What is PTSD?
According to the PTSD Alliance “Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects around 12 million American men and women. It is a condition of persistent anxiety and flashbacks resulting from a traumatic or life-threatening situation. Although the term PTSD wasn’t coined until the ‘70s or added to the official DSM until 1980, its symptoms have been described for centuries. Originally known as ‘shell shock’ during the world wars, the symptoms occur after some time has passed since the initial fear-producing trauma; weeks for some, years for others.
PTSD symptoms, by their nature, can be triggered by environmental stimuli such as the sound of a car crash or of a firing gun. This hypersensitivity to certain alarming events is a notable diagnostic feature of PTSD.
With modern medical imaging, doctors and researchers are able to scan the brains of individuals with PTSD and compare their resting brain to both their brain undergoing a normal level of fear and their brain during a PTSD flashback triggered by something related to the initial trauma. What this reveals is a different chemical response to the two different stimuli; the entire chemical tone of the brain is thrown out of whack, and it leads to the inordinate excitation of the amygdala, which is the fear center of our brain that decides within milliseconds whether a stimulus is life-threatening.
During repeated high-stress situations, such as war or sexual assault, we develop a pseudo-tolerance to the fear response produced by the amygdala. This allows us to deal with our fearful stimulus in the moment without being paralyzed by anxiety. However, this redesigns how the brain responds to fear. When we are thrown back into “ordinary” life, the tolerance wears off and we’re left with a hyperactive amygdala that struggles to differentiate between past and present, and between threatening and nonthreatening.”
How is the endocannabinoid system involved?
Due to the connection between PTSD and long-term memory, the endocannabinoid system has a direct effect on the functions of of the initial fear response that trains the amygdala to become hyperactive. Stress causes a rapid boost in adrenaline which can trigger the negative responses associated with PTSD.
People with PTSD share the common trait of chronically low baseline cortisol levels, even years after their trauma. This allows resting stress and anxiety to become elevated as the role of cortisol is to keep them suppressed.
Because of CBD’s natural effect on the ECS system and it’s ability to raise base levels of serotonin. This can actually help diffuse some of the side side effects caused by low baseline cortisol levels.
What Does This Mean For You?
In the least amount of words, CBD can help people with PTSD by naturally relieving the level of stress and therefore positively affecting their symptoms. Obviously we recommend seeing a physician before taking any drastic measures to your normal PTSD treatment, but it’s nice to know science backs what many have known for thousands of years and that is CBD can help!