PTSD and Cannabis: What You Should Know

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day, which means it’s the perfect time to discuss the potential benefits of medical cannabis on the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

At Doctor Jane, one particular group of potential medical cannabis patients is particularly near and dear to our hearts: veterans. As a United States Navy veteran and former NCAA Division I ice hockey player, I’ve made it my mission to bring education and evidence-based personalized treatment and therapy into patients homes—part of a holistic approach to treating a wide range of medical conditions and illnesses, not the least of which is PTSD.

Before we can address how cannabis can help PTSD sufferers, we need to fully understand the condition, its causes, and the way it can manifest itself. 

What is PTSD?

“PTSD” is the commonly used abbreviation for “post-traumatic stress disorder”, a mental health condition generally triggered when an individual either experiences or witnesses a particularly distressing or traumatic (physically or psychologically) event. PTSD symptoms can emerge relatively quickly following a traumatic event, or may take years to manifest--either way, they generally cause significant problems for sufferers in social and work situations, with relationships, and can affect an individual’s ability to go about his or her daily tasks. 

PTSD symptoms are grouped into four main categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. More specific information on how each of these four categories manifests is available from the Mayo Clinic. 

Many people are familiar with PTSD only due to the frequency at which it affects members of our Armed Forces who have experienced combat. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans with PTSD varies according to service era:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom: Anywhere from 11-20% of veterans who served in these conflicts are affected by PTSD in a given year.

  • Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12% of veterans who served in this conflict have PTSD in a given year.

  • Vietnam War: About 15% of veterans who served in this war were diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study (conducted in the late 1980s) of this population. Approximately 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD at least once in their lifetime. 

Veterans are not the only ones that suffer from PTSD. According to the PTSD Alliance, 7.7 million Americans have PTSD, and 30-40% of those with PTSD also suffer from addiction and substance abuse, further complicating their symptoms and often preventing them from seeking the help they need to address the cause underlying their PTSD.

Cannabis for PTSD Sufferers

Last year, Marine Corps veteran and Arizona police officer Elvis Alonzo sat down with Scientific American to share his experience with PTSD. His time with the Marine Corps and the police force left him emotionally crippled, and towards the end of his 13 years on the force he was diagnosed with PTSD--no surprise given his experience with murders, suicides and even people dying in his arms. After his diagnosis, doctors prescribed various medications in an effort to temper the nightmares and flashbacks that plagued him, but the drugs “turned me into a zombie,” Alonzo says. “I was so out of it that I couldn’t even drive, so [the police department] had to medically retire me.” Either as a result of the treatment or in spite of it, Alonzo stopped showering. His wife left him. He almost lost his house. 

For those like Mr. Alonzo dealing with the often debilitating  symptoms of post-traumatic stress, there is a better and safer solution. Medications offering derivations of hemp and cannabis are uniquely capable of providing relief for such symptoms without the risks common of most prescription medications. Doctor Jane patients, for instance, have reported marked reductions in mental and physical symptoms (resulting from both PTSD and other conditions) following treatment with these options. As a specialist in neurolopsychiatric disorders, I am able to confidently recommend either primary or supplemental treatment with medical cannabis to those dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of course, consultation with Doctor Jane or your preferred physician is strongly encouraged alongside my endorsement. 

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, it is critical to seek immediate treatment in order to reduce symptoms and improve overall return  to normal function. There are a number of resources that can help individuals suffering from PTSD to find effective treatment and learn more about this condition, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, the world’s leading research and educational resource for PTSD and traumatic stress. Another great resource for PTSD and traumatic stress sufferers is the PTSD Alliance. And as always, if you have questions about PTSD or using medical cannabis to help alleviate symptoms associated with PTSD please do not hesitate to reach out to me and my team at Doctor Jane directly and we can help point you in the right direction.

If nothing else, remember this: You are not alone. There is no shame or weakness in asking for help. Having the courage to seek and accept help is a demonstration of true character. We are here to help.

Today’s blog post is written by Rick Liogier-Weyback, MD, founder and president at Doctor Jane and our licensed medical cannabis physician. If you are considering cannabis treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact our team at your earliest convenience.

About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical cannabis treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications. 

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation.