Is Medical Marijuana Safe for Someone Who has Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Treatment
In this video, brain injury attorney, Joe Lamb discusses whether or not medical marijuana is safe for someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury.
At the moment there’s not a single pharmacological agent that’s demonstrated therapeutic efficacy for resolving brain injuries. There are a lot of trials. That’s a fancy way of saying there isn’t a magical drug that can cure a concussion or cure a more serious brain injury.
Almost all the research in this area, it’s still in preclinical trials. And unfortunately, at least in the United States, the development of these trials slowed because marijuana is considered a stage three narcotic. Therefore it’s very difficult to get research grant funding at a federal level for these researchers who want to see the effects medical cannabis can have. Thankfully around the world and in certain states where it’s legal, that’s beginning to change and allowing for some preclinical trials and even some that have gotten further into development. The fledgling research has shown that CBD does have neuroprotective and psychotherapeutic properties. That is to say that it can be beneficial in increasing the active and passive reserve capacity and also in potentially post-injury rehabilitation. While CBD properties are being shown to be highly beneficial, it’s been wildly known for years that consistent habitual THC use is not the best way to make sure that your brain’s functioning is at 100% capacity. THC is what causes that euphoric high sensation that people talk about commonly associated with consuming marijuana. But CBD is the substance that’s becoming more widely known for its therapeutic uses because it doesn’t provide any of that same euphoria or high, but at the same time has shown to relieve inflammation and potentially have a lot of other therapeutic uses that are being researched.
A brain injury isn’t just a screenshot or a quick flash in the pan like one would break their arm. When you break your arm the arm’s broken and that’s the injury. With a TBI, as I’ve talked about quite extensively, the injury is more of a process and the initial blow or the initial cause is more of a catalyst than being the actual injury itself. So that being said, this results in what’s called the neurometabolic cascade. And this cascade is essentially your brain releasing a ton of chemicals prompting cell death after the initial injury. And some of the more recent research, including this Israeli study, studied an endocannabinoid 2-AG. It’s an anti-inflammatory compound. The body naturally produces it following trauma. And they found when these researchers administered the greater amounts of 2-AG to mice after brain injury, they noticed improved motor and cognitive abilities in the following months. Now that being said this study is of course very preliminary. It’s mice, these do not necessarily translate to human studies. And we also don’t know what’s causing the actual increase. Another research showed that CBD reduced seizures, brain edema, and motor skills in newborn pigs following injury. And it’s these kinds of studies, these very preliminary studies that show that potentially, the use of cannabinoids within the first 24 hours following a TBI could have some neuroprotective effects and reduce that cascade that causes such significant injury.
Looking at this from a separate perspective there’s been an ongoing struggle to treat TBIs long-term and other injuries with pharmaceuticals. This has prompted many in the medical community to advocate more for medical marijuana, because it allows for less adverse liver effects, and fewer adverse effects on the kidney than someone who would say, take opioids for the rest of their life. Now, that being said, that’s all well and good for pain, but how does it affect the brain, and is someone who suffered a TBI, are they more susceptible to the detrimental effects of medical marijuana, or are they more benefited from it? Unfortunately, the long-term research on the implications of medical marijuana use in TBI patients, it’s just not quite there yet. And there’s very little on the topic. That being said, many individuals choose to treat their ongoing symptoms, especially symptoms such as nausea or headaches with medical marijuana. And they find various degrees of effect.
Now, in terms of CBD versus THC, the data is just not there to say which one or the other is better. What it comes down to is a patient and their prescribing doctor, just like any other methodology to treat an injured or sick person, patient and their doctor getting together, working on a treatment plan, and implementing what plan they think is best for long term effects.