Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, is a widely known disease with high prevalence in countries around the world. While in the past PTSD was most often associated with military personnel, our understanding of this mental health condition is much greater today. According to the majority of available sources, including Psychology Today, the prevalence of PTSD is much higher among women than men. Current statistics estimate that PTSD affects 2.1%-2.3% of the global population, and according to Phoenix Australian, there are over one million Australians, or an estimated 4.4% of the AU population, living with PTSD at any point in time.
The PTSD Landscape
PTSD comes in three primary subtypes. These include Complex PTSD, Comorbid PTSD, and Dissociative PTSD. Each of these three types of PTSD is characterized by its own unique set of symptoms, prevalence, and risks.
Signs of PTSD
PTSD results from living through and surviving a traumatic event. However, each subset of PTSD also has its own underlying triggers. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms and signs of PTSD include but are not limited to the following.
- • Intrusive memories which may include recurrent and unwanted memories of a traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, or dreams of the event
- • Avoiding discussion regarding the event as well as places, people, and activities that may remind a person of the traumatic event
- • Feelings of hopelessness and detachment
- • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- • Recurrent negative thoughts
- • Trouble sleeping
- • Concentration and/or memory issues
- • Easily frightened and/or startled
- • Aggressive outbursts of anger and constant irritability
When Should You Seek Help for PTSD?
The severity and intensity of symptoms associated with PTSD can greatly vary between individuals. They can also greatly vary for an individual from one day to the next and sometimes even from one moment to the next. If you have lived through a traumatic event and have experienced disturbing feelings or thoughts surrounding it for more than a month, it is highly advised to seek medical help.
If you have suddenly developed severe symptoms or they have become increasingly more severe over time, it is also advisable to speak to a mental health professional. If at any time you feel suicidal, it is essential that you reach out to a mental health professional, friends, loved ones, a spiritual leader, or a trained counselor through resources such as Lifeline Australia, which offers 24-hour suicide prevention and crisis resources via phone text and online chat.
How Is PTSD Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose PTSD, a medical professional will have to complete both a mental and physical exam. During the evaluations, professionals will look at things such as the type of event that was experienced and the individual person’s response. Doctors will also look at how the events are being re-experienced within daily activities and what is causing that to occur. An extensive look at personal history is also essential to see how an individual has coped after a traumatic event, as well as how they have coped with the memories that come with it. Understanding just how long symptoms have been present, as well as any change in severity and frequency, is essential in diagnosing PTSD.
The Endocannabinoid System & PTSD
Plant therapies are essential to the health and functionality of our body’s endogenous cannabinoid system, commonly known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system contains receptors throughout organs and tissues in our bodies that work with plant compounds to help regulate many functions within our anatomy. A study from 2020 showed that a low dose of THC resulted in a significant reduction of fear and anxiety among PTSD patients facing scenarios formulated to trigger these responses. This shows that THC may be able to help lower threat-related amygdala reactivity in PTSD patients.
Additional studies have shown that plant compounds are able to stimulate CB1 receptors within the ECS, helping to improve a process known within animal studies as extinction learning. Extinction learning is essentially the belief that old memories of a specific scenario can be overridden with new memories through exposure time and time again. This process does not occur within the brains of those with PTSD. It is believed that through plant therapies, this process may be able to be triggered within PTSD patients similar to how it was within animal studies.
Traditional Treatments for PTSD
Traditional treatments for PTSD include medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety formulations. The main focus of PTSD treatment, however, is therapies that confront the memories and triggers of the survived event and processes by which to overcome them. Some of the most common trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapies recommended for PTSD patients are Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
Plant Therapies for PTSD – Clinical Trial Synopsis
It is easy to find stories of individuals attributing their ability to overcome PTSD to plant therapies. To date, the research available from countries worldwide surrounding plant therapies in the treatment of PTSD has proven to offer much hope.
BOD Australia is currently conducting an observational study and is actively recruiting individuals that have been diagnosed with PTSD for a study looking at the use of high CBD and low THC medicinal cannabis and how it affects PTSD symptoms. Learn more about this study and register your interest here.
To see if you are eligible for plant-based therapies, you can book a telehealth appointment with one of our specialist doctors through Cannatrek Access.