Post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD) is often associated with men and women who are serving or have served in the military. Military personnel who have been through traumatic instances often end up with a diagnosis of PTSD.
In recent years, PTSD has been determined to affect a variety of people who have suffered trauma including sexual or emotional abuse, spousal abuse, violence and other difficult, life-altering circumstances. Anyone who has experienced a shocking, scary or dangerous event could be a candidate for PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition experienced by someone who has a hard time recovering after they experience or witness a terrifying event. There is no time limit for recovery. The disorder can last months and many times for years. Some people never recover. PTSD can trigger intense emotional and sometimes physical reactions.
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms of PTSD can include unwanted memories, anxiety, and depression. Nightmares can be commonplace. Many that suffer from PTSD will avoid any situation that might cause memories of the trauma to resurface. PTSD sufferers often feel there is no escape from the event that haunts them.
PTSD can cause a patient to have vivid flashbacks of their trauma that can make them feel as if they are experiencing the event at that moment. These flashbacks can often cause pain, trembling, sweating, and nausea. Panic attacks have also been associated with PTSD.
Like depression, PTSD can affect the way a person functions. It can affect their work life, their social life, and the way they interact with family and friends. PTSD sufferers may often seem distant, distracted, and disinterested when they are trying to block out the bad memories.
How Is PTSD Treated?
Treatment for PTSD can vary from patient to patient, depending on the severity of their condition. Trauma-focused psychotherapy is often used to help the patient deal with the event. There are also a variety of medications used to help treat PTSD.
Common medications used to treat PTSD can include serotonergic antidepressants known as SSRIs. Drugs used to decrease physical symptoms include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
Can Marijuana Treat PTSD?
Many of those that deal with PTSD claim using marijuana helps them with the condition and its symptoms. Now there is research that backs up these claims.
One of these studies, conducted by Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, shows how cannabinoids in marijuana may help PTSD patients. The study indicated that cannabis may reduce activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala. This part of the brain deals with fear responses to threats. In the study, participants exposed to the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) had lowered threat-related reactivity in the amygdala region of the brain.
Another study conducted by researchers at Brazil's Federal University of Parana suggests cannabinoids might play a role in eliminating traumatic memories.
Is It Legal To Use Marijuana For PTSD?
This is a question that can only be answered according to the state you live in. On the federal level, marijuana is still illegal in the United States. However, as of this week, 15 US states have legalized marijuana for adult use. In those states, anyone over 21 will be able to purchase legal cannabis to help with PTSD.
Even if marijuana is not legal for recreational use in your state, many states have medical marijuana programs that include PTSD as a qualifying condition. The laws and procedures vary from state to state. To get a medical marijuana card or certificate, you will need to see a doctor, who will give you a recommendation for the program.
Some states with medical marijuana programs only allow marijuana to be obtained from licensed state dispensaries. In other words, you can't just buy it from a friend or off the street. As with any medical condition, if you are taking medications prescribed by your doctor to treat PTSD, you should discuss with them the possibility of using marijuana to treat it. You never want to discontinue a medication without consulting with your doctor first. This is especially true when it comes to antidepressants.