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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014 Mar 1;136:162-5. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.12.008. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

Using cannabis to help you sleep: heightened frequency of medical cannabis use among those with PTSD.

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Center for Innovation to Implementation and National Center for PTSD, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, 795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA; Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education, Philadelphia VAMC and Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, USA. Electronic address:
Center for Innovation to Implementation, VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford School of Medicine, 795 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, 5510 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.



The use of cannabis for medical purposes is proliferating in the U.S., and PTSD is an explicitly approved condition for accessing medical cannabis in 5 states. Prior research suggests that people with PTSD often use cannabis to help cope with their condition, and that doing so results in more frequent and problematic cannabis use patterns. Specific coping motivations, such as sleep improvement, among medical cannabis users, have not been examined.


The present study evaluated specific coping use motivations, frequency of cannabis and alcohol use, and mental health among a convenience sample of patients (N=170) at a medical cannabis dispensary in California.


Those with high PTSD scores were more likely to use cannabis to improve sleep, and for coping reasons more generally, compared with those with low PTSD scores. Cannabis use frequency was greater among those with high PTSD scores who used for sleep promoting purposes compared with those with low PTSD scores or those who did not use for sleep promoting purposes.


Consistent with prior research, this study found increased rates of coping-oriented use of cannabis and greater frequency of cannabis use among medical users with high PTSD scores compared with low PTSD scores. In addition, sleep improvement appears to be a primary motivator for coping-oriented use. Additional research is needed to examine the health consequences of this pattern of cannabis use and whether alternative sleep promoting interventions (e.g. CBT-I) could reduce the reliance on cannabis for adequate sleep among those with PTSD.


Cannabis; Coping; Medical marijuana; PTSD; Sleep

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