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The human mind is a sensitive entity consisting of many parts, which is affected by many factors both momentarily and over a long period of time. Traumatic stress disorder is often perceived only as a disease of those who experience continuous trauma at work or in life, but it can break out in times of need for anyone. In this article, we’ll explore PTSD, the endocannabinoid system, and whether or not CBD oil helps to release trauma.
Traumatic stress disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the result of a very strong event that shocks a person deeply. For example, an accident, violence, war, disasters, injury or just the threat of these can trigger a stress reaction, which sometimes develops into a syndrome. PTSD is chronic stress , which is always accompanied by a strong traumatic experience that happens either to oneself or to a loved one (1).
After the event, the autonomic nervous system is activated, but does not recover even with time. It is a prerequisite for the onset of PTSD, but not always a sign of it. Often the symptoms start immediately and last from a few months to several years, while sometimes the symptoms only start months later and slowly intensify over time.
Symptoms vary between people, but the most common symptoms include e.g. sleep difficulties and nightmares, constant recall of events, challenges affecting mood such as anxiety and depression, strong emotions, difficulty concentrating and surprising social challenges even among familiar people. Also, states of fear and constant alertness are especially chronic symptoms. Also, e.g. headaches and stomach problems may occur. (1,2)
When making a diagnosis, the symptoms are usually divided into three parts, which usually repeat between different patients. Typical symptoms include flashbacks of the event, physical symptoms such as sweating and palpitations, and some degree of withdrawal and isolation. PTSD may also predispose for substance use, for depression and anxiety. (1,2)
Diagnosis, treatment and prevention
Getting a diagnosis requires that life-threatening symptoms continue for at least a month. Otherwise, the condition is classified as an acute stress reaction, which is treated with slightly different means. Due to the diagnosis, when typical PTSD symptoms appear and continue even slightly longer, it is necessary to see a doctor, who will guide you to the right treatment through a discussion.
Traumatic stress reaction is primarily treated with therapy. According to experience, hypnosis has also been used with good results. Medicines used to treat the disease are e.g. serotonin reuptake inhibitors and various tranquilizers used to treat depression and anxiety, but no specific medicine for this problem has been developed. Because of this, the treatments are currently perceived as quite ineffective. The aim is to avoid drug treatment, because there is no good medicine that works and the drugs mainly focus on side symptoms such as relaxation, sleep difficulties and depression. The most important thing is to get to the actual root cause, that is, to dissolve the experienced trauma as best as possible. (1,2)
It is not actually possible to prevent traumatic stress disorder, because it arises from a very sudden situation.
PTSD and the nervous system
After a sudden traumatic event, it is common for the autonomic nervous system to become activated and typical stress symptoms such as palpitations, strong feelings of anxiety and cold sweats surface. Fear, escape reaction and are also typical initial symptoms.
The autonomic nervous system is a part of the nervous system that is divided into two parts, the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. The activation of the sympathetic nervous system is necessary for survival, but if for one reason or another the parasympathetic nervous system does not balance and calm the sympathetic nervous system, the symptoms remain and put the body in a constant state of battle. PTSD develops from the battle mode in which the body and nervous system get stuck. (3,4,5)
The internal cannabinoid system and PTSD
In addition to the endocannabinoid system monitors the functioning of all processes in the body, it also underlies functions related to memories and emotions. (3,4,5) Endocannabinoid system and the stress connection has been studied extensively in animal experiments and it is clearly noticeable (6).
Interesting observations have been made in the studies. It has been noticed that if trauma occurs in childhood, endocannabinoid ligand and receptor levels are clearly reduced, while after trauma in adulthood, ligand levels are reduced, but the number of receptors is increased. Changes in the brain are region-specific and differences between the sexes have also been noticed. (6) In general, PTSD patients seem to be elevated cannabinoid receptor levels and decreased anandamide levels (3,5,6).
With the endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in the background of forgetting unpleasant things. (3)
The memory that stores unpleasant things and erasing them requires the activation of the CB1 receptor (6).
CBD alongside therapy
According to studies, CBD, definitely has a huge potential to help people suffering from PTSD disorder, as it is one of the few so-called of memory cleaning compounds (3,4,5,6). It is almost without exception found to be effective as well as safe and well tolerated, and it can be used by children, adults and animals. In Israel, where the medicinal use of hemp has been studied for decades, CBD has been found and approved for mental health challenges only for the treatment of PTSD, and to support treatment.
The use of CBD in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has been studied in quite small samples among humans, but the subject has been studied much more widely in rodents. The results obtained from both are promising. It has been found in animal experiments that CBD contributes to the loss of negative memories and the reprogramming of the brain (3,6). It has been suggested that the administration of cannabinoids immediately after a traumatic event might prevent the memory from being attached, reducing the risk of PTSD onset, but this is associated with questions, as PTSD only develops in a fraction of people who have experienced severe trauma, and it is therefore not possible to predict immediately after the situation whether CBD treatment is needed or not. (5)
Cannabinoids weaken traumatic memory by activating the death of negative memory and influencing its recovery. (3).
CBD has been found to have numerous therapeutic properties over the years and acts through several physiological functions. Through serotonin receptors CBD protects the nerves, relieves anxiety and depression, and it also inhibits the production of FAAH, an enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids, indirectly increasing the levels of CB1 receptors, as endocannabinoids increase at the same rate as decomposers decrease. (6)
CBD has positive effects on sleep-related challenges and you can read more about that effect here. Anxiety has also been found to be alleviated with the help of CBD oil and it is possible read more here.
CBD and prolonged stress
The effects of CBD on stress are undeniable. In prolonged stress, the body and nervous system no longer recover, and a good night’s sleep or one walk in the forest will not help. Chronic ie Prolonged stress requires calming down life at least momentarily, and often a person also needs aids such as CBD oil and conversational help to navigate the situation.
You can read more about CBD’s effect on stress here .
PTSD is a life-affecting syndrome with both psychological and physical symptoms. There are no very effective forms of treatment, because there is no medicine that works, and often with queues for therapy stretching for miles, it can also take a lot of time to get the right treatment. Sometimes traumatic stress disorder goes away on its own over time, but most people who suffer from it need professional help to deal with the trauma. CBD oil has been studied to have properties that, by utilizing it, could ease both the symptoms caused by PTSD and also help to get over the trauma completely. CBD has been extensively studied within the scope of the topic and hopefully will also be used more widely in the future for the treatment of PTSD.
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- A working group set up by the Duodecim of the Finnish Medical Society, the Finnish Psychiatry Association and the Finnish Children’s Psychiatry Association. Duodecim is a valid treatment. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). https://www.kaypahoito.fi/kht00096. Referred on 28/11/2022.
- Bitencourt RM and Takahashi RN. 2018. Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=Takahashi%20RN%5BAuthor%5D. Referred on 28/11/2022.
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- Elms L., Shannon S., Hughes S, and Lewis N.. 2019. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=Shannon %20S% 5BAuthor%5D. Referred on 28/11/2022.