Study: Medical Marijuana Compares Favorably To Conventional PTSD Treatments
Medical marijuana compares favorably with conventional treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Care By Design, a California-based medical marijuana company which recently completed a survey of 300 patients with PTSD. The survey asked what medications (including cannabis) patients had used for PTSD-related symptoms, and then asked patients to assess each medication in terms of its impact on the hallmark symptoms of PTSD, including anger and irritability, anxiety, depression, pain, and sleep disorders.
Among the key findings of the study, according to Care By Design:
• Survey respondents reported taking numerous medications for PTSD. In order of prevalence: Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, cannabis, sleeping medication, mood stabilizers, narcotic pain medication, non-narcotic pain medication, anti-psychotics, beta-blockers, tranquilizers, and anti-convulsants.
• Half of respondents had taken at least 5 medications for PTSD, and 7.5 percent had taken as many as 11.
• Survey respondents reported that cannabis was the most likely to improve PTSD symptoms—albeit to an unknown degree—and the least likely to make symptoms worse.
• The most common medication prescribed for the treatment of PTSD among survey respondents was anti-depressants. Yet, few report it was effective. Only 18.1 percent of respondents said their depression got better on anti-depressants. Half reported that their depression got worse on anti-depressants. The majority of respondents reported that their depression worsened on anti-psychotics, tranquilizers, narcotic pain medication, mood stabilizers, and anti-convulsants.
• Roughly half of respondents reported they had been prescribed narcotics for PTSD. The majority of them reported that their anger and irritability, depression, and sleep problems got worse on the medication.
• Almost half of survey respondents reported that they were using CBD-rich cannabis (rather than high-THC strains), which is minimally or non-psychoactive.
• Eighty percent of survey respondents reported that they consume less alcohol when using cannabis. This suggests that, when used medically, marijuana is not a “gateway” drug.
• Veterans reported being prescribed more medications than civilians. They were also more likely to be prescribed medications that generally worsened symptoms, including anti-psychotics, narcotic pain medication, and mood stabilizers.
It’s estimated that more than a million veterans are living with PTSD. The anxiety disorder is believed to be a major contributor to the staggering number of veteran deaths each year from prescription drug overdoses and suicides.
Veterans are often underserved by the healthcare system and conventional PTSD therapies are of limited efficacy for many. A groundbreaking 2014 survey by the American Legion found that 59 percent of veterans reported feeling no improvement or worse after undergoing treatment for PTSD. Half were interested in exploring complementary and/or alternative treatments.
“This is an important survey that furthers the national dialogue about the ongoing tragedy of PTSD among veterans and others," said Roger Martin, U.S. Army veteran and executive director of Grow For Vets, a national nonprofit that provides veterans with medical marijuana. "The research suggests that there is a strong connection between the endocannabinoid system and PTSD, that cannabis therapy can help relieve the symptoms of PTSD.
"Given the high rates of dissatisfaction with conventional treatment, it’s imperative we explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis without delay," Martin said.
The survey results can be viewed at https://www.cbd.org/sites/cbd/files/downloads/ptsd-and-cannabis_2016.pdf .
Graphic: Care By Design