According to recent statistics, 50% or more of adults experience at least one trauma in their lives, an event that triggers a severe “fight-or-flight” reaction to be protected from imminent physical harm or even death. In most cases, individuals recover from their symptoms naturally, but this is not the case for everyone. A small percentage of those who experience trauma have difficulty overcoming its effects and develop a condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Fortunately, there are treatments available to control this condition via therapy and medication. In more recent years, the use of medical marijuanas for PTSD has proven to yield positive results for the vast majority of patients who adopt this option as part of their course of treatment.
What is PTSD? Is PTSD curable? Does the use of medical marijuanas for PTSD work? Find the answers to these and other frequently asked questions below.
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition developed by individuals who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events that caused intense fear, anxiety or helplessness due to the potential threat or actual occurrence of violence, serious physical harm or death. Examples of such events are sexual assault, child abuse, combat, physical assault, witnessing death or severe injury, motor vehicle accidents, kidnapping, natural disasters and experiencing a life-threatening disease.
Although anyone in the general population can suffer from the condition, the incidence rate is higher in women than in men. Also, both first responders and the military are susceptible to this condition given that the nature of their jobs exposes them constantly to intense violence, the potential of harm and death. Do most veterans have PTSD? No, but on average 12% to 15% of them do (some sources indicate this number can reach 30% for Vietnam veterans).
When does PTSD manifest?
Now that you know what PTSD is, you might be wondering when PTSD is triggered. Usually symptoms manifest within the first three months after exposure to trauma, although in some cases it can happen years later.
Most individuals having suffered traumatic events will experience symptoms to some degree, but not all will develop PTSD. Only those who continue to experience symptoms for more than a month after exposure to trauma, and whose symptoms negatively impact their relationships and their ability to function in social and work settings might be diagnosed with the condition.
How PTSD manifests
If you are wondering how PTSD manifests, you’re not alone. PTSD manifests in a myriad different ways but we can classify those symptoms in four main categories:
- Intrusive or re-experiencing memories (recurrent flashbacks, nightmares, severe physical reaction to something reminiscent of the traumatic event)
- Avoidance (avoid thinking or talking about the event, avoid places, people or situations that remind them of the traumatic event)
- Alteration of physical or emotional reactions (trouble sleeping or concentrating, anger outbursts, being easily startled or frightened, self-destructing behavior, constant feeling of being on edge or on guard for danger)
- Negative cognitive or mood impact (depression, anxiety, memory issues including trouble remembering key facts related to the traumatic event, negative thoughts about self or the world, detachment from loved ones or from activities that used to be enjoyable, overwhelming feelings of guilt or blame).
When PTSD is triggered, patients experience at least one (if not more) symptoms in each one of these categories and doctors usually consider the occurrence of such symptoms to diagnose the condition.
Is PTSD curable? Who treats PTSD?
For those dealing with a PTSD diagnosis, the immediate next question might be: is PTSD curable? This condition is not likely to completely go away but when treated successfully symptoms can remain dormant for months or even years.
So, who treats PTSD? For the average PTSD patient, a successful treatment encompasses a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy involves treating the mental illness by talking to a mental health practitioner. The main goal of therapy is to help patients regain control over their lives by educating themselves about symptoms and acquiring skills that help them identify and manage their symptoms successfully. Cognitive therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and exposure therapy are different types of therapy that can be used. Also, patients can choose whether to do one-on-one sessions, group therapy or both. While therapy can successfully help many patients manage their symptoms, it’s not effective in all of the cases.
Medication is another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to treating PTSD.
The impact of the condition on patients’ mental health often requires the use of medication to help them cope with the physical symptoms (depression, anxiety, insomnia…). A close collaboration between patients and their medical providers helps them identify which medication or combination of medications works best for each case, adjusting dosage and managing side effects. Unfortunately, traditional medication isn’t always effective and sometimes comes with undesirable side effects.
Medical Marijuana for PTSD in Texas
Traditional methods for treating PTSD are not always effective. In fact, it has been suggested that about 33% of patients are treatment-resistant. Fortunately, multiple studies have shown that medical marijuana can successfully help manage PTSD symptoms even in patients who are treatment-resistant. Our own Dr Matthew Brimberry was the presiding physician in a study that conducted a clinical evaluation of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation’s PTSD focus group and the findings were beyond encouraging as 93% of patients experienced decreased symptom severity and 71% of the group achieved PTSD remission (click here for more details about this study).
The reason why marijuana can effectively help treat PTSD symptoms is because the cannabinoids found in marijuana (active chemical compounds like CBD and THC) interact with receptors in the human body effectively interrupting the transmission of overdrive messages that the natural endocannabinoids produced by the patient’s body were sending to the brain causing debilitating symptoms.
Cannabinoids found in medical marijuana can replace endocannabinoids and help impair memory, reduce pain, nausea and anxiety, stimulate appetite and in general have a calming effect, which makes them an excellent tool to help patients control PTSD symptoms and take back control of their lives.
It is important to clarify that not all marijuana is created equal, therefore quickly googling “PTSD weed Texas” and obtaining marijuana in any form doesn’t guarantee success. The use of medical marijuana under a care provider’s supervision makes a world of difference because a cannabis physician can identify which strain of marijuana is best for particular symptoms and also determine the appropriate dosage, effectively providing a customized plan of care for each patient’s specific needs. Neither of these advantages that are key to success can be achieved when acquiring marijuana in random places through self-medication, which was the only option for these patients up until recently, but not anymore.
In 2021, Texas House Bill 1535 was approved and expanded the use of medical marijuana to PTSD and other conditions that were not included in the initial Texas Compassionate Use Program. Patients can now have access to marijuana tinctures or edibles that are specifically prescribed by their doctor and manufactured in state of the art facilities, eliminating the stigma, risk or difficulty of accessing illegal substances and knowing exactly what components go into the product they are consuming. This is a game changer for PTSD patients who can now consult with a licensed medical cannabis physician and have access to the adequate cannabis compound with specific strains and dosages tailored to exponentially increase their chance of success with this line of treatment.
PTSD can take a heavy toll on the individual who suffers this condition, but new treatments like the use of medical marijuana (now legally available in Texas) have been a game changer for these patients and their families in their quest to achieve remission and regain control over their lives.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with PTSD, click here to get started and see if medical marijuana for PTSD is the right treatment option.