Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be caused by traumatic events that an individual lives through in which they were seriously hurt or could have been hurt. Examples of such situations include: rape, war and natural disasters. An individual who has been diagnosed PTSD_Trauma.jpgwith PTSD often experiences flashbacks, where they relive their trauma(s) and can often have nightmares that produce intense sadness and/or anger (CMHA, n.d.) Other symptoms of PTSD can include:
  • detachment from others
  • emotional numbness
  • trying to avoid thoughts, feelings, or situations that might provoke reliving the trauma

The DSM IV-TR also states that an individual who has been diagnosed with PTSD will experience distressing recollections of not only the event, but other images, thoughts, or perceptions that are similar to the trauma. Efforts are made by the individual to avoid recurrent thoughts of the event, as well as conversations that are focused on their trauma. An individual will be diagnosed with PTSD if their symptoms cause them "significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Bonn-Miller, Babson, Vujanovic, and Feldner (2010) examined the correlation between sleep difficulties and intensity of PTSD symptomatology and levels of marijuana use in twenty participants. Their findings showed that greater sleep difficulties (in terms of ptsd11.jpgquality of sleep and sleep disturbance in the past month) were predictive of higher levels of marijuana use to cope. Moreover, sleep difficulties and severity of PTSD symptomatology interacted to influence marijuana use. Thus, the authors suggested that people with PTSD who also have especially debilitating sleep issues are at greatest risk for using marijuana to cope (Bonn-Miller et al., 2010).

Cougle, Bonn-Miller, Vujanovic, Zvolensky, and Hawkins (2011) examined the connection between PTSD and cannabis use in more than five thousand participants in the U.S. The authors found that lifetime and current (past 12 month) PTSD diagnoses were correlated with a higher probability of a lifetime history of cannabis use and daily cannabis use in the last 12 months. They also noted that lifetime but not current PTSD was related to a greater probability of using cannabis in the past year (Cougle et al., 2011). The researchers found that roughly half of the participants with a lifetime PTSD diagnosis who endorsed lifetime cannabis use reported that their PTSD symptoms arose before or at about the same time as their initial cannabis use. As such, the authors suggested thatsharma-obesity-cannabis_leaf3.gif individuals with PTSD may be motivated to use cannabis to regulate negative mood. Moreover, people with PTSD may be more likely to continue using cannabis or relapse after quitting because cannabis helps to alleviate their stresses and PTSD symptoms (Cougle et al., 2011).

Bonn-Miller, Vujanovic, and Drescher (2011) investigated whether changes in the severity of PTSD symptoms in military veterans in residential treatment would be predictive of their cannabis use four months after discharge. They found that less change in PTSD symptomatology (as measured by the PTSD Checklist- Military Version) between intake and discharge was highly correlated with more usage of cannabis four months later. This effect was especially evident when there was lesser change in the avoidance/numbing and hyperarousal features of PTSD during treatment. These findings imply that veterans may use cannabis to numb their trauma-associated emotions and to regulate their hyperarousal (i.e. irritability, disturbed sleep, and heightened startle response) (Bonn-Miller et al., 2011).

PTSD Medical Marijuana Patient Interview