In recent years, medical cannabis has stepped into the spotlight as a potential game-changer in the field of mental health, offering new hope and possibilities for those grappling with the debilitating symptoms of PTSD. Individuals coping with PTSD often turn to cannabis to alleviate symptoms such as intrusive reexperiencing, sleep disturbances, and anxiety or hyperarousal . Cannabinoids from cannabis are thought to improve symptoms through the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are activated by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of marijuana. These receptors are primarily located in brain regions known for their role in regulating cognitions, emotions, memory, and fear (prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala) . The non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) activates CB2 receptors. CB2 receptors are most abundant in the peripheral nervous system and in immune cells, which are also heavily associated with anxiety and fear responses.
Medical Marijuana for PTSD
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) happens when people go through traumatic events that were or felt life-threatening, or are witness to others experiencing these events . About 8 to 9% of people experience PTSD, and it’s especially common among veterans. This disorder mainly shows up as problems in how someone thinks and feels, such as having bad memories, nightmares, and flashbacks about the traumatic event. People with PTSD also try to avoid anything that reminds them of their trauma and might feel depressed, anxious, emotional, impulsive, or always on edge. It can also affect how they interact with others.
Usually, PTSD is treated with therapies that don’t involve medicine, like talking to someone trained to help, or using techniques such as exposure therapy or biofeedback . In some cases, they might need medications like SSRIs, SNRIs, or tricyclic antidepressants to help restore the balance of certain chemicals in the brain and ease symptoms. The growing knowledge of the endocannabinoid system has more recently sparked interest in utilizing medical marijuana in PTSD treatment plans.
Studies have shown that the brains of people with PTSD undergo changes in parts of the brain responsible for fear, emotions, and memory . This disorder is connected to imbalances in chemicals in the brain, which can lead to symptoms like being jumpy, having nightmares, and getting upset easily. CBD in particular has been found to affect the way these brain chemicals work, which can reduce stress and make it easier for people to cope with PTSD symptoms. However, caution needs to be taken when selecting strains that have THC. THC, especially in sativa strains, can increase feelings of paranoia.
Best Cannabis Strains for PTSD
If you are a PTSD patient that has been prescribed medical marijuana, it is important to exercise caution when selecting strains. As mentioned, some strains may agitate symptoms instead of alleviating them. Your physician will likely recommend that you start with non-psychoactive CBD cannabis with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC that is less psychoactive. If further THC potency is necessary, it is important to start with small amounts to test how different varieties affect you as an individual. The effects of cannabis strains can be generalized, but each person’s endocannabinoid system is unique and can react differently. With these words of caution in mind, here are some cannabis strains for PTSD to consider.
- Kush Hemp (CBD)
Kush Hemp was developed by crossing Pre ’98 Bubba Kush with an undisclosed high CBD variety. This CBD-rich variant of Kush preserves the essence of the original strain without causing intoxication. CBD Kush provides a soothing and relaxing experience, gently influencing both the body and mind. It boasts flavors with hints of spice and herbs, complemented by citrus undertones, thanks to the presence of terpenes like myrcene, limonene, and caryophyllene. These terpenes not only contribute to its taste but also support its therapeutic qualities.
- Remedy (CBD)
Remedy is a CBD-rich hemp strain, resulting from the crossbreeding of Cannatonic and Afghan Skunk. This serene strain provides a series of calming effects, promoting relaxation in both the body and mind, all without causing any psychoactive sensations. Its dominant terpenes including caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene support therapeutic benefits while offering a sensory profile characterized by a sweet and floral essence, complemented by hints of citrus and juniper. For medical cannabis patients seeking relaxation without the potential disruptions caused by THC, Remedy is an excellent option.
- Dancehall (1:1)
Dancehall, a sativa-dominant hybrid, results from the fusion of Juanita La Lagrimosa and Kalijah strains. This unique “1:1” variety is characterized by a remarkably low THC content, hovering at approximately 1%, coupled with a CBD level of around 15%. The distinct balance it offers brings about clear-headed effects, elevating one’s mood and fostering creativity and sociability. Users often describe their experience with Dancehall as an uplifting surge of energy, complemented by a gentle body relaxation. Its primary terpenes, myrcene, caryophyllene, and limonene, contribute to its flavor profile, introducing spicy and herbal notes with sweet citrus undertones.
- Sundae Driver (THC)
Sundae Driver, a relatively new cannabis strain, has been gaining popularity among enthusiasts. As the name implies, this hybrid variety offers a tranquil equilibrium that encourages relaxation and a carefree state of mind. It’s the perfect companion for a leisurely stroll in the park on a laid-back afternoon. Sundae Driver’s genetic makeup results from crossing FPOG with Grape Pie, yielding a flavor profile that’s sweet, airy, and creamy, with subtle hints of grape, vanilla, and berry. The terpenes that prominently define this strain are limonene, caryophyllene, and myrcene, although linalool, humulene, and ocimene also contribute to shaping its delightful taste. When cultivated skillfully, Sundae Driver buds may display traces of purple and come adorned with glistening crystalline trichomes.
- Strawberry Banana (THC)
Strawberry Banana, also known as Strawnana, is a cannabis hybrid resulting from the fusion of Banana Kush and the “Strawberry” variation of Bubble Gum. With a long-standing presence in the market, Strawberry Banana is readily accessible in many dispensaries, making it a suitable choice for newcomers to the world of indicas. The effects of this strain gradually intensify and may require a bit of extra time to fully kick in, so it’s advisable to exercise patience before indulging further. Strawberry Banana’s high is characterized by an uplifting mood coupled with relaxation of both the body and mind. However, what truly sets it apart is its delectably fruity and sweet strawberry flavor. This enticing taste is achieved through the rich presence of terpenes such as limonene, myrcene, and caryophyllene, which infuse a hint of hashy spice into the fruity flavor profile.
- Bedard-Gilligan, M., Lehinger, E., Cornell-Maier, S., Holloway, A., & Zoellner, L. (2022). Effects of Cannabis on PTSD Recovery: Review of the Literature and Clinical Insights. Current addiction reports, 9(3), 203–216. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9648847/
- Rehman, Y., Saini, A., Huang, S., Sood, E., Gill, R., & Yanikomeroglu, S. (2021). Cannabis in the management of PTSD: a systematic review. AIMS neuroscience, 8(3), 414–434. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8222769/