Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious psychiatric disorder impacting approximately 7-8% of Americans every year.
PTSD is a notoriously challenging mental illness to treat. Its causes are complex, and treatment often requires numerous methods used simultaneously.
Believe it or not, athletes may actually have higher rates of PTSD than other demographics. In fact, this 2019 review showed that “Athletes may exhibit greater rates of PTSD (up to 13%-25% in some athlete populations) and other trauma-related disorders relative to the general population.”
This article will look at the underlying causes of PTSD, and if CBD is a viable treatment option for PTSD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Basics
PTSD is a disorder caused by system brain changes or maladaptive responses after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This can include assault, sexual violence, death, and much more. Whether the threat was real or perceived may not matter: trauma can occur regardless.
PTSD symptoms include nightmares, hypervigilance, flashbacks, anxiety disorders, avoidance behaviours, severe emotional distress, and rumination.
Symptoms may vary from person to person, and may also change over time. If there is an occurrence that triggers memories of the original event, symptoms of PTSD may flare and exacerbate.
PTSD symptoms may start soon after the event, or they may take years to show up. Symptoms can seriously impact one’s mental health and their functioning in their professional and personal lives.
PTSD can be a debilitating condition that often leads to years of depression and anxiety. The most common treatment options typically include pharmaceutical medication, psychiatric treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR), stress inoculation therapy, and exposure therapy.
These treatments are the first line of defense for anyone suffering from traumatic stress disorder – PTSD. If you think you may be suffering from PTSD, talk to your doctor about these treatment options.
CBD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The above outlined treatment methods are the first place to start when it comes to treating PTSD. But with many people reporting the benefits of CBD on their mental health, you may wonder if it can help treat PTSD.
Indeed it can- CBD can be a great complement to treatment methods for PTSD, not to mention anxiety disorders. So how does it work?
Studies on CBD and PTSD
One 2018 study on rats showed that using CBD can help those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by reducing the frequency of nightmares and replaying of negative memories.
Researchers found that, “Indeed, as observed in rodents, recent studies have confirmed the ability of CBD to alter important aspects of aversive memories in humans and promote significant improvements in the symptomatology of PTSD.”
This table shows the progression of research of CBD and PTSD as it currently stands:
This table demonstrates the possible mechanism of CBD in rats with PSTD symptoms:
And the effects of CBD in human PTSD patients:
Another 2019 study on CBD and PTSD noted that “Preclinical research has suggested that CBD may have a beneficial effect in rodent models of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”.
But what about human trials for people with symptoms of PTSD? This 8 week study gave 11 adult PTSD patients an oral dose of CBD in an outpatient psychiatry clinic and studied their symptoms. Every 4 weeks, patients completed a PTSD Checklist for the DSM-5 (PCL-5) questionnaires.
CBD was administrated by a mental health professional and was given on an open-label, flexible dosing regimen to patients diagnosed with PTSD.
In addition, patients of that study received ongoing psychiatric care, including concurrent treatment with psychiatric medications and psychotherapy.
What did the study find? 91% of patients (10/11) experienced a reduction in their PTSD symptom severity.
The mean total PCL-5 score decreased 28%, from a mean baseline score of 51.82 down to 37.14, after eight consecutive weeks of treatment with CBD. The dose of CBD was found to be well tolerated, and no patients discontinued CBD treatment due to side effects.
This table demonstrates the findings:
The researchers concluded that when given in conjunction with routine psychiatric care, oral CBD was associated with PTSD symptom reduction in adults. It also seemed to help the patients who experienced frequent nightmares as a result of their PTSD.
Researchers were encouraged by these results, but also recommended that further double-blind, placebo-controlled trials would be necessary to further substantiate their results.
Other Ways CBD May Help
CBD may also help people with PTSD indirectly. Insomnia is a common symptom of PTSD, and CBD may help those who chronically struggle to get restful sleep (source).
Furthermore, researchers in this 2015 study found that cannabinoids in the ECS can have a positive effect on anxious behaviours. Because anxiety is one of the common symptoms of PTSD, these results are promising as to CBD’s impact on PTSD.
Not only that, but CBD is also believed to assist in neural regeneration and anxiety symptoms. Stress and anxiety related to PTSD for prolonged periods of time can cause damage to the neurons and the brain. In order to correct that damage, new neurons must be formed and new connections made. CBD helps boost this corrective process and stimulates growth of new neurons, resulting in reduced anxiety.
If you want to see if CBD can help treat your PTSD and anxiety related to PTSD, always consult your doctor first to see if it is a good option for you.
One of the most common ways people take CBD is in a CBD oil. CBD oil, or tincture, is an edible form of CBD.
CBD tinctures are pure liquid extracts that are generally applied under the tongue. By adding a few drops under the tongue, the CBD is quickly absorbed into the body and enters the bloodstream. These products are usually sold in a glass bottle with an included dropper built into the lid. The packaging makes it easy to measure dosing.
Not all CBD oil is the same and it’s important to understand the subtle differences between each when making a choice of product. If you’re looking for more information on tinctures and other CBD products.
Ensure you obtain your CBD from a reputable and quality source- this means choosing one that is tested by a third party ISO certified laboratory.
CBD Oil for PTSD
CBD oil for PTSD is promising, with many people reporting it helps with symptoms of PTSD.
Everyone’s body is different, and there’s not one right way to consume CBD oil for PTSD or dose of CBD that will work for everyone. Many factors will impact the right amount for you including your weight, activity levels, hydration, and metabolism.
CBD may be metabolized within a couple of hours in one person, while it may last up to six hours in another person.
We recommend you start slow and ease yourself into it by using just a few drops of quality CBD oil at first, waiting for at least an hour, and then increasing the amount a little bit after that. Soon you’ll discover what the best dose is for your needs.
Conclusion: Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric illness that can have devastating long-term consequences on your life. If you are suffering, ensure you seek psychiatric care and get the help you deserve. If you are still struggling with symptoms even with regular psychiatric and pharmaceutical care, ask your doctor if you should consider including CBD in your regime.
The benefits of CBD speak for themselves, and with few side effects and many people reporting great results, for many people it is worth trying.
While CBD should not be the only treatment for curing PTSD, it may offer some relief from symptoms- and help you get your life back.