What This Doctor Has to Say About Cannabis Use and PTSD May Shock You

If you think that cannabis is just a danger to society then you must have been under a rock for the past few years. Ever since 2013 when Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s revolutionary documentary “Weed” premiered on CNN the plant has never been looked at same.

One group of Americans who are reporting benefits of cannabis use are the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.

We wanted to know why so many Veterans are reporting high success rates while using cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So, we reached out to our friend Dr. Dustin Sulak of Healer.com to find out.

How Big Of a Problem is PTSD in America?

Dustin Sulak, D.O.:

Approximately 10% of Americans suffer from post-traumatic stress at some point in their lives and 22 veterans take their own lives each day.

Dustin Sulak, D.O. is a licensed osteopathic physician.

Dustin Sulak, D.O. is a licensed osteopathic physician.

I personally understand how debilitating and limiting the late effects of trauma can be in a person’s life. Perhaps you have lived through a traumatic or life-threatening event, or perhaps you witnessed a disastrous event. And if you haven’t, chances are that one of your friends or family members have experienced trauma.

While some people’s innate healing system can help them fully recover, mentally and physically, from traumatic events, other people experience a prolonged state of suffering. These residual symptoms and impairments are collectively called “Post-Traumatic Stress,” in medical terms, or PTS. When these symptoms persist for longer than 1 month and result in decreased functioning in life, patients may be diagnosed with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder.

“From an integrative, holistic perspective, there are many factors that predispose individuals to post-traumatic stress and many treatments that can relieve the suffering tremendously.” – Dr. Dustin Sulak

What’s The Goal of PTSD Treatment?

Dustin Sulak, D.O.:

The Goal of PTSD Treatment is Two-fold…

On one hand, we want to ease the patient’s symptoms, so they can continue to function in their lives and get some relief from the persistent suffering.

On the other hand, we want to help people release that stored trauma, so their nervous system, and the rest of their body and mind, can return to a normal state of balance. That’s what I call healing.

I have been incredibly impressed by the relief and healing we witness in our patients who use medical cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress. My twenty or so colleagues, in three medical clinics, agree, as do a number of recent research studies.

Why Does Cannabis Seem to Work Well For PTSD?

Dustin Sulak, D.O.:

First of all, cannabis is excellent at reducing or removing the many symptoms of PTS. It works in a part of the brain that controls emotional memory, and literally helps patients experience life in the present moment.

Dr. Dustin Sulak is the medical director of Integr8 Health which cares for over 18,000 patients.

Dr. Dustin Sulak is the medical director of Integr8 Health which cares for over 18,000 patients.

When under the influence of cannabis, patients with PTS can finally stop dwelling on the fearful memories. They are able to release their anxiety, smile, and pay attention to something beautiful that’s happening right now around them. The cannabis decreases the physical pain, prevents flashbacks and nightmares, and is an excellent treatment for insomnia. It frees patients from the great burden of their stored trauma.

Over and over again, we hear patients say things like “this herb gave me my life back,” or, “I finally feel like myself again.” Patients can use cannabis and finally get some work done, enjoy their children, appreciate all they do have, and get back to their lives.

Does Cannabis Just Mask My Feelings?

Dustin Sulak, D.O.:

Medical cannabis can actually help heal the cause of the post-traumatic stress. What I’ve referred to as “releasing the stored trauma” is scientifically called “fear extinction.” A number of animal experiments have proven that compounds found in cannabis can promote fear extinction, helping the animals forget the painful stimuli they were exposed to, and return to their normal routines.

Recently, two human studies have demonstrated the same findings.1,2 Both were placebo controlled; one used Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the well known psychoactive component of cannabis, while the other used cannabidiol (CBD), a cousin of THC found in certain cannabis strains, that does not cause any intoxication.

These studies suggest that using cannabis in conjunction with therapies designed to release the stored trauma may enhance the benefits of those therapies. I also think of life as therapy, since we are always facing reminders of our limitations and having to choose between love and fear, acceptance or judgment, worry or trust.

But, Isn’t Cannabis Addictive?

Dustin Sulak, D.O.:

Cannabis is approximately as addictive as caffeine for most people. And, most importantly, it is much safer than the conventional medications currently available for PTSD. Unlike those medications, cannabis has no lethal overdose, it is not associated with increased risk of suicide, and withdrawal symptoms of cannabis are mild and not-life threatening.

Some patients suffering from post-traumatic stress are concerned that cannabis may be a dangerous treatment because it is addictive or because they have been told for so many years that marijuana kills brain cells and so forth. And I must admit that medical cannabis use does have some potential side effects. These effects, however, are often very mild, and with some fine-tuning of the treatment, can be avoided.

So Smoke Two Joints and Call You Tomorrow?

Dustin Sulak, D.O.:

Many people are concerned that if they use cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress, they’ll have to smoke it, or they’ll have to walk around stoned all the time. I am happy to tell you that this is certainly not the case. Many patients take cannabis orally and discretely in the form of tinctures or capsules.

There are several strains of cannabis high in CBD, which convey the benefits of cannabis without getting people high and many PTSD patients are able to use an incredibly small amount of cannabis and still get excellent results.


This article was orginally published on: Healer.com


1 Rabinak, Christine A., et al. “Cannabinoid facilitation of fear extinction memory recall in humans.” Neuropharmacology 64 (2013): 396-402.

2 Das, Ravi K., et al. “Cannabidiol enhances consolidation of explicit fear extinction in humans.” Psychopharmacology 226.4 (2013): 781-792.

About the Author

Dr. Dustin Sulak

Dr. Sulak is the founder of Healer.com and a renowned cannabis expert. He is the medical director of Integr8 Health which cares for over 18,000 patients and is a board member and research chair of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. Dr. Sulak educates medical providers and patients on the clinical use of cannabis while continuing to explore the therapeutic potential of this ancient yet emerging medicine. Healer.com is a proud content sponsor of the #illegallyhealed community. For more information on how to better use cannabis click here to visit Healer.com

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