Post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in people exposed to life-threatening events or atrocities, like the arrest and torture of female activist and journalist Faranak Farid in Iran. The list of consequences after trauma is long and horrible. Victims are plagued by memory flashbacks, high anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, uncontrollable anger and emotional numbing. Today, healing methods available to victims of trauma vary between psychiatric therapy, antidepressants, and stress management. But Dr. Irit Akirav of the University of Haifa’s Department of Psychology holds out hope for a physical remedy that can be applied quickly and may prevent the development of PTSD in the first place. Marijuana.
While marijuana’s value in chronic pain management is known and becoming accepted, the University of Haifa’s study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, proposes another use for cannabis. The study involves rats, whose reactions to trauma are similar to ours, and an injection of cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana) injected into the brain. According to Dr. Akirav and research student Eti Ganon-Elazar, rats receiving the up to 24 hours after stressful events do not develop the characteristic symptoms of PTSD.
“This indicates that the marijuana did not erase the experience of the trauma, but that it specifically prevented the development of post-trauma symptoms in the rat model,” said Dr. Akirav. “There is a ‘window of opportunity’ during which administering synthetic marijuana helps deal with symptoms simulating PTSD in rats.” Dr. Akirav explained further that this window of opportunity would be longer in humans, giving more time for administration of the injection before symptoms set in.
It would be interesting to know how long the beneficial effects of cannabinoids last. Would a one-time injection be enough to prevent PSTD developing? Or would there have to be a course of injections – or lifetime series? It’s early days, and the answers are still to come.
More about the effects of stress, and some natural ways to combat it from Green Prophet:
Photo of John McInerney’s painting “Depression USA” byМихал Орела via Flickr.