June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time to reflect on an invisible disease affecting as many as 8 million adults every year. Those who have gone through intense trauma, including combat, abuse, or other life-threatening events, can be subject to the horrors of PTSD for weeks, months, or even years after the fact.
Emotional changes marked by a heightened state of alert, as well as lingering memories and recurring nightmares, are unfortunate hallmarks of post-traumatic stress. One event can trigger a total shift in how a person perceives the world around them, and the results can be devastating. Long-term sufferers of PTSD often also struggle with high blood pressure, reduced immune function, chronic pain and other ailments that compound the emotional stress the disorder presents.
The science behind brain function in PTSD patients is fascinating, and offers a glimpse into the potential of cannabis to help with symptom relief. A study of PTSD patients’ brains showed lower levels of one of the body’s natural cannabinoids responsible for, among other things, limiting the mind’s access to painful memories.
The cannabis plant complements the body’s endocannabinoids by binding to receptors, thus making up for the depletion of certain mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Or, essentially, that medical marijuana has the potential to replace what your body can’t make on its own. It acts as a stabilizer to improve the functionality of your basic systems, helping restore an equilibrium that keeps the body and mind from living in a constant state of fight or flight response.
Cannabis has also shown promise in improving sleep patterns for longtime PTSD sufferers. If you’ve smoked for any length of time, you probably know anecdotally that marijuana makes your dreams all but disappear. There’s science behind that, too – namely that THC-heavy strains are found to reduce the time you spend in REM sleep, which is where most vivid dreaming occurs. For trauma victims who are frequently startled awake with nightmares, cannabis can help the body relax into sleep and stay there with fewer interruptions.
For PTSD patients who have never explored medical marijuana as an alternative to the prescription antidepressants they might have tried, there is little evidence to suggest that cannabis exacerbates post-traumatic symptoms. CBD strains and products can be a good starting point since they do not come with the psychoactive properties of THC, and are also commonly used to treat inflammation and body aches that are side effects of anxiety and sleep deprivation.
At Sol Flower, we work to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD and seek to provide natural remedies to help sufferers live with reduced levels of stress. During this month of awareness and all throughout the year, we look forward to recommending products to manage your symptoms. Visit our locations in Tempe and Sun City to speak with our cannabis advocates.