Unless you just beamed down from Mars, you must have already heard about CBD. And if you haven’t but are continually battling with pain and anxiety-related disorders, then you have been missing out on a lot. CBD needs no introduction.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the over 130 cannabinoids (compounds that exist in the cannabis plant). The substance is popularly-recommended for various health conditions, including PTSD.
To set the record straight, let’s emphasize that research on the efficacy of CBD for PTSD is an ongoing project. However, most of the findings published so far have shown that CBD treats various PTSD symptoms.
A bottle of CBD oil
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, refers to a mental health condition that’s triggered as a result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatizing event. These experiences could range from exposure to mass violence, as is the case with war veterans. Children who were raised in broken families where violence was the order of the day also have higher chances of developing PTSD. Other causes include sexual and physical assault, natural disasters, grievous accidents, and the loss of a loved one.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 8 million Americans aged 18 or older have experienced PTSD at some time in their lives. One of the worst things about this mental condition is that it’s usually characterized by the delayed onset of symptoms. It’s not unusual to find that someone who was exposed to mass violence begins manifesting the symptoms of PTSD a year after the incident. Late diagnosis only complicates treatment.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of PTSD usually begin after a month of the traumatic experience but as we’ve mentioned, they could take years to appear. The most common symptoms include anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares.
These symptoms are usually categorized into various groups, depending on the kind of influence they cause on the victim. The groups are;
- Intrusive memories as characterized by flashbacks and nightmares.
- Avoidance, where the victim attempts to block all the memories associated with the traumatic event
- Changes in mood and attitude, where the victim develops thoughts of hopelessness and pessimism about the future. As a result, they lose interest in everything that matters to them – family, friends, sex, food, hobbies, etc.
- Physical and emotional changes. Examples of symptoms in this category include heightened irritability, hypersensitivity, overwhelming feelings of guilt, and insomnia. The victim may also resort to self-destructing behavior, such as drinking too much alcohol or dangerous driving.
PTSD is mostly treated by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, it’s now emerging that CBD might be even more effective at treating the symptoms of this debilitating condition.
A man on a thinking pose
How CBD Interacts With Our Body
The human body is made up of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system of endogenous cannabinoids that plays a significant role in regulating normal homeostasis. To examine how CBD affects the system, let’s use an example of anxiety, which is one of the symptoms of PTSD. When anxiety sets in, the body’s endogenous cannabinoids should naturally kick in to inhibit the secretion or impair the activity of anxiety-related hormones. However, the ECS may not always be effective at relieving anxiety. That’s where CBD comes in. CBD interacts with two cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 is mostly located in the central nervous system while CB2 is present in various tissues around the body. It’s from these interactions that the body now becomes more efficient at fighting off anxiety.
The following are more practical examples of how CBD actually helps patients with PTSD.
- When you take CBD, the compound activates CB1 receptors located in your central nervous system. The CNS is responsible for modulating our moods and controlling our memories. But with the diminished activity of CB1 receptors, the body’s ability to activate the feel-good hormones is significantly reduced. Consuming CBD activates the CB1 receptor, which, in turn, triggers the extinction of aversive memories.
- In one study that was conducted by the NYU Langone Medical Center, it emerged that PTSD patients have significantly lower levels of anandamide. Anandamide is a critical neurotransmitter that is part of the body’s endogenous cannabinoids. The neurotransmitter is famous for its antidepressant and memory-blocking properties. In essence, boosting the levels of anandamide in the body using CBD induces feelings of happiness and optimism, banishing depression and negative memories. One can also buy seeds online and cultivate cannabis at home to reap similar benefits.
- CBD has also been shown to alleviate fear, which is another severe symptom of PTSD. One 2012 study attempted to investigate the effects of CBD on predator threat stress, using rats and cats. After receiving CBD doses over the next seven days, it emerged that the rats demonstrated less fear and more confidence in the presence of cats. Researchers attributed the findings to the interactions between CBD and 5HT1A receptors that are located in the hippocampus as well as the frontal cortex.
- CBD’s positive effects with sleep might also help patients with PTSD. Studies have shown that CBD reduces REM sleep. Most dreams take place at the REM phase. So, by reducing REM sleep, the victim is unable to experience nightmares. But this shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean that CBD affects the quality of sleep. Instead, it enhances the duration of sleep in Stages 1, 2 & 3, the stages that aren’t associated with dreams.
- Lastly, CBD could be helpful with substance abuse. Most PTSD victims often resort to substance abuse to try and banish negative memories. Sadly, these substances only deliver short-lived effects. Worse yet, they come with high dependency. As CBD blocks aversive memories, the victim will find no reason to do drugs. Besides, CBD will also help treat drug withdrawals, ensuring a smooth transition from a drug-dependent person to a CBD user. But what if the user finds it difficult to incorporate CBD into their lives? Well, there are numerous methods of CBD administration to experiment with. They can go for tinctures or get trusted CBD gummies that work, nd they’ll seamlessly integrate CBD into their wellness routines.
There’s still more research required on the efficacy of CBD with PTSD. But the much we know is that CBD might help treat many of the symptoms of PTSD. The best part is – CBD comes with close to ZERO side effects. That makes CBD the better alternative to traditional antidepressant medications often prescribed for people with PTSD.