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  • by Nicola Boulton September 03, 2022 5 min read

    Can CBD Be an Effective Treatment for PTSD?

    What is CBD? What is PTSD? What are forms of CBD used in the treatment of PTSD? How does CBD react with the patient's body during treatment of PTSD? What are the benefits of CBD to PTSD patients? And lastly, what are the potential side effects of using CBD products in treating PTSD. The article explains all these questions and shows further research about PTSD Symptoms, causes, and treatment.

    Approximately 200-300 million adults suffer from PTSD worldwide. This number sharply increased for individuals in the military and armed forces, night shift workers, patients with mental issues, and healthcare workers. Psychotherapy is the established treatment for PTSD accompanied with various medications. However, sometimes these methods have questionable efficacy and often have undesirable side effects such as prolonged headaches. Fortunately, research has emerged on how the medical cannabis compound CBD may regulate some PTSD symptoms.

    What is CBD?

    Mead & Alice (2017) stated that Cannabidiol is a chemical compound extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. It is mostly obtained from leaves, flowers, stems, or hemp plant stalks. Over 80 compounds are found in the cannabis plant. The other known product is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), mostly used with CBD. However, THC is famously known for its psychoactive properties and ability to induce highness in its users. On the other hand, CBD is a non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating compound. It has various health benefits such as anxiety reduction, pain relief, and sleep improvement. These benefits make CBD an essential supplement in treating PTSD.

    What is PTSD?

    Carmassi et al. (2020) stated that PTSD is an abbreviation of post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition triggered by experienced or witnessed traumatic events. Most people who experience terrifying events may have difficulty coping and adjusting to new changes, but the trauma goes away with time and positive thoughts. Some symptoms get worse and can be chronic, leading to PTSD. These symptoms include;

    • Depression and anxiety
    • Sleeping disorder
    • Eating disorder
    • Drug abuse like tobacco or alcohol
    • Intrusive memories such as recurrent, unwanted memories, nightmares, and flashbacks
    • Avoidance – it involves avoiding places, people, or even thoughts that bring trauma flashbacks.
    • Bad mood and bad thoughts like suicide
    • Emotional changes in reactions to events; for example, they are easily frightened.

    Examples of most common traumatic events that can lead to PTSD include;

    • Physical assault
    • Sexual violence
    • An accident
    • Death of a loved one
    • Childhood physical abuse or neglect
    • Threats
    • Breakups in marriage or relationships.

    Various methods are used to treat PTSD, including behavioral and thought therapies combined with medications. However, CBD products are more effective in combating the disorder.

    What Are the Forms of CBD Used in Treating PTSD?

    Elms et al. (2019) stated that there is various form of CBD, including cream, lotions, balm, salve, tinctures, oil, pills, capsules, sprays, and CBD concentrates. However, the two major forms used to treat CBD are;

    1. CBD capsules- people who combine CBD capsules with traditional counseling experience reduced disorder symptoms such as eating disorders and avoidance.
    2. CBD oil-it is applied on a patient's skin and even taken orally. It effectively treats anxiety and sleeping disorders.

    Many patients use CBD oil due to its organic making. But if one is considering taking it, it is important to start with a small dosage. The most common technique of taking CBD oil is in the form of drops placed under the tongue, where they're easily absorbed and swallowed.

    How does CBD react with the patient's body during treatment of PTSD?

    CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps maintain body balance despite changes in the external environment. It plays a crucial role in brain and nervous regulations in factors such as appetite, sleep, anxiety, and pain. ECS comprises endocannabinoids, CB1 and CB2 receptors, and enzymes.

    For people with PTSD, ECS helps regulate emotions and responses to the traumatic event. PTSD is characterized by small production of Endocannabinoids responsible for binding with receptors to regulate body balance. CBD increases this production and combines with both receptors to tackle PTSD symptoms. It combines with CB1 receptors to reduce anxiety and deep thinking. With CB2, it acts as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever in case of muscle fatigue due to hyperactivity symptoms.

    PTSD disrupts the ECS signaling due to endocannabinoid deficiencies to increase fear, stress, and unpleasant memories. However, CBD acts on CB1 and CB2 receptors, helping the ECS to regain normal functions.

    Benefits of CBD on PTSD

    Alexander, Claire & Vasefi (2021) explained that for people who haven't responded well to conventional therapies, CBD alleviates the symptoms associated with the disorder. These benefits include;

    Alleviates Insomnia

    PTSD patients may have sleeping problems due to disturbing memories that make them to overthink, resulting in insomnia. Insomnia is a sleeping disorder associated with night sweats and little or no sleep. CBD calms the nerves and brings a feeling of relaxation, improving sleeping quality to people.

    It Prevents Fear or Unpleasant Trauma Memories

    CBD combined with CB1 receptors regulate the brain to induce memories that soothe feelings of calmness. It reduces long-term fear memory, reducing stress PTSD patients.

    Prevents Nightmares

    People who take CBD have little fear, few nightmares, and negative flashbacks. It significantly reduces flashbacks, nightmares, and negative memories in patients with PTSD.

    Alleviates Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

    CBD has calming effects on its users, reducing anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

    Potential Side Effects of CBD

    CBD has few side effects compared to other chemicals in cannabis, such as THC, though people may still experience some side effects as they continue using it to treat PTSD. These include;

    • Drowsiness
    • Allergic reactions
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Headaches


    You can use medications to treat PTSD, though some are highly addictive, while others may worsen the depressive symptoms. CBD has few side effects and is more effective than other medications. However, it interacts with many medications. Therefore, you must speak to a doctor before combining the medications. CBD can be more efficient when combined with conventional treatments like natural therapies and modified lifestyles such as good hygiene, yoga, mediations, exercises, eating a clean and balanced diet, and networking or social relationships. The fact that CBD has calming effects is best suited to treat stress disorders and thus can improve life quality to many patients.


    Mead, A. (2017). The legal status of cannabis (marijuana) and cannabidiol (CBD) under US law. Epilepsy & Behavior, 70Carmassi, C., Foghi, C., Dell'Oste, V., Cordone, A., Bertelloni, C. A., Bui, E., & Dell'Osso, L. (2020). PTSD symptoms in healthcare workers facing the three coronavirus outbreaks: What can we expect after the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychiatry research, 292, 113312., 288-291

    Elms, L., Shannon, S., Hughes, S., & Lewis, N. (2019). Cannabidiol in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: a case series. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 25(4), 392-397.

    Alexander, C., & Vasefi, M. (2021). Cannabidiol and the corticoraphe circuit in post-traumatic stress disorder. IBRO Neuroscience Reports, 11, 88-102.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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