Cannabis can be used medicinally in a number of ways, with smoking being the most commonly known. It can also be consumed, vaporised or rubbed in topically depending on the desired effect. When looking at service induced stress we quite often encounter pain symptoms as well. Cannabis can be highly effective as a pain relief and muscle relaxant for all those injuries. When looking to use it for your anxiety or depressive symptoms strain selection play a big role. Each strain of cannabis has a different cannabinoid profile, and depending on the levels of certain cannabinoids you will get a range of effects, some can be positive others negative. With a regulated system, selecting what strain is ideal for you would be made far easier making your ability to correctly medicate more accurate and consistent. Cannabis has also been shown to combat a number of the symptoms associated with prescription medication withdrawal.
Throughout the United States and Canada a number of “Veterans for Cannabis” groups have formed in an effort to educate other Veterans on the dangers of pharmaceuticals and potential benefits of cannabis. Weed For Warriors Project, Marijuana for Trauma and Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance are all examples of such groups, who after seeing improvement in themselves while using cannabis, wanted to help stop the horrific suicide toll and give power back to their fellow Veterans when managing their service related injuries.
Potential benefits of cannabis as reported by Veterans:
- Reduce anxiety
- Pain management
- Helps socialisation
- Reduce flashbacks
- Encourages restorative sleep
- Reduces muscle twitches
- Increased motivation/ performance enhancing
- More comfortable in public
- Reduce hyper-vigilance
- Helps to reduce alcohol consumption
- Helps to reduce pharmaceuticals
- Weight management
- Stimulate libido
- Increases Oxytocin (the “Bonding and Love Hormone”)
Cannabis & Post Traumatic Stress
There is a mountain of anecdotal evidence about the use of cannabis reducing symptoms of PTSD. While clinical trials on cannabis’ efficacy in treating PTSD are still getting underway in the United States, numerous preclinical and observational studies from various NATO countries like Canada, the U.S. and Israel, support these claims. In 2014, researchers in New Mexico evaluated cannabis’ effects on the symptoms of 80 patients with post traumatic stress. Patients reported a greater than 75% reduction in their symptoms when using cannabis compared to when they were not.
Aiding memory extinction is one way cannabis can reduce the symptoms of PTSD. By disconnecting the body’s physiological response to trauma from the traumatic memory it allows the brain to process the event, or recollection of the event in a positive, constructive manner. This can greatly reduce or stop the regularity and severity of flashbacks as well as helping to desensitise some potential triggers. Anxiety and Depression are common ailments associated with traumatic stress, along with a hyper-vigilance element, these symptoms can make going out in public a living nightmare. Allowing the mind to slow down and be present can drastically reduce the degree of effect whilst out socialising or just carrying out daily tasks, giving back some normality and quality of life.
Pain and poor sleep patterns can be a side effect of trauma or it can be exacerbating to the condition. Cannabis has not only be shown to effectively alleviate pain, reducing the need for addictive opiates, it also increases the time spent in the third stage of sleep. Also know as slow wave sleep or deep sleep, this is the period rest when our body repairs itself and recovers from daily activities. REM sleep is when the majority of dreaming takes place. By inhibiting REM sleep cannabis can reduce nightmares and allow for a more rejuvenating sleep.
Endogenous Cannabinoid System
Our Endogenous Cannabinoid System (ECS) plays an integral role in the correct functioning of the majority of our body’s systems. The endo-cannabinoid system is made up of at least two known types of receptors CB1 and CB2. CB2 receptors are located throughout our body and are believed to be in higher concentration than any other receptor system. CB1 receptors are in highest concentration in the brain and central nervous system but are also found in lower numbers in other organs: the reproductive system and the gastrointestinal tract. CB2 receptors are mainly found in our immune system, white blood cells and the spleen. These receptors are stimulated by cannabinoids, which can be synthesised naturally in our bodies, or externally sourced from plants or pharmaceuticals.
Cannabinoids can be produced in 3 different ways, two being natural and the third is man-made.
- Endo-Cannabinoids; We naturally produce these cannabinoids internally and they have an important role in regulation of appetite, pain, sleep patterns, pleasure and reward. Anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the two most thoroughly understood of these endo-cannabinoids.
- Phyto-Cannabinoids; These are produced in the cannabis plant and can then be ingested through a number of methods to give a specific desired effect. Phyto-cannabinoids have been used medicinally by a number of cultures for thousands of years. There are around 80 different cannabinoids found in the different strains of cannabis. THC is the most well-known for giving the psycho-active effect associated with cannabis. Current research is now showing the range of cannabinoids found in the plant work synergistically and creates what is called “the Entourage effect”. There is now a growing interest in Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabinol (CBN) for their medicinal potential.
- Synthetic Cannabinoids; Modern science has created various synthetic compounds’ marketed as ‘cannabis’, commonly referred to as ‘spice’, and “pharmaceutical grade”, Pharmacists have also created Synthetic Cannabinoids in laboratories. “Marinol” is one of these, though with it only being one select cannabinoid, the “Entourage effect” is missing and trials have shown this limits the effectiveness of the medication.
Terpenes & the “Entourage Effect”
Along with the range of cannabinoids there are also a number of Terpenes and Flavonoids that come into effect when we talk about the “Entourage effect”. Terpenes are organic compounds produced by plants and give off scent. These can be noticed with the differing smells of the cannabis strains; from musky, earthy tones to refreshing smells of pine or citrus, each adding their own influence on the final effects. Some of the commonly known terpenes in cannabis are:
- Myrcene; A musky, earthy scent, gives relief from muscle tension, pain and inflammation. Also has a sedative effect.
- Pinene; Pine smell, uplifting effect enhancing alertness and memory retention. Also has an antiseptic quality.
- Linalool; has a sweet, floral aroma also found in lavender. It has an anti-anxiety, anti-depressant effect.
- Limonene; has a citrus smell and elevates mood, can be beneficial for gastrointestinal complications.
- Caryophyllene; Woody, spicy or clove fragrance, good for arthritis, auto-immunedisorders and gastrointestinal complications.
Scientists have only just started breaking cannabis down to study the interactive role these compounds play when looking for medicinal benefits. The most recent studies show inter-connecting links with all the compounds found in the botanical forms of cannabis.
Disclaimer: This information is intended for educational purposes. The use of cannabis is still illegal in most states of Australia unless accepted under “Special Access Schemes” and the decision to do so is individual discretion.