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Cannabis: Friend or Foe (part 2 of a 3 part exploration)

Welcome back to the continued evaluation of medical marijuana. Last week we discussed medical cannabis and its role in treating chronic pain. We learned that it was an effective alternative to opioids, with less side effects and decreased morbidity and mortality. Today, we are going to look at the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD.

First, PTSD stands for post traumatic stress disorder. It occurs when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event and consequently suffers from intense, disturbing feelings or thoughts long after the event has occurred. It is estimated that out of the 70% of adults that experience a traumatic event, 20% will go on to develop PTSD.

The likelihood of developing PTSD is higher in women (1 out of 10) and our veterans. It is estimated that 20% of our Iraqi war veterans, 10% of our Afghanistan war veterans and 31% of our Vietnam war veterans suffer with post traumatic stress disorder.

The current pharmacological treatment for PTSD is the use of antidepressants. However, using traditional pharmacological therapy, remission rates are low with only 1 out of 9 people finding relief.

Hard evidence for the use of medical marijuana based on the current data is conflicted. Out of 5 studies, 3 recommended it and 2 did not. First hand patient accounts were more promising. Patients reported a decrease in negative thoughts and feelings with medical marijuana use. They also expressed that using medical cannabis allowed them to feel their emotions safely, as opposed to the prescription antidepressants which just made them feel numb.

I know I’m being redundant here, but I do feel it is important to say again that medical marijuana is not for everybody. It is a complex drug that can affect different people in different ways. However, I do feel that if you are someone who suffers with PTSD, and are interested in medical marijuana, it is a very legitimate option to try in order to potentially improve your overall quality of life.

Brooke Rieth NP

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