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Posttraumatic stress disorder is the most recent addition to the list of qualifying conditions for the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is triggered by an extremely disturbing or mentally stressful event. This disorder can develop after a person witnessed or experienced a traumatic event that includes a threat of harm or actual physical harm. Traumatic events that can cause PTSD include sexual or physical assault, an unexpected death, an accident, war or natural disasters. Many people who experience traumatic events will have reactions such as anger, fear, guilt, nervousness and shock. For most people, these feelings will decrease and go away over time. However, those who have PTSD will experience these effects, possibly in an increasing manner, for longer than one month. As a result of experiencing these prolonged effects, patients with PTSD see a decreased quality of life compared to before the event.
The symptoms of PTSD are grouped into four categories. First, reliving is when patients relive the thoughts and memories of the trauma. This category can include flashbacks, hallucinations and nightmares that can occur out of nowhere or when triggered by a reminder such as an anniversary date of the event. Second, avoiding is when patients avoid people, places or situations that remind them of the trauma. Avoidance can lead to detachment or isolation from loved ones, as well as a loss of interest in activates that one used to enjoy. Third, increased arousal includes patients having excessive emotions, problems feeling or showing emotions, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability, bursts of anger and being jumpy. Lastly, patients may experience negative cognitions and moods, referring to thoughts and feelings of blame, estrangement and memories of the traumatic event.
PTSD is often treated with antidepressant medications, which may carry detrimental side effects, or different forms of psychotherapy. Our patients have reported many positive effects using indica dominant strains such as Blackberry Kush and Hindu Kush for PTSD, and a study of Medical Marijuana patients in New Mexico found more than a 75 percent reduction in the Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Scale symptom scores when the patients were using cannabis compared to when they were not.