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Cannabis Superior to Antidepressant at Treating Trauma in Rats

A flowering cannabis plantThe effects of trauma can last a lifetime. People who survive traumatic events such as rape, abuse, war, and natural disasters may experience intrusive memories known as flashbacks, as well as fear, depression, avoidance, and mood swings. Some people who have experienced trauma have symptoms that warrant a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress (PTSD). According to a new study on rats with symptoms of trauma similar to those of humans, trauma victims may benefit from a chemical in marijuana.

Can Cannabinoids Affect Symptoms of Trauma?

For the study, researchers “traumatized” rats by shocking them, then exposed them to a stimulus that reminded them of the trauma three and five days later. In humans who experience PTSD, reminders such as loud noise or graphic violence—sometimes called triggers—can result in a flashback to the traumatic memory. Some rats were then injected with cannabinoids from synthetic marijuana. Cannabinoids are chemicals secreted by the flowers in marijuana, and medical marijuana advocates argue that these chemicals are the source of the apparent benefits of the drug. Another group of rats were injected with Sertraline, an antidepressant that is sometimes used to treat PTSD.

Both groups also underwent an extinction procedure designed to reduce or eliminate the effects of the electric shock; this procedure was similar to that used in exposure therapy, a common protocol for treating PTSD. The rats injected with cannabinoid improved and did not show symptoms of trauma such as increased startle reflex and poor plasticity in reward centers in the brain. The rats who took Sertraline did not show the same dramatic improvements. Instead, their behavior was similar to rats who had been traumatized but who were not exposed to reminders of the trauma. Thus cannabis might help minimize the effects of trauma reminders.

Researchers found that traumatized rats had an increase in the expression of two brain receptors: CB1, which cannabinoids bind to, and GR, which is associated with stress. Rats who were injected with cannabinoids, though, had a slightly different outcome. Within the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, there was no increase in expression of these receptors. Researchers believe this might explain the effects of cannabinoids on trauma.


Cannabis prevents the negative behavioral and physiological effects of a traumatic event and of its reminders. (2014, September 4). Retrieved from

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  • Virginia

    September 11th, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Just because it makes you feel numb and kind of silly for a little while does not mean that it makes the internal pain go away though

  • alec

    September 12th, 2014 at 4:03 AM

    There are so many benefits to cannabis that I am still stunned that the general public as a whole does not see it. I know that it can be abused, when used improperly, most anything can be, but that alone should not take away the fact that it can be a help to many people in multiple different situations.

  • Joe

    September 12th, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Are we hearing when this type of study could be done with humans? I know that a whole lot of background work has to be done before this can be a consideration but if the benefits are that powerful then if this happened to me or to someone that I know then I think that it would be worth a try.
    I think that there is a time and place when we have to accept that the time is gone when this should be illegal. There are just too many good things and healking properties about it to continue to deny it to much of the general public.

  • mayellen

    September 17th, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    This combined with talk therapy could be an awesome way for those hwo have experienced a traumatic event in their past to move forward and to make real progress IF there are enough states that would allow it to be utilized in this way.

  • Aaron

    September 28th, 2014 at 4:10 AM

    Nothing makes the pain go away.

  • Howie

    November 14th, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Hang in there brother. Life is worth it. Get to a doctor.

  • Dalton

    October 12th, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    Cannabis is so light yet dose dependent it should be dealt with by not reacting to it and let who it helps use it My dads seizures disapeared legal trouble now he is xanaxed out for epilepsy really isnt cool he forgets everything now omg let him smoke

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