According to a new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, inhaled marijuana temporarily mitigates symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS), including anxiety and flashbacks. The study is titled Short and long-term effects of cannabis on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
For the study, researchers with the Washington State University and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine examined the use of marijuana in 404 medical cannabis patients who self-identified as suffering from post-traumatic stress. As reported by NORML, on average respondents “reported a 62 percent reduction in the severity of intrusive thoughts, a 51 percent reduction in flashbacks, a 67 percent reduction in irritability, and a 57 percent reduction in the severity of anxiety, from before to after inhaling cannabis.” Researchers reported no significant differences in subjects’ outcomes that were attributable to specific varieties of cannabis and or THC/CBD content.
Authors reported that cannabis’ effects on PTS symptoms were relatively short-lived and that regular use of marijuana over the study period did not influence subjects’ baseline symptom ratings.
They concluded by stating that “Results from the present study indicate that acute cannabis intoxication provides temporary relief from intrusions, flashbacks, irritability, and anxiety in individuals self-identifying as having PTSD. However, baseline PTSD symptom ratings did not change over time and we detected evidence that people used higher doses to manage anxiety over time, which may be indicative of the development of tolerance to the drug.
“Collectively, these results indicate that cannabis may reduce PTSD symptoms in the short-term but may not be an effective long-term remedy for the disorder. Future research should examine specific cannabinoid preparations as monotherapy, as well as adjunct to conventional behavioral and pharmacological interventions, within well-powered placebo-controlled trials.”
The study’s full abstract can be found below:
Background: Many individuals use cannabis to manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and evidence indicates that the endocannabinoid system represents a viable target for treating these symptoms.
Method: Data from 404 medical cannabis users who self-identified as having PTSD were obtained from Strainprint®, a medical cannabis app that patients use to track changes in symptoms as a function of different strains and doses of cannabis across time. This sample collectively used the app 11,797 times over 31 months to track PTSD-related symptoms (intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, irritability, and/or anxiety) immediately before and after inhaling cannabis. Latent change score models were used to examine changes in symptom severity and predictors of these changes (gender, dose, cannabis constituents, time). Multilevel models were used to explore long-term consequences of repeatedly using cannabis to manage these symptoms.
Results: All symptoms were reduced by more than 50% immediately after cannabis use. Time predicted larger decreases in intrusions and irritability, with later cannabis use sessions predicting greater symptom relief than earlier sessions. Higher doses of cannabis predicted larger reductions in intrusions and anxiety, and dose used to treat anxiety increased over time. Baseline severity of all symptoms remained constant across time.
Limitations: The sample was self-selected, self-identified as having PTSD, and there was no placebo control group.
Conclusions: Cannabis provides temporary relief from PTSD-related symptoms. However, it may not be an effective long-term remedy as baseline symptoms were maintained over time and dose used for anxiety increased over time, which is indicative of development of tolerance.