There is a part of life that not many people talk about because of both the stigma surrounding it, and the emotions it can bring to the surface. A traumatic experience is one of the most underestimated and tragic events a person could face in their lifetime, and it is something that approximately 223.4 million people have experienced or continue to suffer from today. Living in a fast paced, chaotic world can distract us from the turmoil we face within ourselves. Today I will shine a light on an issue that not enough people are discussing, and illuminate the health benefits of using cannabis as a holistic treatment.
Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event or experience accompanied by symptoms lasting more than a few months. Symptoms can start immediately or years later depending on the circumstances. These events can change our entire way of being, and sometimes even prevent us from growing as individuals because of the inability to move forward. Aside from therapy, there are not many effective treatment options for PTSD, but cannabis has proven to be one of the best ways to treat it without the negative side affects associated with taking pharmaceutical medications.
In the United States, it is estimated that 70% of adults have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. Up to 20% of these people go on to develop PTSD, which means that approximately 44.7 million people are struggling with PTSD in the United States alone. One out of every nine women develops PTSD which makes them twice as likely to experience post traumatic stress disorder symptoms when compared to men. Those who suffer from PTSD can experience several symptoms that can be debilitating. These symptoms can include night terrors, anxiety attacks, paranoia, depression, fatigue, chronic pain, staying in a constant fight or flight mode, and hyper-vigilance which is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity.
Trauma is very common in women, and they tend to experience different traumas than men do. Many early studies on PTSD were on Vietnam Veterans, but researchers began to study the effects of sexual assault and found that women had similar reactions than veterans did. More than half of women will experience at least one traumatic event in their life according to a large mental health study. Almost one in three women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime. Women are also more likely to be neglected or abused in childhood, experience domestic violence, or have a loved one suddenly die. Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than many other events, and women are more likely to blame themselves for trauma than men. Sexual assault is something many women are embarrassed to admit because of the feelings of hopelessness and judgment surrounding the issue. Women are more likely to be jumpy, have more trouble feeling emotions, and to avoid things that remind them of trauma than men.
Soldiers are also at high risk of developing PTSD because they are subjected to traumatic circumstances often when deployed overseas and end up receiving little to no treatment because in the military it is frowned upon to seek any sort of mental health support. Most soldiers fear being labeled as unstable or mentally ill, which could prevent them from getting certain promotions in their field. Depending on what military base they are stationed at, there are sometimes six month long waiting lists just to speak to a counselor, which puts the soldier in a position where they feel hopelessness and anger towards the system. What many people don’t realize is once they leave the military, they are not provided with therapy options which in turn leaves many veterans unable to adapt to everyday life and once again be a member of society. I have seen first hand what happens to soldiers that have PTSD and are not given the proper treatment they need. Many turn to alcohol which pushes them further into a clinical depression and some have regular anxiety attacks and mental breakdowns which can lead to chronic depression, and suicidal behavior.
As human beings we have an endogenous cannabinoid system which is the largest neurotransmitter system in the body. The receptors in this system are activated by compounds produced in our bodies. The main chemical is anandamide, which was named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” which is naturally occurring in the body. Anandamide is released during exercise and is responsible for the commonly known “runner’s high.” The structure of anandamide when compared to THC is very similar. They both activate the same receptors which produces that same happy feeling we get from exercise! THC has been shown to boost those levels of anandamide which is something everyone should be aware of.
When treating PTSD with cannabis, some medical doctors recommend a combination of CBD, or (cannabidiol), and THC, or (tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid which means it does not get you high, while THC is psychoactive and produces the euphoric “high” feeling associated with smoking cannabis. Taking CBD during the day provides the anxiety relief and taking the THC at night induces sleep and has shown do reduce night terrors and effectively treat sleep disorders symptoms. This day to night ratio is based on having an overall improvement on the ability to function productively throughout the day. CBD and THC when combined have added health benefits and compliment each others medicinal benefits. CBD reduces some of the side effects associated with THC including increased appetite, paranoia, and altered states of vision, hearing and smell. The downside to using this as a form of treatment is how limited people are geographically in having this option available to them. Since Cannabis is not federally legal currently, many people struggle to find these treatments unless they live in a place where it is legalized or move to a place that is. In addition to that, most people, especially soldiers are not allowed to use THC or CBD products. Many are drug tested and afraid to lost their job so they end up not seeking help.
Most physicians recommend practicing a healthy lifestyle with a focus on clean eating and a plant based diet combined with regular vigorous exercise, and regular therapy with a mental health professional. Caring for your body comes from the inside out, and it is important to provide it with both the vitamins and nutrients that it needs to thrive. Regular exercise is the best way to get fast results when treating depression and anxiety, and keeping your muscles strong assists your joints and spine to stay in alignment which in turn can also relieve symptoms of depression from the pain relief to feelings of hopelessness.
In my personal experience with PTSD, I have found meditation, breathing exercises and yoga to be most therapeutic in helping me relieve my symptoms. Meditation calms the mind body and soul, and allows you time to find awareness in your body. Transcendental Meditation is a specific type of focused meditation that takes practitioners from a state of noisy thinking to inner quietness. This type of meditation reduces stress hormones by activating the “rest-and-digest” functions of the parasympathetic nervous system, while in turn calming the sympathetic nervous system which is the what stimulates the “fight-or-flight” response in the mind. A 2016 study that included 74 active-duty service members with PTSD or anxiety disorders, studied the effects of Transcendental Meditation on using psychotropic drugs to treat their PTSD conditions. After one month, 83.7% of the meditators had stabilized and reduced, or completely stopped their use of drugs for treatment. According to Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, a physiologist, “Regular practice of Transcendental Meditation provides a habit of calming down and healing the brain.” She recommends practicing 20 minutes, twice a day.
Yoga is one of most widely practiced forms of complementary alternative medicine in the United States. It incorporates techniques of breathing exercises, physical postures, movement, relaxation and mindfulness. Studies have shown that yoga decreases PTSD symptoms significantly even in situations of childhood onset chronic trauma which has a very low success rate in various traditional treatments. Yoga is said to act as a bridge by both increasing a sense of awareness, control over one’s body, and building skills to interpret physiological states. In yoga teacher training I gained a heightened awareness of my ego and how much it dictates our thoughts on a daily basis. These thoughts can be positive or negative but either way they do not represent us. They are merely reactions to the world around us and yoga has given me the ability to sense when my ego is driving a thought and reaction so that I can stop it in it’s tracks and just be in the moment. PTSD symptoms can be directly connected to our egos which is why yoga is such an effective form of treatment.
The most important thing to remember about PTSD is that the majority of the population either have already experienced it, know someone that has, or will experience it at some point in their lifetime. It is essential to keep in mind that each person is different, and will have different triggers for their traumatic experiences, so with that in mind; each individual will need to have a specific treatment plan that is unique to them. Some individuals are triggered by sounds and visuals while others can be triggered by night terrors while sleeping.
If you suffer from PTSD or know someone that does and are looking to try our CBD and THC products, contact one of our locations and schedule a free 30 minute wellness consultation with one of our consultants. We are happy to educate you on our products and help you feel confident, comfortable, and in control. Our consultants will work with you to figure out a plan that works best for you and more importantly, is sustainable in the long term. After all, isn’t that what we are all searching for in this life?