PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a serious, often life-altering condition that affects an estimated 31 million Americans. Individuals who experience or witness a traumatic event such as a sexual or physical assault, unexpected death of a loved one, accident, war, or natural disaster can develop PTSD as well as emergency personnel and rescue workers. Although shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt are common reactions that go away over time, these feelings continue and can increase in those who have this condition. Living a normal life is impossible since their ability to function as they did before the event is greatly diminished.
Symptoms of PTSD
While symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, they are often grouped into four main categories:
- Reliving: Patients repeatedly relive the incident through thoughts and memories that can include hallucinations, and nightmares or feeling immense distress when reminded of the event.
- Avoidance: Avoiding people, places, thoughts, or situations that remind them of the trauma leading to a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
- Increased arousal: Excessive emotions, problems relating to others, feeling or showing affection, difficulty sleeping, irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, and being easily startled are all part of PTSD. Physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, nausea, and diarrhea can often occur.
- Negative Cognitions and Mood: Thoughts and feelings related to blame, estrangement, and memories of the incident can also affect those who have PTSD.
If left untreated, PTSD can be deadly. Individuals will often spiral out of control by engaging in other risky behaviors like drugs or alcohol, become abusive, and can have suicidal tendencies. Thankfully, with treatment, symptoms of PTSD can be controlled with the hope that one day, individuals will no longer suffer.
Treatment options with Medical Marijuana
While there is no cure for post-traumatic stress disorder, it can be treated in several ways. Most often, patients will begin with therapy as well as medications to control the physical and emotional symptoms associated with the disorder. Psychotherapy or talk therapy can be used to treat both children and adults. Some types of psychotherapy can include cognitive (challenging negative thoughts), exposure (safely face triggers), or EMDR therapy (a combination of exposure and guided eye movements).
While each method helps to teach how to deal with traumatic experiences, many patients need pharmaceutical intervention to gain control of their disorder before any type of psychotherapy can benefit them. Most commonly, Antidepressants or Anti-anxiety medications are used. Both types of drugs are helpful with PTSD. However, some patients are not comfortable with the side effects, while others may not feel either control their symptoms very well. Many of the anti-anxiety medicines have the potential for abuse and addiction, making many patients afraid to use them.
Medical Marijuana for PTSD
In recent studies, cannabis was found to help patients better manage their symptoms by influencing the body’s endocannabinoid system that plays an essential role in maintaining emotional balance. The cannabinoids in marijuana blocks fear memory formation and help to regulate the stress response. They also help PTSD patients manage the core symptoms of the condition; reliving, avoidance, and hyperarousal. In one study, patients experienced a 75% reduction in PTSD symptoms as measured by the Clinical Administered Post-Traumatic Scale. Additionally, evidence suggests that the strength and emotional impact of traumatic memory that is dampened by medical marijuana are not temporary but long lasting.
Currently, only 26 states have listed post-traumatic stress disorder as a covered condition. If you live in New York and have debilitating PTSD, your doctor can legally recommend marijuana as a treatment option.
How to get medical marijuana for PTSD
Patients who have been diagnosed with PTSD that are unhappy with their current treatment can request a consultation with a knowledgeable medical marijuana provider. While some may prefer to be seen in person, others may not be able to. Telemedicine is a fast-growing segment of healthcare where patients can use the internet to seek treatment remotely. Either way, during your appointment, the doctor will evaluate your condition and review any pertinent records. If qualified, your doctor will recommend cannabis and submit the required information to the state’s Health Department who will issue the necessary medical use card, until then a temporary ID will allow patients or their designated caregivers to purchase cannabis from one of the state’s licensed dispensaries.
Patients shouldn’t have to suffer from PTSD; there are effective treatment options available. Although some patients benefit from psychotherapy, others need medications as well. No matter what, patients who have PTSD should have access to all forms of treatment. For many, medical marijuana is the best choice.