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Does Weed Improve PTSD?


Does Weed Improve PTSD


We will often see strains that claim they are good for treating PTSD, but what does that mean? When we talk about weed treating depression, stress or anxiety it is relatively easy to understand. The way in which weed affects our endocannabinoid system means that it can alter the way our brain produces chemicals. Often the causes of depression or anxiety disorders are chemical, or at least can be partially treated by altering brain chemistry. PTSD and complex PTSD are a little different. They are caused by external traumas that a person has gone through. The lasting effects can include depression and anxiety but one of the primary differences is flashbacks. These are caused by a trigger which causes the sufferer’s brain to revisit the trauma. As a C-PTSD person I can tell you first hand that flashbacks are super dang weird. There are other aspects that are so unpredictable I wasn’t sure how weed could help. How can smoking stop certain smells from making me want to hide or sudden survival instincts making everything incredibly bright and loud, otherwise known as hypervigilance. So I decided to have a little research to find out how cannabis is thought to help with PTSD symptoms and recovery. 


Unfortunately a good deal of the research done on this topic is anecdotal. A forensic neuropsychiatrist named Hal Wortzel spoke on the fact that the laws surrounding cannabis are massively setting back actual research. He attempted some rudimentary tests on the use of cannabis for PTSD. This study involved 75 cannabis users with PTSD and 75 sufferers who don’t use cannabis. All Wortzel could really do was observe, but it certainly seemed that those who smoked benefited from it. One of the primary improvements was lower anxiety which in turn helps with hypervigilance and panic attacks. They found that an improvement appeared to be easier when patients weren’t constantly dealing with fear and panic. 

One of the main issues facing this kind of research relies on a supply of cannabis from a single federal nursery. It doesn’t reflect the kind of cannabis available to most PTSD patients. The complete lack of support in cannabis studies is definitely holding back development of this treatment. 


A lot of other anecdotal evidence and smaller studies also suggest that cannabis can help with the symptoms and recovery of PTSD sufferers. In 2021 another study was released that looked into the benefits of cannabis alongside PTSD treatments. The study focused on veterans who were undergoing treatment for PTSD, some of whom were smoking weed with 9% THC and others who were given a placebo. The organisation that carried out the study was originally created in 1968 and raised awareness of the use of psychedelics in mental health treatments. The placebos were randomised and after the first round of testing they increased the size of the trial. One aspect of the trial was to find the minimum THC level that would be therapeutic. I won’t bore you with extensive details of the trials but the result was that those who used cannabis were 2.5 times as likely to no longer meet the criteria for being diagnosed with PTSD. Those are some pretty impressive results. 


For those who prefer to use THC free cannabis treatments there have been studies done into pure CBD. There have been a number of studies over the years that looked into whether or not CBD alone could have similar results to weed containing THC. The studies produced a variety of results. One suggested that CBD directly after a traumatic event might stop the brain from latching onto the memories that would later become flashbacks. Another found that CBD significantly reduces the anxiety that comes with PTSD and is the cause of a number of debilitating related issues. Unfortunately, some studies have concluded that the research just isn’t there yet and we can’t be sure that symptoms won’t worsen in certain patients. 

Primarily scientists currently suggest that small doses of CBD be used alongside other treatments. For most users it will at least reduce anxiety and improve sleep. This is honestly one of the most important aspects as the night terrors that cause a lack of sleep can massively worsen daytime anxiety. I know I’ve woken up from my fair share of night terrors and they are just as hard to deal with as a full on flashback. Not being able to get up first thing in the morning will usually impact the rest of the day. 


Complex PTSD may be a different matter, again more research is needed. Even though a lady in a room was very specific about the complex on the front of my PTSD I’m not completely sure what the difference is. Apparently it can mean that we experience more erratic behaviour, recklessness, substance abuse and so on. In this circumstance it is possible that weed could make things worse rather than better and further studies are being done. 


When we look at places where medicinal weed is legal it is often prescribed for PTSD. This means we likely have enough evidence to suggest that it does help on at least some levels. I don’t think we can go around claiming that cannabis definitely treats or cures PTSD, but then that would be an insane statement anyway. Cannabis is primarily used as a therapeutic assistant, something that makes the long road to recovery a little more bearable. Or makes going about your day to day life a little easier. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the science just isn’t there yet due to legal and federal restrictions across the world. So I can’t say to you that if you have PTSD weed will sort you right out. Potentially talk to your doctor, or your therapist, and try to find out if cannabis could help you with your recovery process. Realistically if you want something to help you reduce your day to day anxiety, or you just want some time off from the brain noises or the bright lights, then weed is probably a good option. 


Written by Tasha Porritt


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