Can CBD Help Ease PTSD Symptoms?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a chronic mental disorder commonly associated with veterans, policemen and firefighters, and other first responders. However, anyone who has experienced a major trauma can suffer from PTSD. Symptoms include anxiety, higher sensory sensitivity, dizziness, forgetfulness, fatigue, depression, headaches, and trouble focusing.  Those who have PTSD also may have recurring traumatic memories, which may lead to panic attacks.[1]

A group of researchers looked at the potential of CBD to help with PTSD. In their study, 11 adult patients at an outpatient clinic received an open-label, flexible dosing regimen of oral CBD for eight weeks. PTSD symptom severity was assessed every four weeks by patient-completed PTSD Checklist for the DSM-5 (PCL-5) questionnaires. (The PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 is a 20-item self-report measure that assesses the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms.) From the total sample of 11 patients, 91 percent experienced a decrease in PTSD symptom severity, as evidenced by a lower PCL-5 score at eight weeks than at their initial baseline.[2]

CBD and The Endocannabinoid System

CBD’s interaction with CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) may account for the cannabidiol providing relief from some PTSD symptoms. The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids or neurotransmitters that send chemical messages between neurons, which are cells that transmit nerve impulses.

CB1 receptors occur throughout the entire body, with the highest concentrations in the brain and the central nervous system. CBD’s indirect activation of CB1 and serotonin receptors can result in reduced anxiety, better sleep, stable mood, and increased alertness. Also, CBD targets the cannabinoid receptors in the immune system, regulating the release of stress hormones, blocking mood receptors that are compromised by traumatizing stimuli, and stopping flashbacks.[3]

Effects of CBD on PTSD symptoms

Reduces panic attacks

People with PTSD often suffer from severe panic responses, the symptoms of which are:

  • Fast breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pupil dilation
  • Loss of focus
  • Hearing loss
  • Increased sweating

By providing a deep sense of relaxation, CBD can help reduce the severity of a panic attack, which left untreated can lead to social withdrawal and isolation. Panic attacks also can increase the chance of depression and suicidal tendencies.[4]

Improves Quality of Sleep

People with PTSD experience sleep problems, which can exacerbate symptoms. CBD has been found to improve the quality of sleep by relaxing the body and reducing stress and anxiety. Some research on CBD and sleep indicates that CBD may interact with specific receptors in the endocannabinoid system to potentially affect the sleep/wake cycle.

Eases Anxiety

PTSD is a type of anxiety problem. PTSD and social anxiety disorder frequently co-occur.[5] A 2011 study found that CBD was able to reduce Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). This preliminary study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test (SPST) on healthy control patients and treatment-naïve SAD patients who received a single dose of CBD or placebo. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in the speech performance of control patients, and significantly decreased alert levels in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group.[6]

For these reasons noted, CBD may be of help in treating the symptoms associated with CBD.

 

[1] Julia Nina, “CBD for PTSD: Does Does Cannabidiol Oil Help With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?” CFAH, July 2, 2021. https://cfah.org/cbd-for-ptsd/
[2] Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Apr;25(4):392-397. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0437. Epub 2018 Dec 13. PMID: 30543451; PMCID: PMC6482919.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30543451/
[3] Julia Nina, “CBD for PTSD: Does Does Cannabidiol Oil Help With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?”
[4] “Can CBD Tame The Symptoms of PTSD?” VA.org., Accessed October 24, 2021. https://va.org/can-cbd-tame-the-symptoms-of-ptsd/
[5] Tull, Martin, PhD, “The Relationship of PTSD and Other Anxiety Disorders,” verywell mind,” April 27, 2020. https://www.verywellmind.com/ptsd-and-other-anxiety-disorders-relationship-2797549
[6] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219‐1226. doi:10.1038/npp.2011.6.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21307846/