For those of us who have never lived it first hand, PTSD is a complex concept to comprehend. Multidimensional and affecting various body systems, PTSD presents in a multitude of ways that make it difficult to treat. From feelings of guilt to nightmares, depression, and anxiety, PTSD is pervasive and effects most moments of everyday life.
The majority (if not all) existing PTSD drugs were created for other purposes and are being prescribed off-label to treat issues such as nightmares and mood disorders.
These drugs often only treat one symptom at a time with numerous negative side effects and therefore must be used in conjunction with other drugs that each have their own sets of side effects.
This approach can often create even greater problems than the ones it is setting out to cure. Between dependence, toxicity, and a slew of negative side effects such as sleepiness, dizziness, nervousness, diarrhea, dry mouth, impotence, lowered sex drive and more, it seems that traditional pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of PTSD have the potential to cause more harm than good.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD can occur following the experience of a traumatic event. PTSD is characterized by four main symptoms that include intrusion, avoidance, negative cognitions, and arousal or reactivity. Intrusion is the reliving or re-experiencing of the traumatic event. This can include negative memories, nightmares, intrusive images, and physiological reactivity to reminders of the event. Avoidance is the propensity to avoid situations, people, thoughts, feelings or reminders of the trauma.
Negative cognitions and mood can include feelings of detachment, negative emotional states such as shame or anger, emotional numbness, distrust, or a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Hyper-arousal and reactivity can consist of hyper-vigilance, anxiety, excessive response when startled, aggression, reckless behavior such as turning to drugs or risk-taking, trouble concentrating or sleeping, and irritability. Together, these symptoms can have a profound impact on the day to day lives of individuals, their families, and friends.
CBD and PTSD
A wellness panacea in general, the cannabinoid Cannabidiol or CBD, shows great potential in the treatment of PTSD symptoms and their underlying causes. Studies have shown CBD to have efficacy in alleviating and improving various ailments related to the experience of PTSD, including inflammation, levels of the stress hormone cortisol, anxiety, negative mood, depression, hyperactivity, nightmares, sleep disturbances, body pain, the recurring experience of negative thoughts, and anhedonia or the inability to feel pleasure.
The mounting scientific evidence suggests that CBD has the potential to treat the majority of PTSD symptoms at once without negative side effects including those like lethargy and brain fog which are associated with medical marijuana.
While more research is necessary into how, why, when and in what doses CBD is the most effective, for some individuals, this one natural plant extract which elicits few if any negative side effects and provides additional wellness benefits can at least in part replace an array of highly synthetic pharmaceuticals; each used to treat one symptom and each with its own negative side effects that are toxic to the body and the environment.
It is no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry is highly opposed to having its income stream replaced by a plant that can’t be patented. As such, they do everything in their power to impede the widespread use of CBD as a treatment method including preventing CBD oil companies from using the term CBD on their products or in their marketing.
This is why today’s CBD products are labeled as Full Spectrum Hemp Oil rather than CBD oil. Further, the U.S. Military has a zero tolerance; one strike and you’re out policy when it comes to cannabis consumption.
Perhaps in part due to this, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA for short, neither advertises nor advocates the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for PTSD despite mounting evidence in support of their efficacy in treatment. Another reason behind this could be the kickbacks or sponsorship dollars VA doctors receive from pharmaceutical companies.
Pharmaceutical Industry & Doctors
If you’re wondering whether your doctor is receiving money from pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers, you can run a search of your doctor’s name on the ProPublica site Dollars for Docs, which will show you (excluding research and ownership interests) how much a doctor has received between August 2013 and December 2016.
Interestingly, doctors at VA hospitals are reported to take obsolete drugs that were created decades ago and are no longer being used for their original purpose and prescribe them off-label as PTSD treatments to Veterans. One example of this is the no longer effective blood pressure medication Prazosin which is being prescribed to treat nightmares.
The FDA has only approved the use of two synthetic pharmaceuticals for the treatment of PTSD. As such most drugs used today are repurposed and prescribed to treat specific symptoms individually, resulting in the need for an array of different medications each with their own set of negative side effects. Patients can require SSRIs for depression, Ativan for anxiety, Prazosin for nightmares, and opiates for pain.
In addition, they begin to require something like Adderall to keep them awake and another drug to put them to sleep, creating a downward spiral in which side effects are being treated with more medications and more side effects.
Inside the Wellness Force + CURED partnership, the biggest issue we’re combatting is the way veterans are being treated at the VA. Typically, patients walk out with handfuls of pills which are addictive, toxic, and only serve to perpetuate the root problems. As such, we’re supplying our CBD at a cost to soldiers experiencing PTSD. If you or someone you know is battling PTSD we can extend a 35% discount on our products.
Why Aren’t More Veterans Turning to CBD?
Today’s society, movies, music, and culture don’t necessarily represent medical cannabis in a trendy, respectable manner and we recognize that veterans may face an internal struggle with regards to what’s right and wrong when it comes to healing and treatment approaches.
Many soldiers left their teenage years of weed smoking behind to buy into strict, zero marijuana tolerance policies and a conservative military culture of what’s right and wrong. In re-entering civilian life, veterans report having to reconcile the military experiences that may be affecting them with modern, adult approaches to cannabinoids and healing.
Compared to THC, CBD does not produce the fatigue and lethargy that accompany smoking weed all day. Further, while THC can sometimes cause feelings of anxiety, paranoia, or fear, and is generally not advisable in cases of anxiety, CBD oil seems to have the opposite effect, even going so far as to negate these unpleasant THC side effects. Unlike other drugs, CBD has limited potential for abuse since it produces no psychoactive effects.
The effectiveness of CBD generally comes down to proper dosing which can and should be done on an individual basis. We recommend starting low and working your way up based on need until you find a dose that works for you.
Higher doses may be more appropriate during evenings when feeling sleepy is not a problem, while lower doses are more helpful during wakeful hours.
Soldiers we’ve spoken to report that CBD helps suppress the high activity nerves which pull the strings for the trigger of their PTSD symptoms. While it may not be the most useful treatment for all patients, many soldiers find it to be an effective sedative and method of dream suppression which provides them with a more restful and relaxing sleeping experience.
Veterans have reported that when nights get hot or when they heat up being under the blankets, it can have the potential to push them over the edge, causing them to get worked up, make noises, move around, wake up, toss and turn.
Many have found that CBD is helpful in alleviating this stress response, keeping them asleep with no memory of bad dreams. While some report that CBD oil does not calm as much sleep time activity or body movement as Prazosin, they do find it to be an effective and healthful method for improving sleep quality.
Mounting research shows CBD to be a promising treatment method for PTSD.
It is, however, an alternative route that won’t necessarily be accepted nationally by the VA in the foreseeable future. Despite its limited potential for abuse, there is a heavy regulation against the use of marijuana.
Compared to places like Los Angeles, where the VA is generally more accepting and doesn’t administer drug tests, in certain states such as Michigan, the VA administers drug tests in order to fill opiate or amphetamine prescriptions, limiting patients ability to partially self-medicate using natural means.
Thus, even though medical marijuana and medicinal cannabinoids like CBD are coming to the forefront, there are barriers in place to prevent their medical use where it’s needed most. The American Medical Association is wary of cannabis creeping in and disturbing its conventions. Yet the evidence in support of CBD is undeniable and few if any documented risks exist.
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