• Synthetic cannabis compound given to rats after an electric shock
  • They were then shown a reminder of the shock to bring back the memory 
  • Rats given the compound showed no symptoms of PTSD
  • Comparably, rats not administered the compound showed PTSD symptoms
  • Compound alters area of the brain associated with traumatic memories
  • ‘Human trials should be carried out to see if cannabis is a viable treatment’

Cannabis could help prevent the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), scientists have claimed.

The drug triggers changes in the area of the brain associated with traumatic memories, they found.

The new study adds to a growing body of research showing marijuana can have a positive effect on PTSD.

Scientists at the University of Haifa in Israel examined the effects of WIN 55,212-2, a synthetic compound that produces a similar effect that of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active compound in marijuana. 

Cannabis can help ease the symptoms of PTSD as it triggers changes in the areas of the brain associated with forming and holding traumatic memories, a study found

Cannabis can help ease the symptoms of PTSD as it triggers changes in the areas of the brain associated with forming and holding traumatic memories, a study found

PTSD sufferers often find certain events, places or situations bring back the memory of their trauma, amplifying the negative effects.

Lead author Dr Irit Akirav, of the University of Haifa, said: ‘The findings of our study suggest that the connectivity within the brain’s fear circuit changes following trauma, and the administration of cannabinoids prevents this change from happening.’

She said: ‘This study can lead to future trials in humans regarding possible ways to prevent the development of PTSD and anxiety disorders in response to a traumatic event.’

As part of the study, researchers administered electric shots to rats to simulate a traumatic event.

Following the trauma, some of the rats were injected with the sympathetic marijuana compound.

A few days later, the rats were exposed to reminders of the trauma, which brought up memories of the electric shock.

SYMPTOMS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISOREDER 

SYMPTOMS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

SYMPTOMS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

As part of the study, researchers administered electric shots to rats to simulate a traumatic event.

Following the trauma, some of the rats were injected with the sympathetic marijuana compound.

A few days later, the rats were exposed to reminders of the trauma, which brought up memories of the electric shock.

They then went through a trauma ‘extinction procedure’, a process designed to help them cope with the symptoms of PTSD.

After being exposed to the reminders of the trauma, the rats injected with the synthetic marijuana compound did not show PTSD symptoms.

Rats who were not given the substance, did experience these symptoms.

These include impaired extinction learning, which means their normal gradual decrease in response to a stimulus was impaired, so they might never ‘get used’ to the stimulus.

They also showed an increased startle response, changes in their sensitivity to pain and the plasticity in the brain’s reward center was impaired.

Rats injected with the cannabis compound fared better than a group of rats given an antidepressant, which is commonly used to treat PTSD.

Researchers found that in rats exposed to trauma and a reminder of this trauma there was an increase in the expression of two brain receptors associated with emotional processing, called the CB1 and GR receptors.

The synthetic cannabis compound prevented the expression of these receptors in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

These are the areas of the brain involved in forming and saving traumatic memories.

Human trials should be carried out to find out if marijuana could be used as a treatment for PTSD.

The research was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience, but it's not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don't

PTSD is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don’t

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