Could cannabis counteract depression and suicidal thoughts in PTSD patients? The result of a Canadian study on this question is "yes".
A Canadian research team evaluated data from a 2012 national survey that dealt with the topic "mental health". The data used in the survey included information from over 24,000 Canadians who were 15 years or older.
The evaluation showed that PTSD patients who had not used cannabis in the previous 12 months according to their own statements were much more likely to experience depression and suicidal thoughts than those who had used the substance. Professor Michael J. Milloy, the lead author of the study, remarked: "These are very promising results. They encourage us to finally take a closer look at the benefits of cannabis for PTSD patients".
Canada and the USA have the highest PTSD rates globally. According to earlier research, 9.2% of the Canadian and 7.2% of the US population suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives. The main study author Stephanie Lake said: "Treatment options for PTSD have been severely limited. Many patients resort to cannabis to relieve their symptoms".
The researchers found that among all the persons studied, 28.2% of PTSD patients used cannabis within the last 12 months, while 11.2% of the persons studied without PTSD used the substance.
With regard to all persons examined who did not use cannabis, the researchers found that PTSD patients had depressive phases 7.2 times more frequently, and suicidal thoughts 4.8 times more frequently than subjects without the disorder. However, the researchers could not find any difference between people with and without PTSD among study participants who had taken cannabis.
Therefore, the research team concluded that the survey results provided strong evidence that cannabis could play a huge role in breaking the link between PTSD and major depression and suicidal ideation.
For this reason, the researchers saw an urgent need to more clearly establish the effectiveness of cannabis use against PTSD in large-scale experimental studies. Professor Milloy concluded: "We are still at the very beginning of understanding the full extent of therapeutic efficacy of cannabis".
Lake S et al., Does cannabis use modify the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder on severe depression and suicidal ideation? Evidence from a population-based cross-sectional study of Canadians. Journal of Psychopharmacology 2019; https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119882806