The term “PTSD” often makes us think of traumatized or “shell-shocked” combat soldiers. While veterans and others impacted by war do make up a large number of people living with PTSD, anyone who experiences a trauma is at risk of developing the condition.
Today, individuals with PTSD make up about 3.5% of the U.S. adult population.
People can develop PTSD from a wide range of experiences, from war and natural disasters to racism and domestic abuse. While its causes can vary, all those who suffer from PTSD are equally worthy of treatment.
For many, traditional medications and therapies can only do so much for their PTSD symptoms, so they turn to more holistic healing methods—including medical marijuana. But is indica or sativa better for PTSD treatment?
Generally speaking, people living with PTSD can benefit from indicas, sativas, or hybrids, as reactions can vary from person to person. In this guide, we’ll explore PTSD in more detail, look at traditional treatments, and dive deeper into specific medical cannabis strains meant for people looking for holistic trauma recovery.
Before looking at how medical marijuana can unlock PTSD relief, it’s important to develop a solid understanding of what causes PTSD and how it affects your mind and body.
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. The name provides a simple definition: it’s a stress disorder triggered by a traumatic event that affects you even after it’s passed. In reality, however, PTSD is a complex condition that behaves uniquely depending on each case.
PTSD can manifest as:
Those with PTSD can be re-traumatized every time they remember or are reminded of the original event. This can lead to, among many other possible symptoms:
These symptoms are typical for people dealing with the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event, often diagnosed as acute stress disorder. However, if, after a month you’re still experiencing these symptoms, you may be living with PTSD. About half of people with PTSD are first diagnosed with acute stress disorder.
PTSD symptoms can last for months or even years. Even if your symptoms don’t develop until long after the trauma occurred, it’s still considered PTSD.
Sometimes, as with Complex PTSD (CPTSD), the cause is not a single event but repeated instances of trauma or abuse that happen over a long period of time, also known as chronic trauma.
In most cases, healthcare providers first recommend therapy and prescription medication.
Many people with PTSD find success with talk therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). But therapy has a few drawbacks:
The most common PTSD medications are SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs are also used to treat other mental health conditions, such as depression.
SSRIs stop the brain from absorbing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s partially responsible for controlling your mood. SSRIs were developed based on the theory that more serotonin available in the brain will lift and balance your mood.
But SSRIs can take weeks—or even up to 3 months—to start working. They can also cause unwanted side effects, including:
For many people, the side effects of SSRIs outweigh their benefits, forcing them to look for other options. Luckily, they don’t have to look far: medical marijuana is currently offering relief for many patients living with PTSD.
SSRIs interact with chemicals in the brain to boost your mood. Medical marijuana does something quite similar by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) exerts some control over your mood, as well as:
The cannabinoids present in marijuana—THC, CBD, and others—are able to affect the ECS just like the natural cannabinoids in your body do.
Supplementing your body’s natural supply of cannabinoids with medical cannabis can help patients find physical and emotional balance and restore their mind-body connection.
Those living with PTSD are often plagued with intrusive thoughts and memories that disrupt daily life. Cannabis is especially promising because, in moments of high stress, it can help slow down thoughts, allow patients to process passing emotions, and offer an invaluable reprieve from high-intensity episodes.
Cannabinoids in medical marijuana can have a big impact on PTSD symptoms. However, not all marijuana products contain the same compounds.
The most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). But many medical cannabis doctors have also begun exploring the potential of minor cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG) for anxiety and PTSD treatment.
In addition to familiarity with minor cannabinoids, an understanding of the different types of cannabis strains can help patients unlock the full potential of medical marijuana treatment.
Marijuana products are mainly categorized by THC and CBD content, and strains are typically categorized into one of three groups: sativa, indica, or hybrid strains.
The terms “sativa” and “indica” are used to describe a certain strain’s effects:
Hybrid strains, which are cultivated from a combination of sativa and indica plant subtypes, can vary in terms of cannabinoid concentration and effects. But, overall, hybrids can offer the benefits of both sativa and indica strains.
Most indica strains will benefit you if you suffer from PTSD or comorbid conditions like depression, anxiety, or insomnia. A few specific strains known for PTSD relief are:
All three strains are low-CBD, with higher levels of THC. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to experience the psychoactive effects of THC products, there are many different high-CBD and THC-free products that offer just as much relaxation without the high.
While it’s helpful to do research on your own to learn more about medical marijuana’s positive impact on PTSD, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what strains would be best for you and your unique symptoms.
Your medical marijuana doctor can provide you with individualized suggestions on products and dosages. And at TeleLeaf, our doctors are here to guide you on your healing journey, every step of the way.
Medical marijuana has the potential to pull you out of the past and fully into the present. At TeleLeaf, we make it easy to gain access to medical marijuana and relieve your PTSD symptoms.
We care deeply about veterans and other people suffering from PTSD because we’ve been in their shoes. That’s why it’s so important to us to make life-saving medical cannabis treatment more accessible to those who need it most.
Gain control over your life by making an appointment for a medical marijuana recommendation with TeleLeaf today.
American Psychiatric Association. What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Cleveland Clinic. CPTSD (Complex PTSD).
NYU Langone Health. Medication for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Harvard Health Publishing. The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious.
Healthline. Sativa vs. Indica: What to Expect Across Cannabis Types and Strains. https://www.healthline.com/health/sativa-vs-indica
Healthline. Beginner’s Guide to Marijuana Strains. https://www.healthline.com/health/beginners-guide-to-marijuana-strains