Medical marijuana is known to ease pain in cancer patients of all ages and is used for that purpose in Israel and many other countries. Now University of Haifa researchers, working with rodents, have found that administering cannabis after a traumatic experience prevents the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms in a rat model.
They discovered that while the drug does not erase the traumatic experience, it does prevent the development of post-trauma symptoms. If clinical studies show that cannabinoids accomplish the same in humans, they could be boon to Israel, where wars, terror attacks, road accidents and other traumatic events have often occurred, as well as to the rest of the world.
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Dr. Irit Akirav of the of the university’s psychology department and colleagues published her findings in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
“We found that there is a ‘window of opportunity’ during which administering synthetic marijuana helps deal with symptoms simulating post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] in rats,” said Akirav, who led the study. In the study, which she conducted with research student Eti Ganon-Elazar, the researchers set out to examine how administering cannabinoids (synthetic marijuana) affects the development of PTSD-like symptoms in rats, whose physiological reactions to traumatic and stressful events are similar to human reactions.
In the first part of the study, the researchers exposed a group of rats to extreme stress and observed that the rats did indeed display symptoms resembling human PTSD, such as an enhanced startle reflex, impaired extinction learning and disruption of the negative feedback cycle of the stress-influenced HPA axis.