CBD for pTSD/CPTSD
Increased Levels of Post-Pandemic PTSD Resulting In Customers Looking To CBD As A Natural Remedy
Since the start of the year, we have seen more and more customers visiting our CBD shop in Leeds looking for help with the symptoms PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and the CBD curious team at HempWell decided they would look into this further to see what science there was on the treatment of PTSD symptoms with Cannabidiol (CBD).
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by a traumatic event. Complex PTSD (CPTSD) is related to prolonged or repeated trauma over time. People with CPTSD may experience additional symptoms to PTSD. Symptoms are grouped into four categories:
- intrusive memories,
- negative changes in thinking and mood,
- changes in physical and emotional reactions.
These include flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event, memory problems, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and aggressive behaviour.
Prevalence of PTSD/CPTSD in the UK and the Covid Related Increases
PTSD UK, an Edinburgh-based registered charity that provides support and advice for PTSD sufferers in the UK, estimates that 50-70% of people will experience a trauma at some point in their life, and around 20% of these people will go on to develop PTSD.
Their research suggests 1 in 10 people (6,665,000 individuals) in the UK will experience PTSD during their lifetime. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS also predicted 230,000 new cases of PTSD. The overall estimated prevalence of PTSD in the UK is 17.52% after the pandemic, which is almost triple the previous estimates. As most people would assume, research from King’s College London showed for the first time that the rate of PTSD is higher among veterans than the general public. Combat Stress, a mental health service for veterans, has seen a 97% increase, with over 2000 new veterans each year.
Often people may realize they are struggling to cope after trauma but are unaware they have PTSD and may just accept their symptoms, which can be debilitating and affect all aspects of life. Diagnosis of PTSD is challenging because of the range of symptoms presented and resistance to discussing past trauma. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the condition, many people are unable to articulate their feelings or feel unable to reach out.
I think it is fair to say, PTSD is a growing problem in UK society, with over £6m sufferers with a higher prevalence in Military Veterans and a new group as a result of COVID.
PTSD can be treated, even if it develops many years after the traumatic event. The treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and how soon they occur after trauma. Our research suggests that due to the misunderstood nature of PTSD, information about treatments is often lacking or incorrect. Current treatments include antidepressant medication and psychological therapies, e.g. trauma-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and watchful waiting. Antidepressant medication can treat some symptoms of PTSD but is often coupled with side effects such as nausea, blurred vision, headaches, insomnia, bowel issues etc. Medications often numb feelings and emotions and do not teach people skills to deal with PTSD, so it is not surprising that PTSD sufferers are looking to self-medication and natural remedies to help with their symptoms.
Research around CBD for treating the symptoms of PTSD
There is increasing evidence that CBD can help PTSD sufferers manage their symptoms which are supported by a history of CBD usage in PTSD sufferers over the last decade.
Many research studies have already shown the promising effects of CBD to treat anxiety and insomnia, which are often seen in people with PTSD. The discovery of the involvement of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system in emotional memory processing has opened up a new line of potential treatments for PTSD.
The eCB system provides more efficient and better-tolerated alternatives to standard treatments. This system uses cannabinoids to balance and control emotions. Anandamide, an endocannabinoid, helps with positive emotions. CBD oils can stimulate the same receptors as anandamide, resulting in a decrease in anxiety and fear, mood-lifting, and relief from intrusive memories.
- A 2015 study showed that 50% of military personnel showed an improvement in PTSD-related nightmares. Despite the small sample size, the benefits were well-characterised.
- Another study showed that 72% of patients treated with CBD experienced cessation of nightmares, significant improvements in sleep time and quality, and a reduction in daytime flashbacks.
- A 2016 survey of PTSD patients who used cannabis reported that cannabis was most likely to improve symptoms and that prescribed medications were more likely to worsen their symptoms. Very few participants reported antidepressants as effective, with the majority stating that antidepressants worsened their depression, anxiety, irritability, and sleep problems.
Numerous other studies are showing positive results; however, researchers will need to continue working with CBD and PTSD patients to investigate how CBD can help and ensure safe usage.
For us, the interesting part was noticing an increase in customers with PTSD in Leeds this year but not in York. This might suggest there are more veterans in Leeds and possibly a higher percentage of COVID-related PTSD cases.
Whilst there needs to be more research completed in this area, the limited studies and feedback from our customers indicate that taking CBD oil as a food supplement could potentially help with some of the symptoms of PTSD, especially when conventional treatments have not worked for them. A review from one customer said that almost immediately after taking CDB oil, the triggers/flashbacks became a background noise as opposed to an intense memory. After around 10 seconds, their intrusive memories completely disappear.
The research suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a key role in regulating emotional behaviour, learning and responses to traumatic events. It is thought that chronic stress or a traumatic event can impair endocannabinoid signalling in the brain, which leads to a variety of symptoms seen in PTSD and CBD improves this signalling.
Having discussed PTSD in detail with some of our customers in the Leeds shop, I can see how terribly debilitating the symptoms of PTSD can be, and all sufferers have our deepest sympathy. We have also introduced a special membership card for PTSD sufferers that can be used to purchase HempWell CBD oil at a 50% discount if they would like to try CBD.