In the modern era, the word trauma is heard almost daily on the news, in the newspapers, on Social Media and in our daily conversations. We hear about PTSD, we discuss childhood traumas, adult traumas, and how we, as individuals have dealt with these issues; but in all reality, is there any true understanding as we go through our daily lives of what it means, and how it affects our bodies, minds and our lives? For the past month I have been talking to friends, colleagues, cannabis industry professionals, psychologists and counselors gathering personal and professional definitions of “trauma” and I have come to believe that in all reality trauma is very personal and isn’t something that can be applied to all people in a sweeping generalization. With a background in Social Work and Mental Healthcare, this realization makes a lot of sense to me, as people who experience life traumas do not respond the same and their treatments are usually very individualized. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back and talk about the dictionary definition of trauma.
1 – a) an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
b) a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury
c) an emotional upset
I’m not sure about you, but this definition seems far too broad and doesn’t take into consideration the variables of individual people, and their personal experiences and skills. I also believe many people who suffer from PTSD would disagree they have a “disordered psychic state” all of the time. Let’s look at some other definitions that mental health care professionals, life skills teachers and others use.
American Psychological Association
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.
Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences.
After a few comments back and forth on my Facebook page, people were very adamant about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs being important in trauma, because when an important developmental stage is missed, due to negligence, environment, or a significant, life changing event the brain responds in certain ways to protect the ego/self.
I don’t know about you, but the light bulbs are going off and I might have said, “YES!” a little loudly here at my desk. This is more along the lines of what I have been thinking and points directly to the fact that trauma is very individually based because not everyone responds the same way. One parents loss of a child may cause them to spiral into serious depression, migraines, isolation, nausea and other various health concerns. They may react poorly to a child’s laugh, or may not even be able to be around children at all anymore, even though that was their life. While others may dive into children’s charities, surround themselves with kids, and seem to not be as affected as the other parent, however, they both experienced a trauma. This directly points to what is called the “trauma response” and it is truly what makes trauma different for every individual, and what can make treatment so difficult, and why I personally believe cannabis is a helpful alternative to traditional therapies for many people, this is after all a blog about cannabis!
A trauma response, is literally an individuals emotional, physical and psychological response to traumatic events in their lives. Many people show signs of anger, sadness, fear, regret, and shame, which can then lead to problems in relationships, trouble sleeping, inability to keep a job, and a plethora of physical manifestations as well. People with PTSD and other trauma based illnesses, report dizziness, upset sleep patterns, nausea, headaches, stomach aches, indigestion and weight gain/loss. While all of these things can be disruptive to a persons life, the psychological toll may truly be greater than we know.
In the past, PTSD has often been hard to treat because the treatment models are based on treating anxiety and depression, which while they are components of what people are experiencing they don’t encompass all of the issues, not to mention, not everyone exposed to the exact same trauma will develop PTSD or even the same symptoms, making it very hard to treat. In recent years, cannabis has been studied in its effectiveness for treating symptoms of PTSD for the general public and our veterans more specifically, offering hope for the first time to a lot of people. In March of 2019, the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience published an article by Alfonso Abizaid, PhD, Zul Merali, PhD, and Hymie Anisman, PhD that looked into cannabis as an effective treatment for PTSD. Though they have come to the conclusion that more research on humans needs to be done, there is significant evidence that the use of THC and CBD greatly enhanced their quality of sleep and reduced nightmares as well as other reduced symptoms of their PTSD. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6397040/) As many people know, doing research in the landscape of varied restrictions and laws can be difficult, but scientists continue to push for these restrictions to be lifted so more legitimate, scientific research studies can be performed, but that doesn’t mean that hope doesn’t exist for people today, as a recent article out of Canada shows.
In “Cannabis shows potential for treating PTSD: New Study”, published in November 2019 a study showed a significant reduction in suicide rates in those diagnosed with PTSD who used cannabis in comparison to those in the general population. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, or what modality you are using if people who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other trauma related illnesses are still committing suicide, this is the true measure of the efficacy of a treatment, in my opinion, and the truth is people are choosing to LIVE because of cannabis.
Anxiety is often a key component to PTSD and other trauma related disorders and when using cannabis, this can often be the reason people choose NOT to, and as long as a person is well informed and starts slow, cannabis is a perfect alternative treatment for those who have not found relief in traditional therapies. Too many people believe that just because you are consuming THC that you are high. This is a myth. My hair stylist, my Primary Care Doctor, my Pharmacist, the nail lady, my Physical Therapist, they have never seen me high, but they have seen my health improve and my medications decrease. It’s about finding your dose, your balance, the place where you are comfortable! This also doesn’t mean I don’t like to relax a little, let’s be honest! But being healthy FIRST is the key!!!! Don’t listen to your neighbors kid on what to take! Don’t just try something because someone you know who has issues nothing like yours says its good. Hell, don’t even take someone’s word for it who has the EXACT same issues as you do, you are not them! Our bodies are as individual as we are, and it needs us to pay attention to the subtle cues it gives us to let us know what it needs, especially when starting a cannabis therapy routine. THC, if you take too much, will probably make your anxiety worse, so be smart about it and start slow, but do yourself a favor and START!
If you are looking for someone to help you along your cannabis journey please send me a message and let me guide you to a healthy not high lifestyle! Unless that’s what you want!!!! Then we will start with the healthy part first, then get high!!!! Remember to stay wonderfully wickedly elevated and enjoy your weekend! I know I went a little sideways, but I wanted people to start thinking about what trauma is, and the different issues cannabis can treat, even the ones you didn’t think about!!!! As always, please send me questions or thoughts!!!!!