JUN 10, 2020 3:17 PM PDT

Cannabis Temporarily Relieves PTSD Symptoms

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental disorder characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety following a terrifying event. With no concrete cure, researchers from Washington State University have found that cannabis may provide short-term relief from PTSD symptoms. 

Currently, physicians usually recommend psychotherapy as a first-line treatment for PTSD. However, as cannabis products become more available, more and more people are thought to be self-medicating with the plant, according to the researchers. They thus wanted to understand how effective it may be in relieving the mental condition. 

To do so, they examined data from 404 people who tracked changes in their PTSD symptoms before and after using cannabis. They used Strainprint, an app that helps users learn which types of medical marijuana work best for them to relieve their symptoms. Collectively, they used the app more than 11,000 times over 31 months. 

The researchers found that cannabis is able to reduce multiple PTSD symptoms temporarily. In particular, the plant was found to reduce numbers of recurring thoughts following a traumatic event by around 62% and irritability by 67%. The study also found that flashbacks decreased by 51% and anxiety by 57%. 

“The study suggests that cannabis does reduce symptoms of PTSD acutely, but it might not have longer term beneficial effects on the underlying condition,” said Carrie Cuttler, lead author of the study. “Working with this model, it seems that cannabis will temporarily mask symptoms, acting as a bit of a band aid, but once the period of intoxication wears off, the symptoms can return.”

Although suggestive of the benefits of cannabis against PTSD in the short term, the researchers note that their results may be inconclusive. This comes as the study relied on a self-selected sample of people who self-identify as having the mental disorder, as opposed to patients who had received a clinical diagnosis. The authors also note that they had no control group with which to compare results.


Sources: Neuroscience News, Washington State University, Science Direct

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
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