Weeding out post-9/11 anxiety

9/11 was a transformational event that opened the eyes of many survivors to the science of cannabis

Fire engines driving on the streets of Manhattan, New York


The world changed after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. So did levels of marijuana and alcohol consumption immediately after the attacks.

Researchers with the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse interviewed 1,008 New York City residents in the weeks following the attacks. Many of those interviewed reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Others experienced depression.

The survey found rates of depression and PTSD were nearly double that of the general population. Some 265,000 New Yorkers reported increased cigarette, alcohol and pot use – 226,000 said they were drinking more booze and 29,000 using (or abusing, according to the study authors) more marijuana.

Researchers returned nine months later to interview study participants for a second time. They found that PTSD and depression levels had decreased “drastically” but that “substance abuse rates had not declined substantially.”

For Todd Harrison, 9/11 was also a transformational event.

He was president of a $400-million hedge fund. He worked on the 24th floor at 40 Fulton Street, where he had a bird’s-eye view of the Twin Towers and the “bodies falling through a maze of confetti like ants from a tree.”

Harrison suffered from PTSD for a period after the attacks. “I didn’t realize it at the time,” he says.

He fell into a deep depression and later prescribed anti-anxiety pills and anti-depressants.

“Before I knew it I was stocked on four or five different medications.”

Harrison says the drugs “changed who I was as a person.”

He was not alone. Other folks like him were becoming dependent on these prescription drugs. Then he came to know Julie Holland, a leading authority on the science of cannabis. Harrison says Holland “opened my eyes to the science.”  

Holland is a pharmacologist and author of The Pot Book. She has been studying high CBD (Cannabidiol) and how it may help PTSD sufferers.

The science behind CBD is as follows: We have our own endocannabinoid system (ECS) and internal cannabis receptors throughout our body. The ECS and the cannabis receptors work together to help the body maintain a state of cell balance. To give you an idea of how that should feel, scientists have named one key endocanabinoid “anandamide,” which is
Sanskrit for bliss.

Research indicates that CBD oil, for example, promotes the body’s own internal cannabinoids to reduce stress and inflammation. High CBD pot can also help stop nightmares and decrease anxiety.

Soon after meeting Holland, Harrison began to research companies doing their his own research on the efficacy of marijuana. He ultimately founded CB1 Capital, an investment firm that “specializes in… cannabinoid-based wellness solutions, products and therapies that address a wide range of unmet medical conditions.”

For a long time using medical marijuana “was not something I was comfortable sharing,” says Harrison. But, “coming out of 9/11, it’s been a mission of sorts to be on the right side of history.

“You have God’s medicine that’s got a 30,000-year health and wellness history with the planet. It’s currently forbidden under federal law.”

He describes medical marijuana as “a generational opportunity.”

“All these cannabinoids are different. They are each uniquely therapeutic and we need to study more so we can unlock those benefits. We’re getting to a tipping point in the science.”

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