PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, formerly known as many other words such as “shell-shock” (WWII-era term), has only truly been in the mental health limelight for a few decades, as formal diagnoses are concerned. The symptoms are often treated with anti-anxiety medications, such as Alprazolam, which can be addictive, and the drugs are expensive as well.
It’s only natural that, thanks to the recent uptick in medical marijuana debates, weed usage has been put forth as a natural way to ease some, if not all, of the symptoms that accompany PTSD. Some people are still skeptical, though, so it’s time to truly shed some light on how the usage of weed has helped those who need treatment for their PTSD symptoms, but can’t afford, or don’t want to, pay for the outrageously-priced Big Pharma products.
PTSD, by its very nature, occurs after some sort of emotional trauma, such as war, any kind of physical, mental and emotional abuse, or any other emotionally disruptive event. But what happens during the trauma has been a mystery of Sherlockian proportions, until now, that is.
Researchers have recently discovered that people who suffer from PTSD have lowered levels of an endocannabinoid called anandamide. If you’re at all familiar with anything related to Hinduism, you’ll recognize that first part of the word, and know that it means “bliss.” And let’s face it, PTSD is anything but blissful. So, it stands to reason that consuming cannabis brings in those oh-so-necessary cannabinoids that are otherwise greatly reduced in the PTSD sufferer.
All this being said, there is something of a caveat to using weed for PTSD symptoms. It’s best if you go for high-CBD strains instead of those with high THC. Why? Strains that have more of the psychoactive component are more likely to amp up anxiety levels, rather than reduce them, even if other positive effects, such as euphoria, might be present.
Cannabis and the Governmental Catch-22
Because of the federal prohibition on weed, top-brass types in the military are very reluctant to recommend veterans’ use of weed to treat PTSD. Instead the VA docs simply prescribe lots and lots of Big Pharma products, the side effects of which, if you watch the commercials for a lot of these pharmaceuticals, can make matters worse instead of better.
It should really make the VA peeps question why they are prescribing stuff that can actually increase suicidal tendencies, when veterans are already experiencing the kind of hypervigilance, anxiety, etc that can prompt self-harm if left untreated.
But does the federal government lift the ban on marijuana so the VA can scientifically examine what’s really going on, instead of calling heavy marijuana usage by veterans a “dependence” issue? Nooo, they don’t. (It makes a person wonder just who is pulling the strings.)
So, for the veterans, even those who live in states where weed is legal, both medically and recreationally, weed usage for PTSD is a life-saver, but also a catch-22: “Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Marijuana and Talk Therapy: A Winning Duo
Let’s get a bit talkative about talk therapy and what it does for PTSD survivors in conjunction with weed usage. Because there seems to be no gentle way in place to re-integrate soldiers into civilian life, the symptoms of PTSD can hit really hard. All the more reason for veterans to have access to professional help to deal with what happened whilst in combat.
However, it seems that for quite a few veterans, without weed, they would feel no real motivation to seek that kind of help. They admit they would keep hitting the bottle instead. On the flip side of things, such veterans also allow that while it has more benefits than drawbacks, weed is not a total “cure-all.” It is not a total replacement for the cognitive behavioral therapy and safe emotional space that time with a psychotherapist can provide. Combined with such therapy, however, weed can easily do a lot more good than some people might think.
So, does weed help PTSD sufferers? Hell, yes! But it’s clear we have a long way to go before all veterans can have a chance to try it out. Yet, with the right kind of open-minded education in place to combat the myths told to the public since the Nixon administration, we can help win the medical marijuana debate in favor of those for whom traditional pharmaceuticals just don’t work.