Cannabis could help treat depression in people with PTSD, B.C. study finds

A new study out of British Columbia suggests a possible future for treating depression among people with post-traumatic stress syndrome. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward

Could cannabis hold the key to treating depression in people with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)?

A new study by the University of British Columbia and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) suggests pot could hold promise.

For the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers looked at Statistics Canada data from 24,000 Canadians.

They found having PTSD was strongly linked with suffering a major depressive episode or suicidal thoughts among people who did not consume cannabis — but not among those who did.

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The research suggests a possible therapeutic use for cannabis among people with PTSD, said the BCCSU.

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“We know that with limited effective treatment options for PTSD, many patients take to medicating with cannabis to alleviate their symptoms,” said lead author Stephanie Lake, a PhD candidate at UBC and research associate at the BCCSU.

“However, until now, there has been no population-level data to suggest that cannabis might have a possible therapeutic role in the course of PTSD. These findings offer those patients seeking treatment options some promise.”

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Researchers say there are well documented links between trauma from injury, conflict, violence and disaster and depression and suicide, and note that at about 9.2 per cent of the population, Canada has one of the highest prevailing rates of PTSD.

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From the 24,000 eligible respondents, researchers found 420 with a current PTSD diagnosis. Of that group, about 28 per cent reported using cannabis in the last year, while about 11 per cent did not.

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Researchers said they found that non-cannabis users with PTSD were about seven times more likely to have experienced a recent major depressive episode, and about 4.7 per cent more likely to have thoughts of suicide, compared non-cannabis users without PTSD.

Among those who did use cannabis, the study found PTSD was not linked to a recent depressive episode or thoughts of suicide.

Researchers also noted that more than a quarter of Canadians with PTSD reported using cannabis, a percentage far higher than in the general population, which is estimated at about 11.4 per cent.

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