Is Weed the Secret to Giving Sweet Dreams to PTSD Vets?

Marijuana helps reduce trauma symptoms and increase restful sleep.

If you’re a regular imbiber who's ever taken a long hiatus from your weed use, you may have noticed a strange phenomenon of intense, more lucid, and more frequent dreams. While these nocturnal freak shows are an insignificant aspect of a tolerance break, the dream release could be leading to a ground-breaking discovery for veterans and others struggling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the National Center for PTDS , one of the primary negative symptoms associated with the disorder is recurring night terrors, flashbacks, or a decrease in restful sleep. One study showed that, “Of those with PTSD, 71 percent to 96 percent may have nightmares.”

The experience of dream intensification following a cessation from marijuana use is attributed to an increase in REM sleep. Conversely, as shown in various studies, REM sleep is notably reduced with marijuana use before bed. This decrease in REM sleep has been associated with dream suppression overall, and as a result has been successful in helping veterans and other individuals struggling with post traumatic stress to reduce their harmful nightmares and increase restful sleep. 

From Vice:

Dr. Hans Hamburger, an expert in sleep studies says "By smoking weed, you suppress the REM sleep, and with that you also suppress a lot of important functions of that REM sleep. One of those functions is reliving the things you have experienced and coming to terms with them, as it were.”

Further research on the legitimization of marijuana treatment for PTSD and the effects of REM sleep suppression is being carried out by Dr.Sue Sisley, an expert on medicinal marijuana and previously a Department of Veterans Affairs physician. Sisley became motivated to devote her research to the beneficial properties of marijuana for PTSD after experiencing first-hand the high suicide rates associated with the disorder in her patients. She had observed positive results in her patients who were self-medicating with marijuana.

After urging from the veteran community, New Jersey has passed a bill that will allow post-traumatic stress disorder to be added to approved illnesses that qualify for treatment with medical marijuana programs. In light of new research and positive experiences of individuals afflicted with PTSD in using marijuana, hopefully other states are soon to follow suit.