By Stephanie Lake & M-J Milloy for The Conversation
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric condition linked to surviving or witnessing a traumatic life event, will affect around one in 10 Canadians at some point in their lives.
PTSD can cause agitation, flashbacks, impaired concentration and memory, insomnia and nightmares and these symptoms can increase the risk of substance abuse and dependence, depression and suicide.
Many patients struggle to find adequate symptom relief from conventional treatments for PTSD including anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medications and psychological treatments such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.
Unsurprisingly, many turn to alternative ways of coping — such as medical cannabis use. This is especially evident in the dramatic rise in number of Canadian military veterans receiving government reimbursement for medical cannabis , with PTSD as a common reason for use.
The results of clinical trials testing cannabis as a PTSD treatment are pending. Previous research has linked cannabis use with poorer mental health in PTSD patients, but it’s unclear whether cannabis exacerbates PTSD symptoms, or if patients with worse symptoms are simply self-medicating more. Much of the existing evidence for cannabis as a PTSD treatment comes from patient reports of success.
As epidemiologists and substance use researchers, we have been exploring the relationship between cannabis and PTSD using readily available Statistics Canada mental health data.
In a recent study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, we found that PTSD increased the risk of major depressive episodes among Canadians who didn’t use cannabis by roughly seven times, and suicidal ideation by roughly five times. But, among Canadians who did use cannabis, PTSD was not statistically associated with either outcome.
How cannabis works in the body
Substance use, including cannabis use, is common among trauma survivors. It’s easy to write off the drug as just a tool to briefly escape negative feelings, at the risk of worsening longer-term symptoms. However, the relationship between cannabis and PTSD is more complex than it appears on the surface.
Our bodies naturally produce molecules called endogenous cannabinoids that fit into special cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. This endocannabinoid system is involved in stabilizing bodily processes, including regulating many functions of the brain that tend to be affected after traumatic experiences, such as fear, memory and sleep.
Certain components of the cannabis plant, including the well-known molecules tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the component of cannabis that produces the high) and cannabidiol (CBD, the component of cannabis that won’t get you high, but has potential for treating epilepsy, inflammation, nausea and anxiety) are also cannabinoids because of their structural similarity to endogenous cannabinoids.
Even though THC and CBD aren’t naturally produced in our bodies, they can interact with the endocannabinoid system to influence a number of biological processes.
Research is still uncovering if and how cannabis works within the body to affect the course of PTSD. Brain imaging research suggests that patients with PTSD have an abundance of cannabinoid receptors but produce few endogenous cannabinoids to lock into them, meaning that supplementing the body with plant-based cannabinoids like THC might help some brain processes function as normal.
Reduced depression and suicide
Roughly one in four individuals with PTSD in the Statistics Canada survey data that we analyzed used cannabis, compared to about one in nine in the general population.
In our study, we used statistical models to quantify the relationship between having PTSD and recently experiencing a major depressive episode or suicidal ideation. We hypothesized that if cannabis helped mitigate symptoms of PTSD, we’d see a much weaker association between PTSD and these indicators of mental distress in the cannabis-using population.
Indeed, exploring the associations in this way while controlling for other factors (such as sex, age, income, other substance use, other mental health problems) supported our hypothesis.
In a follow-up analysis of the 420 individuals in the sample who had PTSD, we categorised cannabis use into “no use,” “low-risk use” and “high-risk use” (meaning that they screened positive for cannabis abuse or dependence).
We found that low-risk cannabis users were actually less likely than non-users to develop a major depressive episode or to be suicidal, though there was a trend towards increased risk of both outcomes for the high-risk users.
A promising new signal
People with PTSD are more likely to experience depression and suicidal ideation. However, our findings suggested that these indicators of mental health were improved when they were engaging in lower-risk cannabis use.
Our study has a number of limitations that prevent us from being able to understand whether cannabis is what’s causing the reduced association between PTSD, depression and suicide.
For example, our data captures information covering participants’ experiences from the previous year, meaning we can’t actually decipher what came first: the cannabis use, the PTSD or the major psychological episodes.
We didn’t have detailed information about how participants used cannabis: for example, the type and dose of cannabis they used, how often they used it or how they consumed it. These details will be crucial to future research in this area.
Our study’s strength comes from its ability to describe patterns of PTSD symptoms and cannabis use in a large sample that’s considered to be representative of the Canadian population. Although our findings suggest that cannabis could be of possible therapeutic use in the treatment of PTSD, cannabis use is not without risks, including the development of cannabis use disorder.
We’ve uncovered a promising new signal on the potential of cannabis-based therapies, but we look forward to much work ahead in understanding how they might fit into PTSD and mental health treatment more broadly.
Stephanie Lake is a PhD student in Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
M-J Milloy is a Research Scientist, BC Centre on Substance Use and Assistant Professor in the Division of AIDS, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia
The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.
Virus Triggers Huge Spike in Weed Deliveries For Cannabis Co
(TMZ) — The coronavirus pandemic is causing folks to get more of their essentials delivered to their homes … and one major marijuana company is seeing green.
Select Cannabis, one of the biggest retailers of cannabis oils and concentrates, is raking in the dough from deliveries … the company’s marketing reps in Los Angeles tell TMZ the coronavirus has business booming.
The cannabis giant tells us it’s seeing 4 times as many delivery orders than normal since the COVID-19 outbreak — yes, you can get dank delivered in Cali — and there’s also been a 50% increase in customers purchasing vape products. The most popular items — edible gummies and vape pens.
