Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Croatia Legalizes Marijuana for Medical Use

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder characterized by severe emotional and physical reactions related to an earlier trauma. These can include episodes in which flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety impair the sufferer and cause significant distress. Symptoms can include everything from insomnia, aggression, to self harm, suicide and beyond. PTSD is commonly associated with veterans of war and victims of abuse. There are more than 3 million cases of PTSD reported annually in the United States alone.

 

Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t have PTSD — with time and good self-care, they usually get better. But if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD.

The Past

The most common pharmaceutical prescriptions for PTSD are:

  • Prozac – Prozac affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

    Common Prozac side effects may include:

    • sleep problems (insomnia), strange dreams
    • headache, dizziness, vision changes
    • tremors or shaking, feeling anxious or nervous
    • pain, weakness, yawning, tired feeling
    • upset stomach, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
    • dry mouth, sweating, hot flashes
    • changes in weight or appetite
    • stuffy nose, sinus pain, sore throat, flu symptoms or
    • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm
    • suicidal thoughts
  • Zoloft – Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

    Call your doctor at once if you have:

    • very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, feeling like you might pass out;
    • agitation, hallucinations, fever, overactive reflexes, tremors;
    • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, feeling unsteady, loss of coordination; or
    • headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, weakness, fainting, seizure, shallow breathing or breathing that stops.

    Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Zoloft: skin rash or hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

    Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.

  • Paxil – Paxil (paroxetine) is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Paroxetine affects chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced.

    Common Paxil side effects may include:

    • vision changes;
    • weakness, drowsiness, dizziness;
    • sweating, anxiety, shaking;
    • sleep problems (insomnia);
    • loss of appetite, constipation;
    • dry mouth, yawning; or
    • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.

    Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Paxil: skin rash or hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

    Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.

  • Xanax – Xanax (alprazolam) belongs to a group of drugs called benzodiazepines. It works by slowing down the movement of chemicals in the brain that may become unbalanced. This results in a reduction in nervous tension (anxiety).

    Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

    • depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself, unusual risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger;
    • confusion, hyperactivity, agitation, hostility, hallucinations;
    • feeling like you might pass out;
    • urinating less than usual or not at all;
    • chest pain, pounding heartbeats or fluttering in your chest;
    • uncontrolled muscle movements, tremor, seizure (convulsions); or
    • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

These drugs come with severe and wide ranging side effects. Psychological and psychiatric treatment is often necessary to manage the disorder.

The Plant

Cannabis with various potency profiles of the cannabinoid THC are the most well-documented in being effective in combating PTSD. Most patients prefer indica dominant strains for their more calming and soothing effects, but a variety of strains have been reported by patients as successful.

Difference between CBD and THC in Medical Marijuana

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. It acts much like the cannabinoid chemicals made naturally by the body, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in certain areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception. THC attaches to these receptors and activates them and affects a person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception, according to NIDA.

THC is one of many compounds found in the resin secreted by glands of the marijuana plant. More of these glands are found around the reproductive organs of the plant than on any other area of the plant. Other compounds unique to marijuana, called cannabinoids, are present in this resin. One cannabinoid, CBD is nonpsychoactive, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and actually blocks the high associated with THC.

Cannabidiol or CBD, is the cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. CBD does not cause a high, unlike THC. The reason why CBD is non-psychoactive is due to its lack of affinity for CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are found in high concentrations in the brain, and are the pathways responsible for the psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD and THC levels tend to vary between different strains and varieties of cannabis. By using selective breeding techniques, we have managed to create varieties with high levels of CBD and THC.

In a recent study, researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel were able to prevent rats from developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by treating them with the active compounds in marijuana, or cannabinoids.

Led by Dr. Irit Akirav from the Department of Psychology, the team used rats because of their similarity to humans in responding to trauma.

People with PTSD — a severe type of anxiety disorder — suffer from symptoms that can be set off by common triggers, also known as trauma reminders.

While PTSD is usually treated after symptoms appear, the team found that dosing rats with cannabinoids following a traumatic event could make them immune to future triggers.

In other words, cannabis made the effects of trauma reminders ‘disappear’ – Dr. Akirav

The treated rats showed no symptoms of PTSD. But rats that were left untreated did, including impairments in memory extinction, changes in pain sensation and increased panic behavior.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the treatment worked by rewiring circuits of the brain involved with trauma.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence, the researchers note, suggesting marijuana can not only help manage symptoms of PTSD but also prevent symptoms from developing early on.

Anecdotal reports by patients with PTSD indicate effective strains include sativas Jack Herer, Sour Diesel and Durban Poison, hybrids Girl Scout Cookies, Headband and Pineapple Express, and indicas Granddaddy Purple, Blue Cheese and Purple Kush.

The Process

The vaporizing and smoking of cannabis, as well as the oral ingestion of cannabis edibles and extracts have been reported in the treatment of PTSD.

Vaporizing or Vaping

If you don’t like the idea of smoke there is the option to vaporize. Vaporization does not use combustion to heat the medicine. Unfortunately there is some confusion out there about vaporizers. There are now hundreds of vaporizers to choose from. There are three basic types: pen, hand-help, and tabletop. The differences are in price, portability and size. Some vaporizers claim to be able to vaporize plant matter (flowers), wax and oils. Some can only do concentrates, some only oil. The most important difference is the method used to heat the medicine. There are basically two methods (with hybrids on the way)- conduction and convection.

True Vaporizing is done by convection, where air is heated, and in turn the hot air turns the medicine a to vapor which is then inhaled. Conduction Vaporizing happens when a hot element (metal plate, or bowl) touches the medicine. The medicine is placed directly in a metal or ceramic bowl or chamber that is heated which then heats the medicine and the smoke is inhaled. This is still combustion, and not truly vaporizing. This is closer to dabbing but with a much cooler heating element.

What’s Best for my Lungs?

The cleanest method to inhale medicine is true or convective vaporizing. It is better for your lungs since there is no burning or combustion.

Edibles

Edibles provide ways to eat or drink your medicine. Many medicated edibles and even bottled drinks are readily available at dispensaries. Be aware that most of the edibles at dispensaries are loaded with sugar and carbs. But basically what the edibles and drinks all contain are canna butter and/or canna oil. You can purchase these or easily make them at home to add to your own baked goods, snacks or even meals (especially if you are avoiding sugar or gluten).

The Patient

There has been a significant political and personal fight to ensure sufferers of PTSD receive access to medical cannabis. One of the researchers at the forefront of this fight is Dr. Sue Sisley, who was removed from her long time position at the University of Arizona following her attempts to study the effects of medical cannabis on PTSD afflicted veterans. She is currently spearheading a Colorado study, alongside the Multidisciplinary Association Psychedelic Studies, the first FDA-approved study of the effects of cannabis on veterans with PTSD.

The organization Veterans For Medical Cannabis Access summarized the work of Israeli doctor Raphael Mechoulam–who not only identified the psychoactive compound THC in cannabis, but also discovered the brain’s endocannabinoid system. They report:

Another fascinating discovery, one with implications for PTSD, is that the cannabinoid system is integral related to memory, specifically to memory extinction. Memory extinction is the normal, healthy process of removing associations from stimuli. Dr. Mechoulam explained that an animal which has been administered an electric shock after a certain noise will eveentually forget about the shock after the noise appears alone for a few days. Mice without cannabinoid systems simply never forget–they continue to cringe at the noise indefinitely.This has implications for patients with PTSD, who respond to stimuli that remind thm of their initial trauma even when it is no longer appropriate. By aiding in memory extinction, marijuana could help patients reduce their association between stimuli and the traumatic event.

 

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