Clinical Trial: Oral THC Associated with Reduced Amygdala Reactivity

Detroit, MI: The administration of oral doses of synthetic THC is associated with reduced amygdala activation in subjects with post-traumatic stress, according to placebo-controlled data published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

Wayne State University researchers assessed the effects of oral THC versus placebo on corticolimbic responses to threatening imagery in subjects with and without PTSD. Authors reported that THC dosing “lowered threat-related amygdala reactivity” in post-traumatic stress patients. Corticolimbic brain regions, including the amygdala, are involved in threat processing. In patients with PTSD, the amygdala typically responds in a hyperactive manner to trauma-related imagery.

Authors concluded: “These preliminary data suggest that THC modulates threat-related processing in trauma-exposed individuals with PTSD, which may prove advantageous as a pharmacological approach to treating stress- and trauma-related psychopathology.”

Prior studies assessing the potential role of cannabinoids in mitigating symptoms of PTSD have yielded mixed results. For instance, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported that PTSD perceived significant reductions in post-traumatic stress symptoms during times when they used cannabis as compared to when they did not. Other studies have shown a relationship between oral THC dosing and a reduction in the frequency of nightmares. By contrast, a study published earlier this year in the journal Psychological Medicine reported, “No evidence of improvement in PTSD-related intrusion symptoms or remission in PTSD diagnosis in association with long-term use of cannabis.”

Full text of the study, “Cannabinoid modulation of corticolimbic activation to threat in trauma-exposed adults: A preliminary study,” appears in Psychopharmacology. Additional information regarding cannabinoids and post-traumatic stress is available from NORML.