Cannabis May Be Helping Some Canadians Cope with PTSD

Cannabis use could be aiding Canadians to ease some of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, says new research from the BC Centre on Substance Use and the University of British Columbia.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, and cited in CTV News, found that among people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pot users were far less likely to suffer from severe depression or suicidal thoughts than people who were not using cannabis.

Also, individuals who suffered trauma, which includes survivors of acute injury, violence, conflict and disasters, suffer at extremely higher rates of depression, suicide and substance abuse than the general population.

The research team also found that among people who didn’t use cannabis, PTSD was considerably associated with a major recent depressive episode and suicidal thoughts. PTSD sufferers who didn't use cannabis were found to be seven times more likely to have a depressive episode than pot users and nearly five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts compared to people who did not use pot and did not suffer PTSD.

“Among the cannabis-non-using population, there was a strong association between having PTSD and experiencing these indicators of severe mental distress,” lead author Stephanie Lake, a research assistant at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use, said to CTV News.

Lake’s study also found that every one in four Canadians with PTSD admitted to usingpot. This number is remarkably high when compared to the prevalence of pot use among the general Canadian population. She, however, noted that the study didn’t entirely establish a definitive, causal link between cannabis use and decreased PTSD symptoms.

She maintains that the study “didn’t tell us whether people are successfully using cannabis to treat PTSD … but it is a promising signal that there might be a therapeutic (benefit) to cannabis use.”

24,089 respondents took part in Lake's survey and from this number, 420 people had been clinically diagnosed with PTSD. Out of the 420 PTSD patients, 106 (28 percent) said they used cannabis. According to the study, PTSD patients did have cannabis-use disorders at a rate that was higher thanthat of the general population.

A lot of Canadians would find this research very helpful, judging by the fact that about 9.2 percent of Canadians have PTSD, making Canada one of the countries with the highest number of PTSD sufferers in the world.

According to Lake, cannabinoid receptors in people’s bodies help control mood and regulate sleep. Previous research has suggested that trauma from PTSD could affect the function of this endocannabinoid system.

“So when you introduce external cannabinoids (from pot products) to the body, it might help to get the system working as normal again,” she suggested.

In a press release, quoted on CTV News, senior author Dr. M-J Milloy, BCCSU research scientist and Canopy Growth Professor of Cannabis Science at UBC, said that “we’re only just beginning to understand what the therapeutic potential of cannabis may be for a variety of health conditions.”

"These findings are promising, and merit further study to fully understand the benefits of cannabis for people living with PTSD," he added.


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