitioned from the state of New Mexico, where medical marijuana is legally prescribed for PTSD. The state’s number one diagnosis for a medical marijuana license, a noteworthy 27 percent of the total, lists PTSD as the qualifying criteria for issuance.
In research conducted by Calhoun et al (2000), which assessed drug use and the validity of self–reports of substance use among veterans referred to a specialty clinic for the assessment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients were asked to provide a urine sample for use in drug screening as part of an evaluation of PTSD. Self–reports of substance use were compared with same–day supervised urine samples for 317 patients who volunteered to participate in a drug screening. Results suggested that self–reports were generally quite valid. A total of 42% of the participants were identified as using drugs of abuse (excluding alcohol) through self–report and urine drug screens. Among participants using drugs, PTSD diagnosis was significantly associated with greater marijuana and depressant use as compared with stimulant (cocaine and amphetamines) use.
Hardly surprising. As Torsten Passie et al (2012) note:
“It has been argued that the neuronal circuitry underlying fear conditioning has similarities to that responsible for fear-related clinical conditions, such as PTSD. Moreover, behavioural therapies for PTSD/anxiety, including systematic desensitization and therapies relying on imagery, also share features of fear extinction.
Although high doses of intravenous THC may appear to increase anxiety in humans, low doses attenuate anxiety-related responses in animal models. It was also shown that anxiety disorders may make people more vulnerable to cannabis abuse and dependence.[60–62] This vulnerability may depend on an increased sensitivity towards anxiety and the probability that these individuals may cope with their aversive anxiety by using cannabis was found to be higher….….As Multiple effects associated with cannabis resin appear to act synergistically to reduce some symptoms of PTSD and might offer potentials for new psychopharmacological treatments. Therefore, PTSD subjects may opt to self-medicate by cannabis.”
Veterans Affairs data shows that from 2002 to 2009 one million troops left active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan and became eligible for VA care. That’s a number that will rise annually, revealing a need for effective treatment of PTSD. PTSD remains an enormous problem with combat troops still serving in Afghanistan, where an estimated six to 11 percent are currently suffering symptoms of PTSD. Statistics among Iraq War veterans are even more disturbing, with between 12 to 20 percent of returning vets suffering PTSD. These are government statistics, and some non-governmental studies suggest that as many as one in every five military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could suffer various forms of PTSD.
Preliminary figures suggest that being a veteran now roughly doubles one’s risk of suicide. For young men ages 17 to 24, being a veteran almost quadruples the risk of suicide, according to a study in The American Journal of Public Health.
Israel Leads the Way in Cannaboids and PTSD Research
A study at Israel’s University of Haifa showed that marijuana administered to rats within 24 hours of suffering psychological trauma effectively blocked the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Irit Akirav’s study even concludes there is a timeframe that has to be taken into consideration. “There is a critical window of time after trauma, during which synthetic marijuana can help prevent symptoms similar to PTSD in rats,” Akirav stated at the time. “It does not erase the experience, but can help prevent the development of PTSD symptoms.” In Germany, Switzerland, and Spain there are currently programs, some government funded, utilizing MDMA (from which the “ecstasy” drug is derived) as a possible inhibitor of PTSD symptoms.
On April 28, 2012, the results of a recently completed exploratory study of medical marijuana in veterans with PTSD were presented by Dr. Mordechai Mashiah, Deputy Director of the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Israel, at the 7th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by Patients Out of Time in Tucson, Ariz. The study was sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Health.
MAPS Israeli Clinical Research Associate Mimi Peleg, Lead Clinical Research Associate Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., Clinical Research Assistant Linnae Ponté, and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D., assisted Dr. Mashiah with data analysis and preparation of his presentation and abstract. MAPS also allocated about $6,000 to assist Dr. Mashiah in analyzing and presenting his results, and will further support him in preparing of a paper for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The results of the study positively demonstrated that cannabis alleviated symptoms of PTSD. Further research recommendations for follow up clinical trials using randomized double placebos are now underway with recommendations to establish identifying the active ingredient/s in cannabis that alleviate PTSD, establishing appropriate dose and duration of treatment, and determining how/why cannabis reduces the need for other medications. Read More about “Israel’s Medical Marijuana Program” here…
Medical Marjuana for the Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: An Evidence Review (2012) Doug Campos-Outcalt, MD, MPA, Patricia Hamilton, Cecilia Rosales, MD, MS
Mitigation of post-traumatic stress symptoms by Cannabis resin: A review of the clinical and neurobiological evidence (2012) Passie T, Emrich HM, Karst M, Brandt SD, Halpern JH.