It’s kinda funny, and a telling sign of the times … Select Cannabis tells us they’re pushing a new motto to encourage users to keep themselves safe in the face of a deadly and contagious virus … “Puff, puff, no pass.”
Sage advice, stoners.
Prop 64: DA Announces Dismissals of 66K Marijuana Convictions
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Code for America has announced that nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions eligible for relief under Proposition 64 will be dismissed as part of their cutting-edge partnership.
Today’s action marks the completion of the five-county Clear My Record pilot to clear marijuana-related convictions eligible for relief under Proposition 64. The other counties in the pilot include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa.
In total, these five pilots will help reduce or dismiss more than 85,000 Proposition 64 eligible convictions. “The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” Lacey said. “I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve.”
“Today’s action marks the completion of our California Clear My Record pilot, through which we will have helped to dismiss and seal more than 85,000 marijuana convictions across the state,” said Evonne Silva, Code for America’s Senior Program Director of Criminal Justice. “This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. Looking forward, Code for America stands at the ready to help all California counties provide this much needed relief in advance of the July 1, 2020 deadline.”
Prosecutors this week asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to dismiss 62,000 felony cannabis convictions for cases that date back to 1961.
The District Attorney’s Office also sought the dismissal of approximately 4,000 misdemeanor cannabis possession cases that included cases filed in 10 Los Angeles County cities: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Torrance, Pasadena, Inglewood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.
Approximately 53,000 individuals will receive conviction relief through this partnership. Of those, approximately 32% are Black or African American, 20% are White, 45% are Latinx, and 3% are other or unknown.
Proposition 64 identifies three health and safety code sections that qualified for resentencing: cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana and sales and/or transport of marijuana, all felonies. The law also includes dismissing possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.
District Attorney Lacey used additional criteria to go beyond the parameters of the new law to ensure the greatest number of dismissals. Those expanded parameters include persons who are 50 years or older, haven’t had a felony conviction in the past 10 years or have successfully completed probation for cannabis convictions.
Based on this criteria, Code for America created a unique algorithm for the office in order to fast-track the identification of eligible convictions. This technology can analyze eligibility for thousands of convictions in seconds, alleviating the need for DA staff to go through state criminal records one by one to evaluate eligibility, saving time and significant resources.
AB 1793 Implementation
In California, all county District Attorney’s Offices are required to implement AB 1793 by July 1, 2020. Earlier this year, Code for America launched its new Clear My Record Application and Implementation Blueprint, available at no cost and open source to all California counties.
These resources allow every District Attorneys’ Office to expedite and streamline review of Proposition 64 convictions. The Clear My Record Application allows District Attorneys to securely and accurately evaluate eligibility for convictions by reading and interpreting criminal history data from the California Department of Justice.
Code for America has received an overwhelming interest from counties in accessing these resources to carry out the law. Code for America stands ready to work with counties that have not yet used this technology to help them automate the record clearance process and provide relief as required by law.
Record Clearance for the Digital Age
The current record clearance process was not designed to reach everyone who is eligible. With the current petition-based process, each person seeking relief must petition the court to clear their records, but this is a time-consuming, expensive, and confusing process. It is no surprise, then, that only 3% of those eligible for relief under Proposition 64 have received it.
Code for America’s pilot partnerships have set the standard for the statewide implementation of AB 1793, which tasks prosecutors with affirmatively reviewing convictions eligible for dismissal or reduction under Proposition 64.
This novel approach also creates a blueprint for the future of record clearance for remedies beyond Proposition 64 – the development of policy and technology that expands, streamlines and automates the record clearance process at scale. Code for America has been making it easier for people to remove eligible convictions from their records through Clear my Record technology since 2016.
To find out if your record has been cleared
To find out if your record has been cleared, or for more information about this initiative, contact the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office by phone at (323) 760-6763 or visit http://pubdef.lacounty.gov. The Public Defender’s Office will reply to all inquiries.
About Code for America
Code for America believes that government must work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age, starting with the people who need it most. It builds digital services that enhance government capabilities, and helps others do the same across all levels of government. It organizes thousands of volunteers across nearly 80 chapters nationwide who improve government in their local communities. Their goal: a 21st century government that effectively and equitably serves all Americans.
Learn more at codeforamerica.org.
Weedy Award Finalists to be Announced Feb 28 by Founder
HOLLYWOOD (Green Market Report) — WeedWeek founder and Editor Alex Halperin has created the Weedy Awards and the winners will be announced on February 28 in Hollywood.
Halperin said he wanted the awards to reflect his company’s desire to recognize excellence within the industry and to advance the idea that the industry should be diverse in its ownership and respectful of the environment.
The nomination process was akin to a reverse American Idol. The initial list was created through a nominating process with an all-star cannabis industry panel of judges to pick the winners. More than 500 people submitted the nominations.
The judges were given the top five vote-getters from the public nominations process and they narrowed it to three finalists. The judges include: Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor […]
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This Just In…
- Petition Circulating to Ask Judge to Keep Ed Buck in Jail
- RAGE is Latest Venue to Fall Victim to the Pandemic
- Koretz Won’t Back ‘Uplift Melrose’ Plan
- Man Sentenced for Hit-and-Run Death of Pedestrian on Sunset
- Beverly Grove Man Charged for COVID Relief Loan Fraud
- County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family
- Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day