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CBD Oil: A Potential Treatment For PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop in a person who has experienced a traumatic event. PTSD is a chronic psychiatric condition that manifests at different levels through sleep disturbances, changes in cognition, reduced social skills, mood, emotional instability, and can lead to severe depression, and anxiety. PTSD has been classified as an anxiety disorder that affects approximately 10% of people in the world. There is a substantial amount of research that supports the potential CBD oil has for treating PTSD.

There is a lot to discover on how CBD affects and reduces symptoms related to PTSD. Research has taken off in this direction to attempt to understand how CBD can treat PTSD and what the long term effects are. Randomized controlled studies are being done, all of which aim for the same purpose, to explore the benefits and measure the therapeutic value of CBD for patients with PTSD

Insightful results documented from different studies show how the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in regulating behavior, learning, emotional response, and more. Two cannabinoid receptors in the human body known as CB1 and CB2 receptors are responsible for regulating neurotransmitters in a manner that prevents excessive neuronal activity, thus calming and decreasing anxiety. CB1 receptors also play an important role in reducing pain, inflammation, regulating movement and posture control, and regulating sensory perception, memory, and cognitive function. 

A recent review by Hill et al. (2018) reveals that a deficiency of endocannabinoids in the human body may produce a stress endophenotype, predisposing the individual to trauma-related psychopathology developments. This work further adds to the explanation of how CBD enhances endocannabinoid signaling in the body resulting in its therapeutic effects and potential to treat PTSD.

The amygdala is one of the many areas of the brain affected by CBD. Patients with PTSD symptoms usually have heightened activity in this area that contributes to the severity of their symptoms. Studies show CBD has the ability to decrease hyperactivity and excessive neuronal activity which reduces traumatic memories, increases sleep quality and duration and contributes to lower anxiety levels. CBD oil has become a popular treatment for veterans and psychiatric patients as more research proves its efficacy.

A controlled clinical study was performed in 2016 on a child who underwent standard pharmacological treatment for PTSD, which produced short-lasting partial relief, as well as significant side effects. Then CBD therapy was given to the ten-year-old girl suffering from PTSD and high anxiety. Every day she was given a controlled dose of CBD oil (12 – 25mg). The CBD oil appeared to show significant relief of the symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disturbance and had minimal side effects. (Shannon and Opila-Lehman, 2016)

Another important study worth highlighting published in 2019, shows promising results and evidence of how CBD may be used to treat PTSD for psychiatric patients with severe anxiety.

A group of practitioners from Wholeness Center, a large mental health clinic with a focus on integrative medicine and psychiatry collaborated to study CBD oil effects of patients with a diagnosis of PTSD. A sample of 11 patients, mostly females, were instructed to take CBD once or twice per day depending on the severity of symptoms. Most were given CBD capsules and a few took CBD oil in an oral spray. The average start dose was 25 mg per day and every 4 weeks the dose was increased based on the patient’s experience and feedback. Most patients received a dose increase at the 4-week appointment to maximize the PTSD symptom reduction, which directly correlated with higher doses. Patients in this study had additional psychiatric conditions including anxiety, mood, personality, and sleep disorders.

Surprisingly, the majority of patients in this study reported significant improvement related to PTSD nightmares. All patients from this study experienced sustained decreases in symptoms ranging from sleep disturbance, anxiety, and improved sleep quality, mood and focus. Over an eight week period, the patients demonstrated an overall decrease in PTSD symptoms and severity. Patients also reported greater improvement in symptoms when the CBD dose was higher. 

Additionally, many studies have shown CBD to have enormous therapeutic potential not only for trauma-related disorders, but also for various other psychiatric and neurological disorders. Measuring the efficacy of CBD for PTSD in humans needs to be studied much more, however, steps are already being taken in the direction to give CBD oil to patients with PTSD related disorders.

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