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Study Links PTSD and Brain Receptors Activated by Marijuana

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A new study finds a connection between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the number of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These receptors, called CB1, are activated when a person uses marijuana.

Researchers at New York University Langone Medical Center used brain imaging techniques to find the connection, Fox News reports. They say their findings could lead the way to new treatments for PTSD.

“There’s not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD,” lead author Dr. Alexander Neumeister said in a news release. “That’s a problem. There’s a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as an antidepressant simply do not work.”

The researchers decided to study CB1 receptors because many PTSD patients use marijuana in an attempt to relieve their symptoms, Dr. Neumeister said. Many say marijuana works better for them than legal medications.

The study included 60 participants who had a PET scan. Some had PTSD, some had a history of trauma but not PTSD, and some had neither. All participants were injected with a radioactive tracer, which traveled to CB1 receptors in the brain, and illuminated them for the scan.

The researchers found people with PTSD had higher levels of CB1 receptors in the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety, compared with participants without PTSD. They also had lower levels of a brain chemical that binds to CB1. When a person has lower levels of this chemical, anandamide, the brain compensates by increasing the number of CB1 receptors.

Dr. Neumeister said a new PTSD treatment based on their research should not destroy CB1 receptors, because this could lead to depression. Instead, he is working on a treatment that would restore a normal balance of the endocannibinoids in the brains of people with PTSD. Endocannabinoids are substances that activate cannabinoid receptors. He said this compound does not cause health problems seen in people who are chronic marijuana users. He hopes to start clinical trials of the medication soon.

The findings are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

5 Responses to this article

  1. Trying To Cope / September 9, 2014 at 4:48 am

    I have PTSD so bad that I can barely do my (very stressful) job anymore, but when I am home I can control it completely with vaporized cannabis. BUT, this means that I must risk losing my job (using cannabis) …… to stay alive to keep on doing my job ….. caught in a quandary. Please legalize to help us out ….. please

  2. The Healthy Arizonan / July 20, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I like the article it is in fact accurate., Growing up in the inner city I suffer from PTSD due to so much violence and gang activity. I truly believe a nice heavy dose of Magnesium and some good buds is the best cure for PTSD, it helps me! 100% and I don’t have to worry about the side effects that comes with all these medications on the market today! SMOKE ONE FOR ME!

  3. pamela berg / July 7, 2014 at 12:35 am

    I have ptsd. I know cannabis helps. No other medication gets at the underlying thoughts like marijuana. It’s simply inhumane to deny sufferers relief. I’m at the end of my rope. I may move to Colorado but I have no one and no job there. I need to though.

  4. Leahpeeah / July 6, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I myself being a young adult with PTSD, have in fact found that smoking cannabis has made a majority of my symptoms (if not all) go away or lessen immensely. Although I am not trying to encourage youth to smoke or do any sorts of drugs I actually agree that marijuana can “cure” PTSD symptoms; and as long as you don’t go overboard with how often you smoke, it definitely isn’t a bad thing.

  5. bob wiley / February 7, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Many of our veterans dealing with PTSD have said that cannabis is more effective in dealing with Post Traumatic Stress than many of the heavy duty pharmaceuticals prescribed by our mental health system. Dr Sue Sisley proposed a study of fifty Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were unresponsive to conventional PTSD treatments and therapies. The research was approved by FDA, but denied by NIDA, the gatekeeper for all marijuana research.
    How can we deny research that has the possibility to treat this increasingly problematic condition?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/us/19pot.html?_r=3&utm_source=streamsend&utm_medium=email&utm_content=14317847&utm_campaign=The%20New%20York%20Times%20Spotlights%20Study%20of%20Marijuana%20for%20Veterans%20with%20PTSD

    and this link:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/the-case-for-treating-ptsd-in-veterans-with-medical-marijuana/251466/

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