CBD is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant and it is now widely used for medical reasons as it can help treat skin problems, chronic pains/illnesses, heart disease, cancer, anxiety, depression and PTSD but for the time being I’m going to focus on how CBD can and does help those who suffer from PTSD.
What is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD for short) is a type of mental illness someone can suffer from after they experience a trauma. Sometimes our brains fail to process the traumas as a memory, resulting in the person reliving the trauma along with the thoughts and emotions they felt at the time. PTSD symptoms also include nightmares, flashbacks, depression, anxiety and aggression (I have written in a lot more detail about PTSD and what is what like for me, which you can read about here)
What is CBD?
Cannabindiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive chemical compound of the marijuana plant, which means it will not and does not get you high and can be used in many different forms such as oils, creams, powders and can even be used as an ingredient in food (again, I have written in a lot more detail about CBD which you can read here and it might help you to understand certain parts of this article)
How do CBD and PTSD work together?
Well…we all have a endocannabinoid system (ECS) which helps us to maintain homeostasis throughout our whole body. The ECS plays a role in brain and nervous system functions and it helps us to regulate our sleep, pain, cognitive functions and appetite. Some researchers believe that stress or trauma can impact our ECS signalling in our brains resulting in the ECS not working as efficiently as it should be.
CBD likes to target cannabinoids (which are part of our ECS). There are CB1 receptors which play a role in our moods, fear memory formation, pain tolerance and appetite and then we have CB2 receptors which can be found throughout our central and immune systems and when binded with CBD can help to regulate appetite, pain, inflammation and immunity. Due to CBD working with most of our internal structures and body systems, it can help relive and/treat some of the symptoms of PTSD such as nightmares (This article is about how cannabis effects our dreams which you might find interesting), flashbacks, nausea, headaches, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Lets take our fear memories. Fear memories are the most researched form of memory and they are generated by the hippocampus and amygdala (both of which are hugely impacted by PTSD). We usually form fear memories as a way of adapting and learning from past traumatic experiences to avoid those dangerous situations in the future. However, PTSD causes us to overgeneralise and exaggerate our fear responses which can cause symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, anxiety and depression. CBD helps by blocking the formation of fear memories. This ability also aids CBD in reducing physiological responses related to fear and phobias which is why CBD can also be used to help treat anxiety related disorders. So for example, I created a fear memory when my dad died, and because his death trigger PTSD, I experienced his death daily as I seemed to be living in a world that was filled with triggers.
CBD and war veterans.
Research shows that veterans use medical marijuana to help them cope and treat depression, chronic pain and PTSD. Many suffer from PTSD which causes them to relive the experiences they had during the war, but in the present moment. Veterans are usually prescribed pharmaceutical medications by their doctors to help them cope with the symptoms of PTSD, but due to some of the harsh side effects of these medications, they aren’t always taken or veterans avoid taking them, however, those that take medical marijuana have said that even the smallest amount can help them relieve anxiety and pain with fewer side effects. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, prescriptions for opioids lead to more than 110 deaths a day, whereas cannabis accounts for zero.
Then of course with medical marijuana now legal in more countries and states, it offers plenty of job opportunities, such as business management, sales and entrepreneurship, for those who now longer fight in the war.
CBD, PTSD and Me.
The many wonders of marijuana fascinate me. Having suffered from PTSD for most of my life (so far) and going through many rebellious stages, I went through one stage a couple years ago where I became dependent on alcohol and drugs as a pick me up. Alcohol temporarily picked me up but only if I was in the right place, with the right people and in the right frame of mind (or as right as I could be back then). Drugs picked me up greatly, some picked me up more than others, some left me feeling even worse for the next couple of days and some just seemed to help, CBD being the one that helped me.
I didn’t plan on taking CBD to help with anything (it should be noted that I was also taking THC which is the psychoactive chemical compound of marijuana…so basically I was getting high). I would usually take it in the evenings when I was alone in my bedroom. Sometimes it uplifted my mood, helped me to smile, laugh and cry but then it also helped me massively with my nightmares, sleep pattern and flashbacks.
I had PTSD for around 13 years before I began using marijuana but I didn’t use it to help with my PTSD till I was mid-way through my cognitive behavioural therapy. My nightmares were pretty bad when I was going through CBT (but they had been worse in the past) and sleeping at night was challenging for me as the nightmares usually woke me up around 1am and I’d then stay awake till 3-6am. When I first started using marijuana it was just something I needed as a pick me up, I didn’t take any notice to any positive/negative effects it had on me as long as I got my pick me up. Whilst going through therapy, I was reliving my traumas several times a day and suffering from nightmares almost every night, during this time I became very dependent on marijuana as it helped me sleep at night, it helped me release my emotions and helped me to relax but it was different from alcohol and other drugs. I did rely on it to help bring me peace and to help me cope with everything that was going on in my life and my head but it also helped me see that alcohol and other drugs were far from beneficial for me.
Therapy helped me the most and as I progressed through CBT, my reasons for using marijuana dropped and I no longer relied on it to help me fall asleep, stay asleep, deal with pains, headaches or body aches. I didn’t need to pick myself up or to help me laugh and smile, therapy helped me cure my mental illnesses.
CBD is becoming extremely popular but it should be noted that you should always go to your GP or ask your doctor for advice before making any decisions and of course, if it is illegal in your country, don’t do it…
Sending my love,