"War is hell," General Sherman famously said during the horrors of the Civil War. And war continues to be hell for many who fought long after their time in combat has passed. According to several studies and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans that fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could be as high as 500,000. PTSD is a chronic psychiatric condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event – in this case, combat and war. Anxiety, depression, psychological instability and sleep disturbances can all result from PTSD. Veterans who suffer from PTSD can ameliorate the symptoms with various types of therapy and medications, but while these methods can help minimize the suffering, medication designed specifically to fight PTSD has yet to be developed.
Anxiety and depression are two of the more prominent symptoms of PTSD and taking CBD (cannabidiol) for those two debilitating psychological conditions is proving successful. The substantial anecdotal evidence is backed by an increasing number of studies that link the use of CBD oil to a decrease in anxiety and depression. Much like standard anti-depressants such as Zoloft or Paxil, CBD can help the brain process serotonin – the hormone that regulates emotion. Traumatic memories are often a large part of PTSD. A recent study concluded that CBD has the ability to alter the way such memories are handled by the brain and mitigate or even eliminate the traumatic memories completely. This can also benefit veterans with PTSD symptoms such as hyperarousal, insomnia or recurring nightmares. CBD also has the ability to inhibit fear expression and produce long lasting reductions in fear, which is a major issue for those suffering from PTSD.
Taking CDB oil for PTSD is also an excellent alternative to opioid use. The rates of opioid abuse and fatalities are much higher among veterans than the civilian population. Veterans are often overprescribed opioids for their pain by overworked VA doctors. CBD offers a safe alternative to those dangerous narcotics. It is also something that veterans can easily access without any prescription or professional analysis. There is a stigma related to “seeking treatment” for veterans. Many who serve do not want to admit that they are struggling and CBD can provide relief without the perceived negative association of needing to ask someone for help.
Sadly, however, cannabidiol and PTSD are two things that do not go together for the majority of veterans suffering from PTSD. The Veterans Administration (VA) maintains that CBD has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use against PTSD and therefore cannot be prescribed. This is incredibly restricting for veterans who rely on VA hospitals and physicians for their medical care. As mentioned above, although CBD can be easily purchased, many veterans simply refuse to take anything to ease their suffering. Their time in the military has left them with the perception that taking anything for their mental pain would be showing a sign of weakness. CBD oil comes from cannabis and many veterans do not want to be associated with a plant that still is perceived in a negative way. They may also fear that the CBD oil they use could contain THC and cause them to fail a drug test.
Research has shown that veterans with PTSD have lower levels of an endocannabinoid called anandamide than those without the disorder. Anandamide is responsible for memory, motivation and mental comfort. CBD works with the CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system that regulate a variety of functions throughout the body such as the eradication of fear, emotional development and reaction to stress. When working normally, CB1 receptors help the body forget or dismiss distressing memories. In individuals with PTSD, the CB1 receptors are not working properly. CBD assists by modifying the receptors' ability to bind to cannabinoids and also boosts anandamide levels and restores normal CB1 function.
The potential for CBD use in treating PTSD is immense. For veterans, it begins with education and understanding. As CBD continues to make its way into mainstream culture the stigmatization of cannabis will decrease. The knowledge that CBD oil does not need to contain any psychoactive THC should make veterans more inclined to try CBD to treat their PTSD. Further research into how CBD interacts with the brain and nervous system will only result in improved refinements in CBD dosage for PTSD and a better idea of how veterans in mental and physical pain can find relief.
Are you a veteran suffering from PTSD? Have you tried CBD to ease your suffering? Please feel free to share your story in the comments section below.