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CBD can block fear-related memories from forming after a traumatic event

CBD is gaining support as a preventative strategy to protect against damage from a traumatic brain injury, but a recent study suggests that it may also help in preventing the long-term devastation from severe psychological trauma. These studies suggest that CBD may help prevent the development of PTSD by impairing the memory of a traumatic or stressful event.

PTSD results from exposure to a traumatic or stressful event. Scientists can model the events that cause PTSD in lab animals by pairing neutral sensory stimuli, like tones or lights, with a small shock delivered through the floor of a conditioning chamber. Soon, the animals become fearful of both the chamber where they received the shock and the stimuli that were associated with the shock.

Scientists in Brazil used this traumatic fear conditioning paradigm with rats to study CBD’s impact on the memory of the traumatic shock. CBD was injected directly into the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in autobiographical memory and regulating the stress response, at different time points following the traumatic event. Consistent with CBD’s protective effects, CBD injected into the hippocampus immediately after fear conditioning impaired memory for the event through a mechanism that required endocannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) and partially involved serotonin and adenosine receptors.

However, people don’t usually have access to preventative treatment in the moments immediately following a traumatic event. The scientists therefore sought to identify the timeframe by which CBD treatment would be effective. CBD’s benefits were only observed at 1 hour, but not 3 hours after the event.

Together, these studies suggest that CBD may help prevent the development of PTSD by impairing the memory of a traumatic or stressful event. Further, they extend support for CBD’s potential value as a preventative strategy for high-risk activities such as military combat. However, this benefit extends beyond the military as nearly 7% of the population experience PTSD symptoms from non-combat related events such as vehicle accidents or domestic violence. Many are eagerly awaiting studies that probe the CBD’s preventative benefits in a clinical trial.

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