May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Post Traumatic Stress (or PTS – we dropped the “D” because we don’t like to stigmatize it as a disorder) is one of the most significant concerns regarding mental health. It can impact individuals at all ages, from all walks of life. Cannabis has been shown to provide some benefits in alleviating and managing the effects of PTS.
We wanted to share the insights of two experts – a disabled veteran and cannabis user and a psychiatrist who prescribes medical marijuana to some of her patients who struggle with PTS – to learn more about how cannabis can be used to treat the symptoms of PTS.
Dr. Rebecca Siegel is a psychiatrist with the renowned Amen Clinics and author of the newly published book, The Brain on Cannabis: What You Should Know about Recreational and Medical Marijuana. She specializes in the assessment and treatment of anxiety, mood disorders, and ADHD, often using medical cannabis.
Bryan Buckley is the founder and President of Helmand Valley Growers Company (HVGC). They have been in discussions with some of the cannabis industry’s top researchers, congress and the World Health Organization to effectively prove the benefits of medical cannabis in order to address the symptoms of PTS and chronic pain that plague U.S. veterans and society as a whole. In coordination with Battle Brothers Foundation, 100% of HVGC’s profits goes toward medical cannabis research.
Q: What has been your experience in treating PTS with cannabis?
Bryan Buckley: I can only speak on my personal experience. I am a 100% disabled veteran who suffers with PTS. Cannabis was an absolute game changer for me. The first time I consumed cannabis, it was the first time in years that I was able to sleep a full night. My body was finally at peace with itself.
Dr. Siegel: PTS is one of the hardest mental health conditions to treat because it manifests in so many different ways. I have had success in using medical marijuana to treat patients but this condition especially, really needs to be closely monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure dosing and administration is accurate.
Q: Is there any evidence that cannabis can actually help treat the symptoms of PTS?
BB: Yes, NiaMedica Healthcare and Research Services conducted a study in 2019 that yielded positive results. You can find their results here.
DS: There are studies out there that indicate that cannabis could benefit those dealing with PTS. But when it comes to cannabis and its effect on any condition, there is still SO much research that still needs to be done. I applaud the work of my friends at HVGC and Battle Brothers for their efforts to help fund and conduct more controlled research studies.
Q: Why has it been so difficult to get more research studies done?
BB: Cannabis (Marijuana) is considered a Schedule 1 Drug, which are drugs, substances, or chemicals that are defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some other examples of Schedule 1 drugs are: LSD, ecstasy, and heroin. This greatly limits the ability to research cannabis. That is why Battle Brothers Foundation is so fortunate to be awarded an Institutional Review Board approval to study if medical cannabis can reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. It also shows why we need to work so hard to get cannabis removed from that list.
DS: It’s a catch 22. There’s still so much we don’t know about cannabis that has many people, including those in government and research, who shy away from talking about it. As I learned in writing my book, the decades old perceptions about cannabis are really holding us back from moving forward with it as a therapeutic. It’s time to retire that old “brain on drugs” mentality and realize that this natural plant could, in fact, provide some medical benefits. But we won’t full know its potential until we study it further.
Q: For those who suffer with PTS, what should they know about using medical cannabis to treat their condition?
BB: My recommendation from my personal experience is to always tell people to go slow and keep a journal. If possible, sit down with a nurse or doctor who is a supporter of cannabis treatment and seek their guidance. You want to find what delivery system and type of cannabis meets your needs.
DS: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of working with a medical professional to assess the proper treatment using cannabis. It is not a one size fits all solution. The dosing, type of cannabis (including THC and CBD levels), frequency, and method of consumption will all affect the efficacy. There are potential side effects so I encourage my patients to document their experiences between our appointments.