A recent study out of Haifa, Israel, suggests that cannabis can help improve sleep in adults suffering
from post-traumatic stress (PTSD), a psychiatric health response to a traumatic event.
This is not a small thing – especially for those who are miserable every night of their lives.
The use of cannabis prior to bedtime is associated with perceived improvements in sleep in subjects diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to data published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.
“Israeli researchers assessed the impact of cannabis on sleep in a cohort of 77 PTSD patients,” reported the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) recently. Participants in the study, titled Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Sleep, And Medical Cannabis Treatment: A Daily Diary Study, kept a daily journal in which they recorded numerous sleep measures each morning.
“Investigators acknowledged that the use of cannabis was associated with self-reported improvements in sleep onset and a reduction in the frequency of nightmares. Subjects who consumed products higher in CBD were less likely to report early awakenings,” the group noted.
“Our data suggest that MC (medical cannabis) may help reduce nightmares and (that) CBD in particular may be important for preventing early awakenings,” the investigators wrote. “This provides a strong basis for further hypotheses testing, potentially through clinical trials, of the sleep-inducing effects of MC and for testing CBD in particular.”
The authors concluded that “Given the high comorbidity of PTSD symptoms and sleep disturbances and the potential for MC to have effects on both, a greater understanding of how patients experience the effects of MC on overall PTSD symptoms and sleep disturbances is warranted.”
Prior studies, NORML pointed out, have similarly reported that cannabis products may be associated with improved sleep duration and improvements in insomnia. “The enactment of adult-use marijuana legalization has also been correlated with a decrease in the sale of over-the-counter sleep aid medications.”
Turning to cannabis for help in relieving PTSD is not new. The National Center for Biotechnology Information pointed out in 2019 that “in addition to potentially reducing PTSD symptoms, cannabis also mitigates the propensity for inflammation and may be useful in psychological conditions that involve elevated inflammatory processes within the brain. This would include a subset of depressed individuals in whom inflammation may be a component of the illness and may contribute to threat processing linked to PTSD in trauma survivors.”
In fact, the Center added, “anti-inflammatory agents can diminish PTSD features… Thus, cannabinoids could potentially act against PTSD by activation of cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) receptors, which promote anti-inflammatory actions involving microglia.
Washington, DC-based NORML, the oldest and largest marijuana legalization organization in the country, has long made the case that cannabis offers too many health benefits for it to continue to be ignored, vilified and banned, and its users punished. It has also worked to educate legislators and the public on cannabis’ benefits when it comes to helping those suffering from PTSD. As the organization makes clear on its web site, norml.org:
“Symptoms of post-traumatic stress may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. These symptoms may persist long after the triggering event and may be unresponsive to conventional therapeutic treatments. An estimated one in 10 Americans suffers from post-traumatic stress.
“Those diagnosed with PTSD report using cannabis at rates far greater than the general population. U.S. military veterans, who often suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress, similarly report elevated rates of cannabis use compared to the overall population. According to survey data compiled by the American Legion, 22% of veterans acknowledge that they “use cannabis to treat a mental or physical condition” and 39 percent of respondents “know a veteran” who is using it therapeutically.
“A growing number of scientists believe that the endogenous cannabinoid system plays a “critical role … in the etiology of PTSD in humans.” Researchers have theorized, “Cannabis may dampen the strength or emotional impact of traumatic memories through synergistic mechanisms that might make it easier for people with PTSD to rest or sleep and to feel less anxious and less involved with flashback memories. … Evidence is increasingly accumulating that cannabinoids might play a role in fear extinction and anti-depressive effects.”
“Studies show that cannabinoid administration can facilitate fear extinction memory recall in both animals and in humans. Specifically, the administration of nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, has been documented to safely mitigate various symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including insomnia, chronic pain, and treatment-resistant nightmares. Similarly, the adjunctive administration of orally absorbable THC has been shown to ‘cause a statistically significant improvement in global symptom severity, sleep quality, frequency of nightmares, and PTSD hyperarousal symptoms’ in a cohort of 10 subjects.