Could Pot Help Veterans with PTSD?

Could Pot Help Veterans with PTSD? Brain Scientists Say Maybe
NPR. December 24, 2013

Veterans who smoke marijuana to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder may be onto something. There’s growing evidence that pot can affect brain circuits involved in PTSD.

Experiments in animals show that tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that gives marijuana its feel-good qualities, acts on a system in the brain that is “critical for fear and anxiety modulation,” says Andrew Holmes, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The use of marijuana for PTSD has gained national attention in the past few years as thousands of traumatized veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have asked the federal government to give them access to the drug. Also, Maine and a handful of other states have passed laws giving people with PTSD access to medical marijuana.

For decades, researchers have suspected that marijuana might help people with PTSD by quieting an overactive fear system. But they didn’t understand how this might work until 2002, when scientists in Germany published a mouse study showing that the brain uses chemicals called cannabinoids to modulate the fear system, Ressler says.

There are two common sources of cannabinoids:

  • One is the brain itself, which uses the chemicals to regulate a variety of brain cells.
  • The other common source is Cannabis sativa, the marijuana plant.

So in recent years, researchers have done lots of experiments that involved treating traumatized mice with the active ingredient in pot, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Ressler says. And in general, he says, the mice who get THC look “less anxious, more calm, you know, many of the things that you might imagine.”

Problems with Pot
Unfortunately, THC’s effect on fear doesn’t seem to last, Ressler says, because prolonged exposure seems to make brain cells less sensitive to the chemical.

Another downside to using marijuana for PTSD is side effects, says Andrew Holmes at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “You may indeed get a reduction in anxiety,” Holmes says. “But you’re also going to get all of these unwanted effects,” including short-term memory loss, increased appetite and impaired motor skills.


Why Is It So Hard To Test Whether Drivers Are Stoned?
February 9. 2016
cognitively impaired for up to 28 days

How do environments talk to genes?

A model mechanism for gene-environment interaction.

How do environments talk to genes?
Moshe Szyf
Nature Neuroscience, 2013. 16: 2–4

A report elucidates the widely recognized, but poorly understood, concept of gene-environment interaction, finding a molecular mechanism in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder: demethylation of a glucocorticoid response element in the stress response regulator FKBP5 that depends on both the risk allele and childhood trauma.

PTSD: A Family Recalls Missed Red Flags

After A Marine’s Suicide, A Family Recalls Missed Red Flags 
June 19, 2013

When Nicholas Rodriguez returned from Afghanistan in 2010, his mother and stepfather had never heard of post-traumatic stress disorder. It was only after Nick killed himself that they learned the warning signs and realized he needed help dealing with his combat experience.

RODRIGUEZ: I still deal with a lot of guilt. Hell, yeah. I might have been able to change the outcome. I’m his mother. It’s the first time in my entire life when my kid needed help, and I wasn’t there. (Crying) I feel like I failed my son.