Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

post traumatic stress disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. These events can range from natural disasters, serious accidents, and violent personal assaults to military combat. PTSD is characterized by intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event that persist long after the event has occurred. 

Individuals with PTSD may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares, experience sadness, fear or anger, and feel detached or estranged from other people. They may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch. 

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of PTSD, its impact on individuals and society, the available treatment options, and the potential role of medical marijuana in managing its symptoms.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Definition and Overview of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assault. 

PTSD is not just a disorder that affects combat veterans, but can occur in all people, of any ethnicity, nationality, or culture, and at any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults every year, and an estimated one in eleven people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.

Prevalence and Impact of PTSD

PTSD has a significant impact on the lives of those who suffer from it, as well as on their families, communities, and society at large. The symptoms of PTSD can cause significant distress and impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. It can increase the risk of other mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. 

It can also lead to physical health issues, including heart disease, respiratory problems, and sexual dysfunction. The economic burden of PTSD is substantial, including costs of medical care, lost productivity, and disability payments.

Understanding PTSD

The Psychology and Biology of PTSD

PTSD is a complex disorder that involves both psychological and biological processes. Psychologically, PTSD is characterized by the re-experiencing of a traumatic event, avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, and increased arousal and reactivity. 

Biologically, PTSD is associated with changes in the brain regions and functions that process fear and stress. For instance, the amygdala, which processes fear responses, may become overactive. The prefrontal cortex, which normally helps regulate fear responses, may become less active. There are also changes in the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters that are involved in the stress response.

Causes and Risk Factors

PTSD is caused by exposure to a traumatic event, but not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Factors that increase the risk of developing PTSD include the intensity and duration of the trauma, having a close family member with PTSD, having other mental health problems, lacking a good support system, and having first-degree relatives with PTSD or depression.

Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria

Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive thoughts such as repeated, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, or flashbacks of the traumatic event. Avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions are also symptoms of PTSD. 

The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), include exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence, presence of intrusion symptoms, persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event, negative alterations in cognitions and mood, and marked alterations in arousal and reactivity.

Types and Subtypes of PTSD

PTSD can be categorized into different types or subtypes based on the timing of symptoms, the nature of the traumatic event, and whether symptoms are associated with dissociative features. These include delayed-onset PTSD, complex PTSD, and PTSD with dissociative symptoms. Delayed-onset PTSD is when symptoms don’t appear until at least six months after the traumatic event. 

Complex PTSD can occur after exposure to prolonged, repeated trauma, and is characterized by additional symptoms such as difficulties with emotion regulation and feelings of worthlessness. PTSD with dissociative symptoms is when the individual experiences feelings of being detached from their mind or body, or experiences reality in a distorted way.

The Impact of PTSD

Physical Health Consequences

PTSD can have serious physical health consequences. Individuals with PTSD are at a higher risk for developing a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and chronic pain. 

They are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, substance abuse, and poor diet, which can further contribute to physical health problems. Sleep disturbances, a common symptom of PTSD, can also have negative effects on physical health.

Mental and Emotional Impact

The mental and emotional impact of PTSD is significant. Individuals with PTSD may experience intense fear, anger, sadness, and feelings of detachment or disinterest in activities they once enjoyed. They may also have difficulty concentrating, feel constantly on guard, or be easily startled. PTSD is also associated with a higher risk of other mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.

Social and Economic Impact

PTSD can also have profound social and economic impacts. The symptoms of PTSD can make it difficult for individuals to maintain relationships, perform well at work, or engage in social activities. This can lead to isolation, job loss, and financial difficulties. 

On a larger scale, the costs of PTSD, including healthcare expenses, lost productivity, and disability payments, can be substantial. The social and economic impacts of PTSD can further exacerbate the distress and impairment caused by the disorder, creating a cycle that can be difficult to break.

Treatment and Management of PTSD

Psychotherapies and Counseling

Psychotherapy, often referred to as talk therapy, is a cornerstone of PTSD treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is particularly effective. CBT helps patients understand and change thought patterns leading to harmful behaviors or distressing feelings. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another therapy that has shown efficacy in PTSD treatment. EMDR combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements that help process traumatic memories and change the emotional response to these memories.


