Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health, and individuals with PTSD may be particularly affected. Substance use has been shown to affect clinical outcomes in people with PTSD, and it is important to examine the link between mental health and cannabis use in PTSD during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study aimed to examine the link between mental health and cannabis use in PTSD during the pandemic.
The study, which was conducted from April 3rd to June 24th 2020, used a web-based population survey to gather data on the psychological, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic. 466 participants with self-reported PTSD were identified from a sample of 6,981 participants. They were divided into four groups based on changes in cannabis use patterns from pre-pandemic to during the pandemic.
Three validated questionnaires were used to assess symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression in the participants with PTSD. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS10), the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7), and the QIDS-SR16 were used to assess depression symptoms. Mixed ANCOVAs were applied on PSS10, GAD-7 and QIDS-SR16 total scores, and adjusted for relevant covariates: age, occupation, and current diagnosis of addiction-related/substance use disorders.
According to the research, compared to 40–50% for all other groups, 72% of those who increased their cannabis usage during the pandemic showed clinically significant worsening of depression symptoms. The authors wrote that “PTSD sufferers who increased their cannabis use during the pandemic were more likely to also experience “meaningful perceived worsening of depression symptoms.” However, it is important to understand that it's still not apparent if the rise in cannabis usage was due to self-medication and therapeutic use, or if cannabis was really the cause.
Interestingly, the least amount of depression symptoms were reported by those who said they did not alter their cannabis use throughout the start of the pandemic. It's feasible that supplementation with consistent THC dosing could restore the balance of the brain's endocannabinoid system.
For stress and anxiety symptoms, the relationship between those symptoms and cannabis use was not successfully demonstrated.
Overall, the study suggests that cannabis use may be associated with increases in depression symptoms in those with PTSD during the pandemic. The study also highlights the importance of considering the relationship between mental health and substance use in PTSD during the pandemic.
This study is important because it provides valuable insights into how the pandemic has affected the mental health of those with PTSD. It also provides a deeper understanding of the relationship between mental health and substance use in PTSD during the pandemic.