Review: Low Doses of THC Hold Value in Mitigating Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress

Curitiba, Brazil: Data from available human trials provide evidence that the administration of low doses of THC can safely and effectively mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in some subjects, according to data published in the journal BMC Psychiatry.

Brazilian researchers affiliated with the Federal University of Panama conducted a “qualitative systematic review” of the relevant peer-reviewed literature.

Authors reported, “THC, dronabinol [oral synthetic THC] or nabilone [a synthetic cannabinoid that mimics THC] could help with hyperarousal symptoms, insomnia, anxiety, and extinction deficits related to PTSD.”

They concluded, “[D]espite the limited number of published studies, available data suggest that low doses of THC potentiate fear memory extinction in healthy volunteers and reduce anxiety responses in … PTSD patients without inducing a psychotic effect.”

Observational studies assessing the role of cannabinoids in potentially mitigating symptoms of PTSD have yielded mixed results. For instance, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs reported that patients 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.”

Most recently, clinical study data published in August in the journal Psychopharmacology reported that THC dosing “lowered threat-related amygdala reactivity” in post-traumatic stress patients. 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.”

Full text of the study, “Effects of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on aversive memories and anxiety: A review from human studies,” appears in BMC Psychiatry. Additional information regarding cannabinoids and post-traumatic stress is available from NORML.