The incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common within the population and even more so among veterans. Current medication treatment is limited primarily to antidepressants. Such medicines have shown to produce low remission rates and may require 9 patients to be treated for 1 to have a response. Aside from the Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense guidelines, other guidelines do not recommend pharmacotherapy as a first-line option, particularly in the veteran population. Marijuana has been evaluated as an alternative and novel treatment option with 16 states legalizing its use for PTSD.
A systematic search was conducted to evaluate the evidence for the use of marijuana for PTSD. Studies for the review were included based on a literature search from Ovid MEDLINE and Google Scholar.
Five studies were identified that evaluated the use of marijuana for PTSD. One trial was conducted in Israel and actively used marijuana. Three studies did not use marijuana in the treatment arm but instead evaluated the effects postuse. A retrospective chart review from New Mexico relied on patients to recall their change in PTSD symptoms when using marijuana. Three studies concluded there might be a benefit, but two discouraged its use. Although the two negative studies show a statistical difference in worse PTSD outcomes, clinical significance is unclear.
Conflicting data exist for the use of marijuana for PTSD; however, current evidence is limited to anecdotal experiences, case reports, and observational studies, making it difficult to make clinical recommendations.