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
Study finds medical marijuana improves concussion symptoms
Medical cannabis vapor pen
Medical cannabis tincture
A new study supports the use of medical cannabis (medical marijuana) as a treatment for concussion-related chronic pain (such as headaches) and for other concussion symptoms. The study also specifies the type of medical cannabis that provided the optimal benefit, in terms of the THC to CBD ratio, and oral tincture or vapor pen. The article was published on December 5, 2018, in the journal Neurology.
The study is from Dent Neurologic Institute (DENT) in Buffalo, NY, which has treated thousands of patients for chronic pain, and specifically 142 patients with concussion symptoms. New York State approved medical cannabis for chronic pain in 2017. The study notes that “individuals with concussion often experience discomfort from headaches.”
The researchers reviewed the charts of sixty-six patients who were treated at DENT with medical cannabis for concussion symptoms, and they plan to review a total of 100 patient charts. (This type of study is called an “ongoing retrospective analysis.”) They found that 80% of the patients “experienced significant improvement in activity level and symptoms.”
They evaluated for five common concussion symptoms: headache, mood, sleep, attention, and dizziness. The improvement was most significant with headache, mood, and sleep.
Optimal forms of medical cannabis
The form of medical cannabis that provided the “optimal benefit” to prevent or minimize longer-term symptoms was an oral tincture that was 1:1 (THC:CBD). For acute pain, which is pain that is relatively more sharp or severe, the optimal form was a vapor pen of 20:1 (THC:CBD). Therefore, the patients’ more sharp or severe pain responded to a higher amount of THC and also responded better to intake via the lungs, which is faster acting than oral ingestion.
In the experience of the Concussion Alliance community, a vapor pen does work well for quick-acting relief of headache pain, and we find 1:5 (THC:CBD) is effective. We don’t find the 1:5 ratio to be psychoactive, making it useful during the day.
Also, we’ve found that tinctures that are 1:1 (THC:CBD) work well. For more severe headache pain, a higher ration of THC to CBD is helpful. In some dispensaries, you can buy a 1:1 (THC:CBD) tincture and supplement it with a few drops of a high THC tincture.
In terms of the study by the DENT Neurologic Institute, the 20:1 (THC:CBD) vapor pen appears not to be psychoactive, even with the much higher THC ratio, as psychoactive effects were not listed as a side-effect. See our page CBD products from marijuana for additional information.
Improvement scores for concussion patients taking medical cannabis
When evaluating the concussion symptoms, the researchers use the scale ranging from 0 as “much worse” to 10 as “must better.” Moderate improvement was 7-8 on the scale, and significant improvement was 9-10 on the scale.
Mood: 63% moderate improvement, 20% significant improvement
Sleep: 53% moderate improvement, 23% significant improvement
Headache: 60% moderate improvement, 14% significant improvement
Quality of Life score: score of 46 for those using medical cannabis, score of 19 for those not yet started on medical cannabis.
The researchers used the Quality of Life After Brain Injury Score (QOLIBRI).
Side-effects were minimal
Only 15% of the patients reported side-effects, all minimal. Of these side-effects, 63% were related to disliking the poor taste of the oral tincture or experiencing cough with the vape pen. None of the patients choose to stop taking medical marijuana due to side effects.
The average monthly cost for an individual patient (for both the oral tincture and vapor pen) was $242.
A new study supports the use of medical cannabis (medical marijuana) as a treatment for concussion-related chronic pain (such as headaches) and for other concussion symptoms. The study also specifies the type of medical cannabis that provided the optimal benefit, in terms of the THC to CBD ratio, and oral ingestion or vapor pen.