Cannabis vs. Conventional PTSD Treatments

We’ve talked about PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, before.  It is an incapacitating form of anxiety that often appears in people who have suffered severe trauma. Veterans returning from active combat are perhaps one of the largest groups of PTSD sufferers known in the United States.

So, as you can imagine, a recent survey that suggests cannabis for the treatment of PTSD based on PTSD patient experiences is something we feel is incredibly important news.

That’s right, this week a California-based medical marijuana company completed a survey of three hundred patients with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The survey asked what medications patients had used for PTSD-related symptoms (including cannabis), and then asked patients to assess each medication in terms of its impact on the hallmark symptoms of PTSD, including anger and irritability, anxiety, depression, pain, and sleep disorders.

The data suggests that cannabis compares favorably with conventional treatments for PTSD.

Key findings include of the survey, which was conducted by Care by Design, included:

  • Survey respondents reported taking numerous medications for PTSD. In order of prevalence: Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, cannabis, sleeping medication, mood stabilizers, narcotic pain medication, non-narcotic pain medication, anti-psychotics, beta-blockers, tranquilizers, and anti-convulsants.
  • Half of respondents had taken at least 5 medications for PTSD, and 7.5% had taken as many as eleven.
  • Survey respondents reported that cannabis was the most likely to improve PTSD symptoms—albeit to an unknown degree—and the least likely to make symptoms worse.
  • The most common medication prescribed for the treatment of PTSD among survey respondents was anti-depressants. Yet, few report it was effective. Only 18.1% of respondents said their depression got better on anti-depressants. Half reported that their depression got worse on anti-depressants, The majority of respondents reported that their depression worsened on anti-psychotics, tranquilizers, narcotic pain medication, mood stabilizers, and anti-convulsants.
  • Roughly half of respondents reported they had been prescribed narcotics for PTSD. The majority of them reported that their anger and irritability, depression, and sleep problems got worse on the medication.
  • Almost half of survey respondents reported that they were using CBD-rich cannabis (rather than high-THC strains), which is minimally or non-psychoactive.
  • 80% of survey respondents reported that they consume less alcohol when using cannabis. This suggests that, when used medically, marijuana is not a “gateway” drug.
  • Veterans reported being prescribed more medications than civilians. They were also more likely to be prescribed medications that generally worsened symptoms, including anti-psychotics, narcotic pain medication, and mood stabilizers.

 

It’s estimated that over a million veterans are living with PTSD. The anxiety disorder is believed to be a major contributor to the staggering number of veteran deaths each year from prescription drug overdoses and suicides. Veterans are often underserved by the healthcare system and conventional PTSD therapies are of limited efficacy for many. A 2014 survey by the American Legion found that 59% of veterans reported feeling no improvement or worse after undergoing treatment for PTSD. Half were interested in exploring complementary and/or alternative treatments.

Roger Martin, U.S. Army veteran and Executive Director of Grow For Vets, a national non-profit that provides veterans with medical marijuana stated:

“This is an important survey that furthers the national dialogue about the ongoing tragedy of PTSD among veterans and others. The research suggests that there is a strong connection between the endocannabinoid system and PTSD, that cannabis therapy can help relieve the symptoms of PTSD. Given the high rates of dissatisfaction with conventional treatment, it’s imperative we explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis without delay.”

You can read the entire survey and results here.

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