Cannabinoids comprise biologically active components of cannabis, such as CBD or THC, as well as their synthetic counterparts. Upon entering the body, cannabinoids activate the endogenous cannabinoid signalling system, thereby producing a wide range of effects on the nervous system including alterations to mood and memory processes. Such effects provide the scientific basis for the use of these substances to manage post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), whose symptoms range from agitation, irritability, flashback, anxiety to insomnia and nightmare.
Military veterans suffer from a particularly high prevalence of PTSD, and a substantial subset of them has reported using medical cannabis or synthetic analogs of THC such as nabilone to cope with its symptoms. In fact, patients with more severe PTSD symptoms have been found to be significantly more likely to elect cannabis-derived medicine. Results from a small number of clinical studies have offered strong evidence that the majority of users experienced benefits, most noticeably reduction in anxiety, insomnia and improvement in coping ability. Nonetheless, large well-designed controlled trials are still needed to define the role of cannabinoids as a supplement or alternative to conventional approaches to PTSD therapy.