Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, affects about 7-8% of the population at some point, with nearly 8 million adults experiencing it in a given year. That’s a lot, but unfortunately, most people who experience it don’t get the help they need. So, every year, the US acknowledges June as PTSD Awareness Month, a time for everyone to talk about PTSD and learn about the effective treatment options out there.
PTSD is often associated with those who’ve faced combat, but it spans well beyond war. Trauma is subjective. And while events like war, car accidents, and rape are objectively horrible, how an event might traumatically affect you depends on a few things, including:
- Your individual characteristics
- The type and characteristics of the traumatic event(s)
- Personal developmental processes
- The meaning of the trauma to you
- Sociocultural factors
With the factors around traumatic events being as vague as they are, it’s no wonder PTSD affects so many each year. Fortunately, talking about our mental health and past traumas is becoming less and less taboo, allowing ourselves—and science—to dig a little deeper into solutions and treatments. Here’s what we know so far.
While the type of treatment that’s most effective for PTSD varies depending on the trauma and the individual, science has been able to narrow down a few psychotherapy options.
- Prolonged exposure teaches you to face your negative feelings associated with the event. This can include talking with a professional and physically doing specific things you’ve avoided doing since the traumatic event occurred.
- Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) provides you the tools to reframe your negative thoughts through talking with a professional and journaling your thoughts and feelings.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) helps you make sense of trauma by talking about the event while focusing on a back-and-forth movement or sound, like a light or finger moving side to side.
Cannabis and PTSD
Another potentially helpful option that’s been getting more attention these days is using cannabis for PTSD. Most evidence behind using cannabis to help with PTSD is anecdotal at this point, but some small studies have suggested its potential. For example, nightmares are a common symptom of PTSD, and one crossover trial of 10 individuals experiencing PTSD showed that THC, in conjunction with standard pharmacotherapy, reduced self-reported nightmares.
THC also showed promise in a study by Wayne State University. They took a look at participants’ amygdala—a part of the brain associated with fear responses to threats—and found that those with THC exposure had lowered threat-related amygdala reactivity than those who were administered a placebo. Simply put, those who took low doses of THC had measurable signs of reduced fear and anxiety when presented with a fear-triggering situation.
More research is needed to determine how and if cannabis may be an effective treatment option for PTSD and trauma in general, but what we’ve learned so far is certainly promising!
This month, as we all hopefully take a moment to acknowledge our own traumas and the traumas of others, keep compassion and empathy in mind. Keep the characteristics of the cannabis plant we love so much in mind—sharing, offering support and comfort, being mindful, staying present… These are all values of the plant that we can embody to help each other cope with trauma. And while nothing can replace the help of a licensed professional, a little empathy can certainly go a long way in our own healing journey and in the journey of others.
That’s what we’re here to offer you at Sol Flower—a little empathy, and if your doctor approves, a little TLC through the power of THC.