Medications can play a pivotal role in managing PTSD symptoms. Antidepressants, particularly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), are often the first line of treatment. These medications can help alleviate the anxiety and mood symptoms associated with PTSD. Additionally, certain medications like Prazosin can be used to reduce specific symptoms such as nightmares.

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

Alternative and complementary therapies can offer additional avenues for symptom relief. Practices such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and acupuncture have shown promise in reducing stress and improving overall well-being. These therapies can be used in conjunction with traditional treatments to provide a holistic approach to PTSD management.

Self-Care and Coping Strategies

Self-care is an essential aspect of managing PTSD. This includes maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular physical activity, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep. Avoiding substances like alcohol and drugs, which can exacerbate symptoms, is also crucial. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, massage, and progressive muscle relaxation, can help manage stress and reduce PTSD symptoms.

Support for Individuals with PTSD

Social support is a critical component of recovery. This can come from various sources, including family and friends, support groups, or online communities. These networks provide a sense of belonging, reduce feelings of isolation, and offer practical advice on coping with PTSD. The journey to recovery is not one that needs to be taken alone, and support networks can provide invaluable assistance along the way.

PTSD and Medical Marijuana

Role of Medical Marijuana in Managing PTSD Symptoms

Medical marijuana has been evaluated as a potential treatment for PTSD, with some studies suggesting it may provide relief for various symptoms. The endocannabinoid system, which is affected by the active compounds in marijuana, may play a role in PTSD. 

An increase in availability and decreased agonism of CB-1 receptors has been found in patients with PTSD. Alterations in these receptors have been seen in depression. The stimulation of the receptors in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus may alleviate anxiety as well as cause sensitization of CB-1 receptor–mediated G-protein signaling in the prefrontal cortex, which may play a role in suicide and suicidal behavior[1].

Research and Evidence on Medical Marijuana for PTSD

Research on the use of medical marijuana for PTSD is limited and results are mixed. A study conducted in Israel found significant improvement in global symptom severity, sleep quality, and the frequency of nightmares in patients with chronic PTSD who used THC. 

However, other studies conducted in the United States found that marijuana use was associated with worse PTSD treatment outcomes. It’s important to note that these studies have various limitations, including small sample sizes, observational designs, and reliance on self-reported data.

Risks and Considerations

While some research suggests the potential benefits of medical marijuana for PTSD, it’s important to consider the risks. Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance federally, meaning it has no currently accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. 

Additionally, the long-term effects of marijuana use on PTSD symptoms are not well understood, and more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks.

Navigating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in New York

State Resources and Support for Individuals with PTSD

New York State offers a variety of resources and support for individuals dealing with PTSD. These include mental health services, counseling programs, and support groups. The Office of Mental Health (OMH) provides a comprehensive list of services and resources available to individuals with PTSD, including crisis intervention services, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, and community support services.

Legal and Regulatory Framework for PTSD Treatment

PTSD is recognized as a serious mental health condition in New York State, and there are laws and regulations in place to ensure that individuals with PTSD have access to the treatment and support they need. This includes access to mental health services, insurance coverage for PTSD treatment, and protections against discrimination.

Accessing Medical Marijuana for PTSD in New York

In New York, PTSD is one of the qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use. Individuals with PTSD who are interested in using medical marijuana as part of their treatment plan must first obtain a certification from a registered practitioner. Once certified, they can apply for a registry ID card from the New York State Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Program.

The Office of Cannabis Management oversees the licensure, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and taxation of medical cannabis within New York State. Registered patients can buy medical cannabis products from dispensing facilities operated by registered organizations across New York State.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex and challenging mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide, including a significant number of individuals in New York. Understanding the nature of PTSD, its impact on individuals and society, and the various treatment options available, including the use of medical marijuana, is crucial for those affected by this disorder.

The journey through PTSD is deeply personal and varies from person to person. However, with the right resources, support, and treatment, individuals with PTSD can manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and move toward recovery. The state of New York provides a robust framework of support and resources for individuals with PTSD, including access to medical marijuana for those who may benefit from it.

As we continue to learn more about PTSD and the potential benefits of medical marijuana, it’s important to stay informed and open to new possibilities. Always consult with healthcare professionals when considering treatment options, and remember, you are not alone in this journey.

Note: This article’s content is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or queries regarding laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult a lawyer, physician, or other licensed practitioner.