Can Marijuana Heal Brains?
Brain and Nervous System Injury
We have all read about the horrendous effects of repetitive trauma that football players endure, leading to post-traumatic encephalopathy. The newspapers and evening news recount many tragic stories about football players and their nervous system/brain injuries. Two former NFL players, Jake Plummer and Jim McMahon, have spoken out about the benefits of CBD therapy. They are pushing for the NFL to fund studies. Jim McMahon has been quoted by the Chicago Tribune in 2016:
“Former Chicago Bears quarterback, Jim McMahon, has kicked pain pills out of his life. The combination of medical marijuana and chiropractic treatment to relieve pressure in his neck have improved his quality of life.
McMahon used to take up to 100 pain pills per month. Now, he uses medical marijuana three times a day to treat his arthritic pain from injuries sustained during his NFL career, reports the Chicago Tribune.
McMahon is a patient in Arizona’s medical marijuana program. When asked about treating his pain with pain pills, he said, “They were doing more harm than good. This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain — or thinking about it, anyway.”
Other Kinds of Traumatic Injuries
More common are the injuries from motor vehicle accidents. Unlike football, many of these injuries can be prevented with a simple routine: the seat belt.
Injury is best treated by prevention. Not only the brain, but spinal cord and peripheral nerve damage from crushing can occur. Once the immediate needs are met, rehabilitation begins and this may be helped with Medical Marijuana.
CBD has been shown to have a neuroprotective effect on brain/spinal cord tissue. A study done in 2003 on CBD/THC in a ratio of 1:1 found that it improved symptoms related to spinal cord injuries, including pain, muscle spasms and bladder control. Another study done in 2012 showed improved locomotive, functional recovery in patients with spinal injuries.
Following a blow that leads to brain injury, the body releases harmful chemical mediators (called cytokines) that lead to toxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation and causes secondary, delayed neuronal death (Biegon, 2004). Marijuana, however, has been shown to offer protection to the neural system,
The two major cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are responsible for these beneficial effects. Cannabinoids act on the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannibinoid system, which in turn prevents the release of inflammatory cytokines that are released after brain trauma and cause damage. Activating of the CB1 and CB2 receptors also has been shown to stimulate the release of minocycline, which reduces brain swelling and neurological impairment, and diffuses further injuries to the brain’s nerve endings.
In another study, cannabinoid administered to mice with brain injuries caused a significant reduction of brain swelling, as well as better clinical recovery, reduced infarct volume, and reduced brain cell death compared to the control group. In another study, CBD was found to reduce acute and subsequent brain damage.
Piglets with brain injuries given CBD experienced less excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation. Mice that had suffered an impact brain injury showed marked recovery in object recognition and in performing a specific task after CB1 receptors were activated. Cannabinoids have even shown to be effective at offering neuroprotection in newborn babies that have experienced a brain injury.
One study found that patients that had detectable levels of THC in their bodies were less likely to die as a result of a traumatic brain injury than those who didn’t.
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Traumatic Brain Injuries
Currently, just Illinois, New Hampshire, Washington have approved medical marijuana specifically for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.