THC May Help Break Down Harmful Memories

Lately cannabidiol (CBD) has been hogging the therapeutic limelight; it’s an anti-inflammatory, an anti-tumor, and it helps inhibit psychotic behavior. THC, the psychoactive chemical most prized in the recreational community, has been deemed to have less potential for therapeutic use, in part due to the side effects that accompany dosage. For this reason, much clinical research has shifted toward CBD and away from THC. However, THC’s psychedelic, mindset-altering activity is exactly what lends it therapeutic benefits in situations involving memory and fear consolidation. Fear memory consolidation occurs after a painful memory is acquired, and is the process through which that memory is stabilized in the brain. Although not all aspects are understood, we know that the consolidation process involves strengthening synapses the brain deems useful and paring down synapses the brain deems less useful. Aside from this process, memories are also converted from being dependent on the short-term memory region of the brain to being independent of this region and placed in a longer-term storage area. However, memories are also capable of being re-consolidated and forming new associations. To put all of this into practical terms, someone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) stemming from military service may initially suffer injury while hearing an unrelated stimulus, such as a warning siren. The brain may then associate the pain and injury with that sound. Unfortunately, as the individual returns to normal society and hears similar sounds, such as ambulance sirens, those memories and fears may resurface, causing additional pain, aggression, and…

Getting to Sleep with Cannabis Part II: PTSD

Imagine having to re-live the worst moment of your life every time you sleep. Imagine that rather than being able to rest, you’re forced to experience that moment in slow motion over and over, feeling horribly trapped in a world you did not ask to be in. For some individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this is literally the situation they face. In the last article about cannabis and sleep, one of the major points we hoped to communicate is that sleep disorders are caused by a variety of reasons, each with its own special set of circumstances. Individuals with sleep disorders resulting from PTSD comprise one of those sub-groups and can be one of the hardest groups to treat. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, PTSD can be thought of as the brain’s attempt to help itself or to protect the individual from further harm. After experiencing something deeply disturbing and traumatic, the brain becomes overly focused on the event, constantly re-hashing, re-living, and re-dicing the situation as if it were to glean some special knowledge or produce some behavior that will prevent the event from ever happening again. Unfortunately, that’s just not how life works. Sometimes terrible things happen for no reason at all. While fully processing serious events is important and necessary in the short term, true long-term healing means the ability to leave it in the past and to avoid letting it define one’s identity. Individuals with PTSD have difficulty doing this due to brain changes…

Vaporization Part II

This is the second article in a multi-part series about vaporizing cannabis. The first article focused on the way vaporizers work, the health benefits of vaporizing, and the viability of vaporizers in delivering medical cannabis. This article will look beyond just the health differences between vapor inhalation and smoke inhalation, and will focus more on the substantial qualitative health differences in the experience between vaporizing and smoking. As it happens, not only are fewer toxins released during vaporizing, there is also a different profile of terpenoids, cannabinoids, and flavonoids that are released as well. Although most of these molecules are not independently psychoactive, they are capable of moderating how THC is metabolized, as well as providing distinctively different sensations and qualities to the medication .This is what may account for the diverse views of medical cannabis patients on the subject of vaporizing, since the respiratory health benefits are well established. Before getting into the specifics of what chemicals are affected and what changes are brought about, we’ll start with a quick review of how chemicals are released into the air during a vaporization or smoking session. In a vaporization reaction, chemicals are essentially changing from one state to another, similar to the way water vaporizes when placed on a stove. Although the temperature increase may cause chemical changes to the atoms before they are vaporized (such as the de-carboxylation required for the body to metabolize THC) the molecules are essentially changing phase. There is no flame because the chemical bonds…

The Future of Treating PTSD with Cannabis

Culturally, the U.S. has informally associated cannabis use and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for decades. In fact, a shell-shocked war veteran relieving anxiety through cannabis use is somewhat of a cultural touchstone. This stereotype poses an interesting question: why? What is it about cannabis that lends itself as a natural medicine for PTSD? As has been the case with other areas of cannabis research, the cart has arrived before the horse: we are faced with a mountain of empirical evidence in the form of tens of thousands of individuals relying on cannabis for symptom relief, and yet only finally beginning to crack the science behind it. PTSD is characterized by 3 major groups of symptoms: persistent re-experience of the traumatic event persistent increased psychological arousal (being overly “awake” or sensitive to stimuli) persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic incident. To describe in layman’s terms, what has happened is that the memory and anxiety systems of the brain have been knocked out of normal functioning via a particularly traumatic event in the patient’s life. The memory of that event has been consolidated very deeply into the brain, and as an adaptive mechanism, the brain now accesses that memory over and over again, forcing the individual to relive the trauma on a frequent basis and preventing the memory from being dampened or extinguished healthily. While remembering trauma can keep us from injuring ourselves the same way twice, this is a case where the brain has become over-vigilant and is doing…