cannabis use and ptsd

The Pivotal Role of Cannabis in Treating PTSD: A Comprehensive Overview

When we talk about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the conversation often circles around conventional treatment methods such as psychotherapy and medication. However, recent years have witnessed an influx of interest in an alternative form of treatment – medical cannabis. As we explore the role of cannabis in treating PTSD, it’s crucial to comprehend the science behind it, dive into the latest research, and understand its potential benefits and risks.

What is PTSD?

First, let’s address what PTSD is. Affecting approximately 3.5% of U.S. adults, PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following exposure to traumatic events such as warfare, sexual assault, or serious accidents. Symptoms can include nightmares, intrusive memories, avoidance of trauma reminders, negative changes in thoughts and mood, and hyperarousal.

Treatments for PTSD

Traditional treatment methods for PTSD typically involve a combination of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. Yet, despite advancements, not everyone finds relief from these methods, leading to a quest for alternative treatments, with cannabis often being front and center.

How Cannabis can help with PTSD

Medical cannabis comprises two primary active compounds: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive component that produces the ‘high’ sensation, while CBD is non-psychoactive and known for its potential therapeutic benefits, including anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-anxiety properties.

Research on Cannabis

A growing body of research suggests that cannabinoids — the active compounds in cannabis — might help with PTSD symptoms, especially nightmares, avoidance behavior, and hyperarousal. One key to this is the endocannabinoid system in the human body, a complex cell-signaling system that plays a role in regulating a wide array of functions and processes, including mood and fear memory formation. Dysfunction of this system has been observed in PTSD patients, suggesting that cannabinoids could play a therapeutic role.

Cannabis and PTSD Research

Numerous veterans’ advocacy organizations are increasingly vocal about their support for cannabis research, with many veterans turning to cannabis for self-treatment of PTSD symptoms. This growing acceptance of cannabis for PTSD treatment is backed by scientific findings.

A pivotal study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that patients who used cannabis experienced a significant reduction in PTSD symptom severity. Furthermore, an impressive 91% reported a decrease in the severity of their nightmares. However, it’s essential to mention that more research is needed, as most studies to date have been observational and relied on self-reporting.

Benefits and Risk using Cannabis for PTSD

While the potential benefits are promising, it’s crucial to acknowledge potential risks associated with cannabis use. These can include dependency, memory and cognitive impairment, and, in some cases, exacerbation of PTSD symptoms. Therefore, patients considering cannabis for PTSD should discuss this with their healthcare provider to make an informed decision.

What’s clear is that the role of cannabis in treating PTSD is an expanding field. Its potential to alleviate debilitating symptoms presents a hopeful outlook for many who have found little relief elsewhere. As researchers continue to explore and understand the complex relationship between cannabis and PTSD, there’s optimism that future findings could lead to more effective, personalized treatments for those living with PTSD.


We’re still in the early stages of a scientific journey to understand the full benefits and potential drawbacks of cannabis in treating PTSD. But as our knowledge evolves, the promise of cannabis in offering relief to PTSD sufferers is undeniably exciting.