Research carried out by the New University of Haifa shows that administering marijuana could be effective at treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The details of the study, which was conducted using rodents, have been published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
The study was led by Dr. Irit Akirav of the University of Haifa’s Department of Psychology and was assisted by research student Eti Ganon-Elazar. According to the researchers, rats have a similar physiological reaction to stress and trauma as humans do and the study aimed to find out the effects of cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana) on PTSD-like symptoms.
Commenting in a press release, Dr. Akirav said:
“We found that there is a ‘window of opportunity’ during which administering synthetic marijuana helps deal with symptoms simulating PTSD in rats.”
According to the press release, the rats were put under “extreme stress” and it was noted that the rodents did have similar reactions to stress as people would. One group weren’t given marijuana injections; the other groups had marijuana injections either 2 hours, 24 hours or 48 hours after experiencing trauma.
After a period of seven days, the rodents were examined again and it was found that the rats that hadn’t had marijuana injected or hadn’t had marijuana injected for 48 hours were showing symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. The other rats that had injections administered within 2-24 hours did develop anxiety after the trauma but the symptoms of PTSD disappeared.
In a press release, Dr. Akirav said:
“This indicates that the marijuana did not erase the experience of the trauma, but that it specifically prevented the development of post-trauma symptoms in the rat model.”
In an email, Dr. Akirav added:
"Our main plan for the future is to study the mechanisms involved (why cannabinoids help with post-trauma). We already found in this study that the effects are partially mediated by CB1 receptors in the amygdale.We want to further investigate why the drug is helping, what is the brain mechanism."
The recently published research is one of many studies into medical marijuana and its effects on PTSD. One organisation, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, has sponsored research into the use of medical marijuana and PTSD. The placebo-controlled, triple-blind study will examine the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in 50 patients with PTSD.
In 2010, the New York Times reported that while some states such as New Mexico do allow the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of PTSD, its neighbouring state of Colorado doesn’t.
PTSD occurs as a result of a trauma such as war, natural disasters, assault or abuse and the symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, depression and anger.