November 25, 2016
1 min read

Cannabis may be potential treatment for PTSD, addiction

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Findings from a systematic review suggest that cannabis may be a potential treatment for PTSD and an alternative for substance use disorder, though current evidence is limited.

“There is not currently a lot of clear guidance on how mental health professionals can best work with people who are using cannabis for medical purposes,” Zach Walsh, PhD, of University of British Columbia, Canada, said in a press release. “With the end of prohibition, telling people to simply stop using may no longer be as feasible an option. Knowing how to consider cannabis in the treatment equation will become a necessity.”

Zach Walsh, PhD
Zach Walsh

To determine the role of cannabis for therapeutic purposes within the mental health field, researchers conducted a systematic review of 31 articles on the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes and mental health and 29 review articles on nontherapeutic cannabis use and mental health.

Analysis indicated that mental health conditions were common reasons for use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, though high-quality evidence was scarce.

Preliminary evidence indicated cannabis for therapeutic purposes may be a potential treatment for PTSD and a substitute for inappropriate use of other substances.

Extrapolation of studies assessing nontherapeutic cannabis use and mental health suggested use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes may be problematic for individuals with psychotic disorders.

“The implications of [cannabis for therapeutic purposes] for mental health care appear to vary across conditions with potential for both benefits and harms. In this regard cannabis is similar to other psychoactive medicines,” Walsh and colleagues wrote. “Health care providers should work to maximize positive outcomes by pursuing strategies to increase medication adherence, such as psychoeducation, ongoing assessment of motivations and barriers to adherence, and attention to the therapeutic alliance. Maintenance of alliance during [cannabis for therapeutic purposes]-related interactions may be particularly important as poor patient-caregiver communication has been identified as a potential barrier to safe access to [cannabis for therapeutic purposes].” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Walsh reports serving as a coordinating principal investigator on a clinical trial of cannabis that is sponsored by Tilray, a licensed producer of medical cannabis. Please see the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.