Studies suggest that marijuana may improve recovery from concussions.
Some people believe marijuana kills brain cells, but it turns out the opposite is true. Marijuana has neuroprotective effects, or the ability to protect the brain from damage.
These effects are often beneficial for conditions that affect the elderly, like stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
However, medical marijuana is becoming a hot topic for patients with brain trauma as well, including those involved in contact sports.
This is because marijuana has the potential to reduce damage to the brain from a concussion.
What Is A Concussion?
A concussion is a mild brain injury resulting from the brain hitting the inside of the skull — either from an impact or from a fast change in speed.
Inside the skull, the brain floats in a liquid known as cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid acts to cushion the delicate tissue of the brain from the hard skull.
However, this fluid is not a perfect defense. When the head is struck with a significant amount of force, or when it rapidly speeds or slows down (such as in a car accident), the brain can strike or scrape against the skull.
Concussions are common among people who play contact sports.
The initial symptoms include dizziness, loss of coordination, and nausea or vomiting. Over a longer period, or with multiple concussions, symptoms can develop into severe memory problems, mood changes, and difficulty thinking.
Smoking Marijuana With A Concussion
Smoking marijuana may be able to reduce the damage to the brain and improve the outcome of concussion symptoms.
Cannabinoids in marijuana are also effective antioxidants, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oxidation occurs in the brain following a concussion, and contributes to further damage.
Marijuana can also alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting from a concussion, but it is important to see a physician if any of these symptoms occurs.
If you choose to use marijuana for a concussion, start low and go slow to see how you will react.
What Do Studies Say?
Endocannabinoids act as a natural defense against concussions.
A 2001 study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry suggests that cannabinoids produced by the body act to protect the brain from injuries.
The researchers found that levels of a precursor to anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid, are increased in rats following a head trauma.
In a 2011 study, researchers found that levels of 2-AG, an endocannabinoid, were significantly increased after a head trauma in mice.
They also discovered that by giving mice with head trauma additional 2-AG, the levels of swelling, inflammation, and damaged tissue were further decreased. The overall recovery of these mice was also found to be improved.
This evidence indicates that cannabinoids produced by the body act as a natural defense mechanism against brain trauma from a concussion.
Cannabinoids can reduce the impact of concussions.
A 2002 study conducted by Raphael Mechoulam, a renowned cannabinoid researcher, indicates that endocannabinoids and plant cannabinoids can help the brain following an injury.
The study suggests that cannabinoids have direct effects on glutamate, which contributes to excitoxicity after a concussion. Cannabinoids also act as antioxidants, which can decrease the severity of an injury due to oxidation.
Plant cannabinoids from marijuana can be used to supplement the natural system to reduce the impact of secondary damage to the brain following a concussion.
Secondary damage in brain injuries takes place after the initial damage has occurred. This damage causes changes in the brain like inflammation, production of oxidizing free radicals, and increases of neurotransmitters like glutamate to toxic levels.
Marijuana can promote the growth of new brain cells in concussions.
In a 2017 study published in the journal Stroke, researchers found that cannabinoids might help in promoting the growth of new neurons.
The researchers found that activation of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor contributed to not only anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, but also in migration of neuroblasts following a stroke.
By enhancing the migration of neuroblasts to a site of injury, new neurons can form in the injured area. This could reduce the impact of not only strokes, but other brain injuries like concussions.
Marijuana improves survival rates from head injuries.
THC might even help improve the survival rate of patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
In a 2014 study, researchers performed toxicology screenings on patients admitted with a traumatic brain injuries.
They found that in the group of patients who tested positive for THC, mortality rates were 2.4%. In contrast, patients who did not have THC in their system at the time of their injury had a mortality rate of 11.5%.
This strongly suggests that the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids from marijuana can improve outcomes in brain injuries like concussions, and may even be able to save lives.
Overall, much progress has been made in determining the effects smoking marijuana can have on a brain injury like a concussion. However, much more is still to be learned in order to develop effective cannabinoid-based treatments and therapies for the future.