Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by difficulties that a person faces when recovering from experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. It affects approximately 10% of the population at some point in life. Despite this high prevalence, current medications for PTSD have been shown to be inefficient while resulting in significant side effects.

The endocannabinoid (ECB) system is a signalling system of the human body. It primarily consists of endocannabinoids – signalling molecules naturally occurring in the body, CB1 and CB2 – receptors they bind to, and enzymes that synthesize and degrade them. Since the ECB was discovered to be involved in emotional memory processing – the process that underlies PTSD – regulating ECB function using pharmaceutical compounds has become a promising approach for PTSD treatment. Cannabidiol (CBD), a major constituent of the plant cannabis, is a compound that interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECB system and therefore scientifically categorized as cannabinoids. It particularly gained attention as a potential drug candidate since it doesn’t induce psychoactive effects like THC, the other major cannabis-derived cannabinoid.

Laboratory research in various rodent models of behaviour has demonstrated that CBD can both facilitate the extinction of aversive memories and block their reconsolidation, possibly through activation of the ECB system. More recently, clinical studies in which CBD was tested as a medication for PTSD patients who did not respond to conventional therapy have further confirmed that CBD can alter important aspects of aversive memories and promote significant improvements in PTSD symptoms.

These results, along with the current lack of pharmaceutical treatment for PTSD, have situated CBD as a promising drug candidate to be integrated into the standard treatment regimen for this disorder.


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