What is PTSD?
Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition that occurs after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. PTSD can cause a person to be overwhelmed with reliving flashbacks of the event and feelings of anxiety, stress, shock, and guilt. It is natural for a person to experience this, but these symptoms should dissolve over time. If symptoms worsen, last more than five weeks, and interfere with daily life, it may be post traumatic stress disorder. A person who experiences events such as war or combat, sexual assault, or a natural disaster, among other events, are most at risk for developing PTSD. A rescue or clean up worker can also develop PTSD even though he or she may not have actually experienced the event. Each person reacts differently to trauma, and therefore, anyone could develop PTSD. However, most people do not develop PTSD because symptoms decline after about 4 weeks. Women are more likely to develop PTSD than men. Children are least likely to develop it, and kids under the age of 10 are not likely to develop PTSD at all.
Why do only certain people develop PTSD?
There are cannabinoid receptors in the human brain called cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1). CB1 receptors play a large role in regulating anxiety. According to the results of a study published in Molecular Psychology in 2013, PTSD could be caused by abnormal CB1 receptor signaling. This study found that participants suffering from PTSD had lower levels of anandamide. Anadamide is one of many cannabinoid neurotransmitters. It looks as though this may be a factor in the development of PTSD. If a person has lower levels of anandamide, he or she may be more susceptible to PTSD.
What role does marijuana play in the treatment of PTSD?
Cannabinoids, occurring naturally in marijuana, are known to activate these cannabinoid receptors in the human brain. Anandamide is one of the many cannabinoids found in marijuana. When the human body does not produce enough cannabinoids to regulate anxiety, consuming marijuana can help to regulate those cannabinoid receptors. War veterans, and other PTSD patients have been reporting beneficial results from medical marijuana treatment. Marijuana does not cure PTSD, but it does help to regulate the symptoms associated. There are zero pharmaceutical medications on the market today that were designed specifically to treat PTSD. Patients suffering from PTSD are, traditionally, treated with anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications.
Symptoms of PTSD
Most often, symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder begin within three months of the event. In some cases, it can take longer for symptoms to be noticed. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD, there are four primary symptoms of PTSD. These include re-experiencing or reliving the event, avoiding the event, negative changes in feelings and beliefs, and hyper-arousal. Reliving the event can be in the form of uncontrolled flashbacks or nightmares. Avoidance, or social isolation symptoms are demonstrated when the patient avoids thinking about the event, avoids talking about the event, and avoids situations and people that may be a reminder of the event. Negative changes in feelings occurs when the patient suffers from uncontrollable feelings of guilt, shame, and fear. Depression can also develop. Hyper-arousal is categorized as being jumpy, on edge, on constant lookout for danger, anger, and aggression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, to be diagnosed as having post traumatic stress disorder, a patient must suffer from all of the following for at least four consecutive weeks.
- At least 1 re-experiencing symptom
- At least 3 avoidance symptoms
- At least 2 hyper-arousal symptoms
This post was originally published on July 13, 2014, it was updated on October 5, 2017.