Cannabis Showing Benefits in Treating Psychological Trauma

Francis Cassidy November 17, 2020 0 comments

There’s no single way to treat psychological trauma. But, cannabis may help patients manage the associated symptoms.

We all experience psychological trauma throughout our lifetime. For some of us, the effects are subtle and rarely overwhelm. For others, the effects can become debilitating. These may even grow into full-blown PTSD. Much of the psychological trauma we experience tends to occur in our early, formative years. This occurs when fundamental human needs for nurturing, care, and love are withheld. Such experiences often mark us significantly. These tend to leave an imprint in the nervous system that stays with us as we age.

To enable us to continue, many develop coping mechanisms as we grow. Sadly, these tactics never truly deal with the underlying presence of the trauma. In severe cases, such coping mechanisms can become destructive when they take the form of things like addictions. In most cases, medical professionals fail to recognize the underlying presence of psychological trauma. They prescribe medications to treat conditions that later arise due to unprocessed, and undiagnosed trauma.

Most medicinal cannabis patients know all too well the dangers of the careless prescription of pharmaceuticals that merely serve to mask the underlying symptoms of something much deeper that lies within. As the collective understanding of trauma evolves, many medical professionals are coming to see that cannabis may help treat those with psychological trauma.

The Science Behind Trauma and Cannabis

Healing from trauma is one of the most challenging processes that anyone can undertake. There is no universal appropriate way to heal, and each case often requires its own unique approach. And this depends on the patient’s own willingness to confront underlying pain.

Several recent scientific studies investigated the role that cannabis can play in healing from trauma. One study [1]Lake, S., Kerr, T., Buxton, J., Walsh, Z., Marshall, B. D., Wood, E., & Milloy, M. J. (2020). Does cannabis use modify the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder on severe depression and … Continue reading published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology (2020), found that Canadians who experienced severe trauma and used cannabis, were seven times less likely to experience depressive episodes. They were five times less likely to experience suicidal ideation than those who didn’t use cannabis.

Such findings are hardly surprising, as there are huge amounts of subjective reports from cannabis consumers who report on the beneficial effects of cannabis in their treatment of symptoms related to psychological trauma. A study [2]Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, Matthew Tyler Boden, Meggan M. Bucossi & Kimberly A. Babson (2014) Self-reported cannabis use characteristics, patterns and helpfulness among medical cannabis users, The … Continue reading published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (2013), highlighted the overwhelming successes of a group of 217 adults who consumed medical cannabis for a host of symptoms, including “psychological disorders.”

Based on subjective and objective science, there is a wealth of data suggesting that cannabis can help patients deal with psychological trauma, but just how cannabis does this is what many struggle to understand.

How Might Cannabis Help Treat Psychological Trauma?

It’s all too easy for opponents of cannabis to write it off as a method of avoiding and escaping from underlying pain. But, cannabis is infinitely more complicated than many assume, and many of the compounds present in the cannabis plant complement many of those naturally produced in the body.

The endocannabinoid system in the body relies on the production of endogenous cannabinoids. Basically, these bind with cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. Our endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating and stabilizing many bodily functions that become aggravated after traumatic experiences. Many of those suffering from psychological trauma suffer from abnormalities in their fear response, memory consolidation, and obtaining restful sleep.

Where this line of thought gets interesting is in understanding how the endocannabinoid system also seems to come out of alignment after exposure to psychological trauma. In a study [3]Neumeister, A., Normandin, M., Pietrzak, R. et al. Elevated brain cannabinoid CB1 receptor availability in post-traumatic stress disorder: a positron emission tomography study. Mol Psychiatry 18, … Continue reading published in Nature (2013), researchers analyzed brain scans of patients with PTSD. What they uncovered was that while patients have an abundance of cannabinoid receptors, they produce relatively few endogenous cannabinoids to bind with these receptors. In such cases, it makes sense to assume that the supplementation of exogenous cannabinoids from the cannabis plant may help bring balance back to the endocannabinoid system by providing cannabinoids that can bind with the available receptors.

Using Cannabis to Work With Psychological Trauma

Basically, cannabis is what’s known as a non-specific amplifier. This means that it can amplify the underlying emotional state of a patient. Sometimes this induces the paranoia or anxiety that many new cannabis consumers report. However, when used in an appropriate dose and with a clear intention, the consumption of cannabis can help patients feel much more deeply into the body and and what’s repressed deeper within. Further, making underlying feelings and sensations more conscious can help patients responsibly face their own pain.

They may even begin to see certain dysfunctional behaviors as the avoidance mechanism that they truly are before they start to address them. Ample evidence also exists for how cannabis may help reduce depression and anxiety. These are, of course, two common symptoms in those suffering from psychological trauma. The available evidence suggests that even for those unwilling to confront the real source of their pain, cannabis can help significantly in dealing with the symptoms. It may drastically improve the quality of life of those afflicted.

References

1Lake, S., Kerr, T., Buxton, J., Walsh, Z., Marshall, B. D., Wood, E., & Milloy, M. J. (2020). Does cannabis use modify the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder on severe depression and suicidal ideation? Evidence from a population-based cross-sectional study of Canadians. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 34(2), 181–188. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119882806
2Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, Matthew Tyler Boden, Meggan M. Bucossi & Kimberly A. Babson (2014) Self-reported cannabis use characteristics, patterns and helpfulness among medical cannabis users, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 40:1, 23-30, DOI: 10.3109/00952990.2013.821477
3Neumeister, A., Normandin, M., Pietrzak, R. et al. Elevated brain cannabinoid CB1 receptor availability in post-traumatic stress disorder: a positron emission tomography study. Mol Psychiatry 18, 1034–1040 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2013.61
Author avatar

Francis Cassidy

http://www.thestrayphotographer.com/
Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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