A survey of more than 24,000 Canadians found that for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), medicating with cannabis reduced the likelihood of experiencing severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
As of 2018, cannabis is legal both recreationally and medically in Canada. This has made the drug more readily available to the general population, but there is still much we don’t know about its effects on mental health.
“We know that with limited treatment options for PTSD, many patients have taken to medicating with cannabis to alleviate their symptoms,” says Stephanie Lake, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine’s school of population and public health. “However, this is the first time that results from a nationally representative survey have shown the potential benefits of treating the disorder with cannabis.”
Lake and colleagues analyzed data from Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey – Mental Health (CCHS-MH), which covers Canadians aged 15 and older. The survey, which involved 24,089 respondents, included 420 cases (no pun intended) of clinically diagnosed PTSD. Among this group, 106 reported using cannabis during the past year (28.2%). Only 11.2% of the respondents who didn’t have PTSD used cannabis in the past year.
The results are pretty shocking. They suggest that PTSD patients who did not use cannabis were nearly seven times more likely to experience a recent major depressive episode and 4.7 times more likely to experience suicidal ideation compared to cannabis non-users without PTSD. Meanwhile, cannabis-using PTSD patients did not experience a recent depressive episode or suicide ideation.
Canada is thought to have one of the highest prevalence rates of PTSD in the world, affecting an estimated 9.2% of the population.
“We’re only just beginning to understand what the therapeutic potential of cannabis may be for a variety of health conditions,” says senior author Dr. M-J Milloy, Canopy Growth Professor of Cannabis Science at UBC. “These findings are promising, and merit further study in order to fully understand the benefits of cannabis for people living with PTSD.”
That being said, you should not medicate with cannabis on your own. Talk to your doctor so you can come up with the right therapeutic solution that is specially tailored to your particular condition.
The findings appeared in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.