What Can CBD Do For PTSD?
By Keith Alban
"My palms sweat. Every single minute of every single day I live in a constant state of unease, like the feeling you get when you reach the top of a roller coaster and you know in just a moment, you’ll be careening down the other side. Nothing has helped. I left part of my soul in Afghanistan & I don’t think I’ll ever get it back.”
These words were spoken by Army veteran Nathan Alexander, who speaks fearlessly and openly from his heart about the sad reality that America’s war veterans go through. We all know that members of our armed forces make such loyal sacrifices risking their lives to fight for our everyday freedom. What many of us don’t recognize are the lifelong struggles that millions of veterans silently endure upon returning home. It’s often a battle within itself to even talk about the mental and emotional issues that occur after the physical war has ended.
To paint a small picture of the reality for millions that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, here is a common scenario that occurs. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, your heart is racing so fast that you can barely force your lungs to breathe fast enough to compensate. You feel like you’re having a panic attack and feel sick to your stomach. You try and calm down, relax your nerves, yet are unable to more often than not. You shiver and shake, yet are sweating profusely and peeling your drenched clothing off of your skin. You’re in your bed, safe and sound external, yet you feel like the walls are caving in around you.
The first time that PTSD’s mental and emotional turmoil makes an appearance in your life can feel like you’re losing a grip on reality. The feeling of confusion and not knowing why your body and mind are experiencing symptoms that you’ve never felt before can cause extreme fear. It can start to feel as you’ve lost touch of reality. Paralyzing anxiety, uncontrollable rage, overwhelming fear, and crippling depression are regular occurrences for some with PTSD. On top of that, it’s very confusing to know what the best course of action to take when these symptoms suddenly hit like a freight train. Many that serve in the military try to be tough, strong-minded people and don’t want to burden others with problems they may be going through. Most doctors and therapists can’t pinpoint exactly why some of these symptoms are occurring or truly understand what veterans are going through.
The Problem of Conventional Treatment
Many doctors and therapists quickly resort to handing out potentially dangerous medication like tootsie rolls on Halloween. PTSD is an everyday reality for nearly half of all combat veterans in the United States. Many are filling their bodies with handfuls of pharmaceuticals and trying their best to numb the pain, but only end up numbing their experience of life without feeling the inner peace they desire. In addition to that, the awful side effects of these drugs start creeping in at some point, which perpetuates the nightmare even more.
There are options and tools available that aren’t being utilized by doctors. One option that may offer some hope to veterans is called cannabidiol, better known as CBD. Another suffocating result of life in a war zone is a profound level of grief that many veterans feel. Many have spoken about grief after returning home and the loss of their former identity. The burden that grief can cause is commonly overlooked in the life of a post-war veteran. All of these things are vital when dealing with feelings of grief. It's pivotal to be able to share these experiences and unburden the trauma of being at war.
The feeling of peace and safety seems like the most elusive thing in the world. Yet everything objectively should warrant a feeling of inner peace and comfort. Many people know that real safety isn’t only an external thing, but also an internal thing that can often very inconsistent when living with PTSD. This example can’t even begin to relay the constant battle that many vets deal with on a daily basis when arriving home from the service. Millions of people that serve have little way of knowing the nightmare that accompanies enrollment to help their country. Most have heard about PTSD, but there’s really nothing that can prepare people for what life is like on a daily basis with it.
The Therapeutic Versatility of Cannabinoids
The discovery of CBD and other cannabinoids may help vets to regain some of their lost peace and have some semblance of normalcy in their lives. CBD use for PTSD is becoming widely known and regarded as a safe option that offers multiple benefits. Not everyone that tries CBD will feel results like some have, as responses to supplements vary tremendously from person to person. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Perhaps the most commonly known compound in the plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which creates the “high”, or “stoned” feeling.
THC is the only compound to have psychoactive effects out of all the known cannabinoids. CBD is much better suited for people with PTSD than THC and marijuana. Studies have shown that when CBD is administered after a traumatic event, it may help to alter the retention of that memory and the manner in which it’s stored in the brain. This action may help to reduce the strength of the scars and wounds that can cause many of the symptoms of PTSD in the future.
Cannabinoids may also help to reduce the recollection of traumatic memories, thus reducing anxiety symptoms. In one small study with 11 participants, 91% of the patients saw a decrease in symptom severity after 8 weeks of CBD supplementation. (1) Other studies showed CBD having multiple actions within the brain that had a positive impact on several symptoms of PTSD. (2) This is exciting news that CBD can actually affect the underlying storage of traumatic memories!
The Incredible Importance of Neurotransmitter Balance
CBD seems to work some of its magic by affecting GABA and 5-HT1A receptors. These two receptors help to improve serotonin and GABA levels in the brain, which are pivotal in maintaining emotional well being. Many conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic disorders, and many others show the underlying themes of low GABA and serotonin levels. These proper balance of these chemicals are more crucial to lasting peace. CBD’s ability to improve serotonin production may help in creating a greater sense of stability in life.
Serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness, comfort, balance, and plays a role in sleep, digestion, self-esteem, aggression, social behavior, sexual function, and more. (3) GABA is the main neurotransmitter responsible for feeling calm, tranquil, balanced, and centered through the ebbs and flows of life. CBD has shown that it may help to ease negative, fearful thoughts and improve sleep quality. These actions of altering how we process and store traumatic memories, along with the influence on these crucial neurotransmitters, lay the foundation of CBD’s potential for PTSD.
In addition to these effects, CBD has been shown to influence many other cell receptors in the brain and body. All of this helps to lead to more internal balance and stability for some people. It’s very important to address nutrient deficiencies as well, CBD can only go so far if the body is depleted of nutrients it needs. CBD has also been shown to assist with pain relief, and may even help with addictions to drugs, alcohol, cocaine, and nicotine. (4) Many veterans have turned to these substances to help cope with the manifestations and symptoms of PTSD.
Not only does CBD have the ability to decrease the desire to resort to these substances in the first place, but it may also help when trying to quit them. Sometimes CBD alone won’t be enough to accomplish some of these things, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle. A condition that once looked terribly bleak is now becoming more widely understood and able to be improved without the use of dangerous drugs or medication. Veterans now have some hope in treating the tumultuous cocktail of emotional, mental, and physical pain involved with PTSD.
The state of peace that was normal before fighting for our country may not be such an elusive thing to get back. By no means will CBD resolve all PTSD issues, there are other nutrients that are needed for deeper healing to occur. A few other supplements that may be worth a try and would blend very well with CBD for PTSD are magnesium glycinate, magnesium threonate, P5P for of vitamin B6 (small doses), inositol, liposomal curcumin extract, duanwood grown red reishi, bacopa monnieri, honokiol extract, holy basil, saffron extract, and even sniffing orange, sandalwood, lavender, and frankincense essential oils. (5)