The human body contains systems that are filled with neuromodulators (receptors) and these sophisticated receptors help regulate a variety of physiological processes including movement, mood, memory, appetite and pain. In much the same manner that the human body’s endocrine system receptors respond to opiates – the root compounds of many pain relieving medications like morphine, codeine and hydrocodone (Vicodin) – the body’s endocannabinoid system receptors respond to the compounds present in cannabis called cannabinoids.
Anxiety is regulated by the endocannabinoid receptors that line the human brain, and while it is natural for a person to experience symptoms of anxiety, the severity of symptoms should dissolve over time. When the body does not produce enough anandamide, the endocannabinoid responsible for controlling anxiety, PTSD is more likely to develop. A patient may be diagnosed as suffering from PTSD if anxiety symptoms such as flashbacks, depression, social withdrawal, insomnia or night terrors, interfere with daily life or last longer than five weeks. Cannabinoids bind to the same regulatory receptors in the brain as the anxiety regulator, anandamide. It is believed that people diagnosed with PTSD exhibit lower natural levels of anandamide when compared to non-PTSD sufferers. An expert that has studied PTSD as part of Project CBD states that “anandamide triggers the same (endocannabinoid) receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant.” A clear connection as to why medical cannabis can be effective in alleviating the symptoms of PTSD.
Although the regular use of medical cannabis may not cure PTSD, researchers in New Mexico, the first state to authorize the use of medical cannabis in the treatment of PTSD, revealed in a 2014 study that PTSD symptoms can be reduced by up to 75 percent with the use of cannabis. A 2014 study conducted in Israel at the University of Haifa and published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that THC and CBD help to block or inhibit the painful memory of the traumatic event – effectively, these cannabinoids work to allow the subject to naturally and beneficially suppress the memories of traumatic or frightening events. “The findings of our study suggest that the connectivity within the brain’s fear circuit changes following trauma, and the administration of cannabinoids prevents this change from happening.”