Right after I left the Marine Corps, I almost died.
Granted, I had almost died multiple times in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this was different. Three pulmonary embolisms hit me at once, and I nearly left this world at the age of 30. As a result, I am required to be on blood thinners to prevent future clots. This prescription meant I had to stop drinking.
This left me seeking other ways to relax and socialize. Now that I was out of uniform, cannabis was available to me, again. Yet there was some confusing messaging in regards to the use of cannabis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also known as Post-Traumatic Stress (PST) and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).
Please do a lot of research before making any decision for your health, but from the evidence available there can be some benefits to cannabis use. However, research also suggests cannabis is not a complete alternative to other forms of treatment, such as therapy. Additionally, long term, or excessive, cannabis use can have its own repercussions. But many treatments have pros and cons that need to be carefully considered.
Misconceptions and context
Dozens of states have already legalized cannabis use for various medicinal reasons. Moreover, some symptoms of trauma may be helped with cannabis, but PTSD is not a monolith. Different people can manifest their symptoms in different ways.
Each person is different, this includes how they deal with stress, and how their body may interact with cannabis. So, it is important that each person understand how any treatment may interact with their body. THC and CBD levels have dramatically increased in cannabis over the last two decades, and this also has an impact on the results, or effectiveness, of this treatment.
For a list of studies of the effects of cannabis on PTSD, see below.
One factor that is abundantly clear in most of the studies I read, there is a lack of large sampling and small number of control subjects. If any doctors out there are looking for participants for future research, hit ya boy up, but I digress.
In the same vein, there are studies where many Veterans self-report cannabis reducing or managing their PTSD symptoms. Although promising, this is just the first step needed for the possibility of this being a viable treatment for those still serving, or in government employment.
Undoubtedly, future researchers will provide more insight, but for now it seems like some Veterans may benefit from cannabis use. Not to mention, there is strong evidence to suggest that psychedelics may soon be approved and regulated for PTSD treatment, but that’s another article.
There is also an important difference between what can be medically proven and what a person believes is best for them. For example, some people swear by yoga for PTSD, others don’t feel it helps. I personally believe that the occasional joint is far better to cope with stress than getting blackout drunk to quiet the voices, but that’s just me.
There is a ton of data out there, but here are some of the credible sources used for this article:
- Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health by University of Washington
- Cannabis in the management of PTSD: National Library of Medicine
- Cannabis: A potential efficacious intervention for PTSD or simply snake oil?: National Library of Medicine
- The short-term impact of 3 smoked cannabis preparations versus placebo on PTSD symptoms: A randomized cross-over clinical trial: Peer Reviewed Study
- PTSD: National Center for PTSD