Study Reinforces Marijuana's Effects in Treating PTSD

There appears to be bipartisan support for medical marijuana as an aid in the treatment of PTSD. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act was introduced to the Department of Veterans Affairs over the summer. In addition to pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, the legislation would require the VA to study how the plant affects sleep, agitation, mortality and hospital readmissions. This was critical because medical professionals, veterans and counselors agreed it was a benefit to those in need.

Science is finally confirming these opinions. A study published in the Journal of Pharmacology examined the patient histories of 24,000 Canadians using 2012 data from Statistics Canada. Researchers were interested in studying how cannabis might affect people with PTSD, particularly with regard to suicide and depression. Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) significantly increases patients' risk of depression and suicide unless, researchers found, they use marijuana.

RELATED: Science Says Medical Marijuana Improves Quality of Life

“We know that with limited effective treatment options for PTSD, many patients are turning to cannabis-based medications to manage their symptoms,” lead author Stephanie Lake told Global News. “However, to date there are no population-based data to suggest that cannabis may play a therapeutic role in the course of post-traumatic stress disorder. These results are promising for patients seeking treatment options.”

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Among the more than 24,000 participants, researchers found 420 Canadians who had been clinically diagnosed with PTSD. About 28% (106 people) of people with PTSD reported using cannabis in the past year. Only 11% of respondents who were not diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder reported using cannabis. Compared to non-cannabis users who did not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, non-users were seven times more likely to have recently experienced a major depressive episode and were 4.7% more likely to have considered suicide. The study found no connection between post-traumatic stress disorder and depression or suicide among cannabis users.

RELATED: Exploring the connection between marijuana and PTSD

According to official VA statistics, approximately 10-20% of veterans live with post-traumatic stress disorder, depending on the length of service they served. But the organization's National Suicide Report paints an even clearer picture: Suicide rates are rising among both veterans and non-veterans. According to the report, about 20 veterans commit suicide every day.

While more research is needed, Lake and her team said, this study points to how cannabis could help people with PTSD.

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