Your brain on weed: concussions and cannabis
Here’s what you need to know
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During the 2019 Cultivation Classic, Dr. Ethan Russo of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute presented his latest research findings on cannabis and traumatic brain injury.
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Your brain on weed: concussions and cannabis Back to video
Conventional wisdom is that if the symptoms persist for a year, the symptoms will be present. But as Dr. Russo illustrated during his talk, this conventional wisdom is not always the case and certain things can be done. This includes some promising research into the role cannabis can play in recovery from traumatic brain injuries.
THC and CBD As Recovery Agents
Both THC and CBD are neuroprotective antioxidants, which Dr. Russo observes is a fancy way of saying they help reduce the effects brain damage whether due to trauma or things like strokes or other disease. An antioxidant is something that prevents rust. And according to Dr. Russo, “rust in the brain means deterioration in the brain structures.”
Glutamine is a neurotransmitter that produces an over abundance of glutamine following a head injury that produces glutamate excitotoxicity whereby the cells stimulate themselves to death. This can lead to a neuronal demise after a traumatic brain injury. In Dr. Russo’s research, he’s observed that CBD and THC may help prevent glutamate excitotoxicity. Also, THC and CBD, have been extremely helpful in treatment of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTI) symptoms experienced by football players and anyone else engaged in contact sports.
Using Cannabis to Treat Concussions
While one should consult with their personal medical provider before beginning any regime, Dr. Russo offered these overall guidelines for those looking to treat a conclusion with cannabis.
If one chooses to inhale cannabis via smoking or vaping, tiny doses should be utilized sequentially with 10 to 15 minute pauses. This should help lift “brain fog or allay symptoms such as headache or dizziness. For chronic problems, oral administration of low doses via capsules or tinctures are preferable.
Here’s what you need to know
Concussion Management: Does marijuana play a role?
Recently more and more questions have arisen regarding the use of marijuana as a rehabilitation intervention following a concussion. For example, some patients may ask if marijuana can help rid symptoms of headaches, inability to sleep, or anxiety. Other patients might say they are regular legal users of marijuana, and wonder if they should increase their intake medicinally, or if they should refrain from their normal daily usage while recovering from a concussion.
These are all extremely relevant questions that many members of the healthcare community are learning as more research becomes available. To date some 20 states plus Washington D.C. have successfully enacted cannabis-related medical marijuana legislation whereby the substance must be prescribed by a licensed physician. Additionally, 9 states, Washington D.C. and now Canada have passed laws legalizing recreational use of marijuana, despite the fact that it still remains illegal on a federal level.
The down and dirty is that there are essentially two types of natural compounds derived from the cannabis plant: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD comes in the form of gels, oils, gummies and supplemental extracts, while THC is most commonly inhaled by smoking, it is available in oils, tinctures, and even edible forms such as capsules. Both CBD and THC obviously impact brain function, but it is THC that claims a psychoactive component whereby its use leads to a euphoric or “high” state of mind.
A compilation of sources note that each is commonly used for the following concussion-related conditions:
The reported side effects of CBD are largely attributed to drug interactions when it is combined with other medications. Whereas with THC, memory loss and slower reaction times may be a result of usage, with the possibility of more long-term adverse psychoactive effects with extended use of high dosages.
Since marijuana is relatively new in the game when we discuss its role with concussion management, there seems to be two very strong camps of opinion – “pro” marijuana physicians and other similar healthcare providers clearly support marijuana as an effective intervention. Others who oppose the use of marijuana on all of its merits have not at all been convinced or are willing to consider any positive role that it may play in the facilitation of healing and recovery post-concussion.
One of the pro camp beliefs supporting the use of marijuana after a concussion is the fact that there is evidence demonstrating a protection of neural damage, thus enabling a more rapid healing process of the brain. However, much more research needs to be done before we reach a tipping point beyond mere extrapolation and inference.
There is one interesting study that was published by Nguyen et al in The American Surgeon in 2014 where the authors concluded that patients who sustained a concussion as the result of an automobile accident and had traces of THC in their bloodstream were less likely to experience a fatal outcome from the trauma.
As we become more knowledgeable and evaluate future independent randomized controlled studies, we will likely learn not just generically whether there are benefits or not to the use of marijuana in concussion recovery, but more so hopefully more specificity regarding specific strands of marijuana, dosage, and symptomatic decision-making. As with all contemporary interventions, the question still remains unanswered regarding the role that marijuana plays, if any, with concussions. Be prepared for an increase in research regarding the relationship between marijuana usage and concussion rehabilitation. Also be prepared for mixed findings of results, and some great debates in the near future!
Concussion Management: Does marijuana play a role? Recently more and more questions have arisen regarding the use of marijuana as a rehabilitation intervention following a concussion. For