Use of cannabinoids for the treatment of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder

J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2021 Mar 4;33(2):121-132. doi: 10.1515/jbcpp-2020-0279.


Objectives: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis of extreme anxiety caused by a traumatic event. Less than 10% of individuals who have experienced severe trauma will develop this disorder. Treatment options include various psychotherapies, but not all patients respond to them. Different pharmacological approaches have been explored as potential adjuvants, including using cannabinoids to target the endocannabinoid system to reduce the symptoms and enhance extinction training over the associated fear memories. This review was aimed to determine the effects of using cannabinoids for treatment of PTSD.

Content: For this review, four cohort studies, four randomized clinical trials, one case report, and one case series were obtained from PubMed within the last 10 years. Cannabis extracts, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and synthetic cannabinoids were used in the studies to target the cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2. Cannabinoids were shown to improve overall PTSD symptoms, including sleep quality and quantity, hyperarousal, and treatment-resistant nightmares. When participants were undergoing extinction training, cannabinoids given within the same time interval enhanced consolidation and retention.

Summary and outlook: Cannabinoids have been shown to be an effective treatment option for patients with PTSD. Besides aiding to relieve the symptoms and enhance extinction training, they also are relatively well tolerated. Common adverse effects included light-headedness, forgetfulness, dizziness, and headaches.

Keywords: PTSD; cannabidiol; cannabis; dronabinol; fear extinction; nabilone.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Cannabidiol* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabis*
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / drug therapy


  • Cannabinoids
  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol