According to a new study conducted at the Haifa University psychology department and published in the Neuropsychopharmacology Journal, rats that were treated with marijuana within 24 hours of a traumatic experience successfully avoided any symptoms of PTSD (post- traumatic syndrome).
Dr. Irit Akirav, who led the study, said: "There is a critical window of time after trauma, during which synthetic marijuana can help prevent symptoms similar to PTSD in rats."
In the experiment, rats were exposed to extreme stress and then divided into four groups: the first given no marijuana, the second given a marijuana injection two hours after being exposed, the third after 24 hours and the fourth after 48 hours.
The researchers examined the rats a week later and found that the group that had not received marijuana, as well as the one that received the injection after 48 hours, displayed PTSD symptoms and a high level of anxiety.
Although the rats in the other two groups also displayed high levels of anxiety, the PTSD symptoms had totally disappeared.
"This shows that the marijuana administered in the proper window of time does not erase the experience, but can help prevent the development of PTSD symptoms in rats. We also found that the effects of the cannabinoids were mediated by receptors in the amygdala area of the brain, known to be responsible for mediation of stress, fear and trauma," Akirav said.
While a decisive parallel between emotional states in humans and animals cannot always be drawn, Akirav was confident psychiatrists will take her research forward to implement it on humans.