Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a contributing cause to over 30% of deaths by injury. Recently, biopharmaceutical companies have begun researching how cannabis-based medicines can play a role in treating traumatic brain injuries.
Many times, a traumatic brain injury is the result of a heavy assault to the head caused by either an athletic event or car accident, or other blunt force impacts to the head. TBI’s can run the gamut from standard concussions to severe lacerations to the head. No matter the cause, they all bring with them an array of symptoms that are complex in nature.
From headaches to mood swings and seizures, speech complications to loss of motor control and memory, traumatic brain injuries can pose intricate treatment issues. Breakthroughs in medicine have resulted in a number of drugs on the market that are capable of treating traumatic brain injuries, but for a lot of patients, medications that include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, opioids, and anti-seizure drugs can be accompanied by severe side effects.
As traumatic brain injuries still carry with them bleak predictions for major improvements, scientists on the forefront of finding better treatments for conditions associated with TBI are looking to more natural remedies that can help patients deal with their injuries with fewer side effects. Those remedies are currently being found and further researched in cannabis.
Here are 5 ways that cannabis can make a difference in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.
- Managing symptoms
Cannabis has been shown to dramatically decrease several different kinds of seizures. Cannabis-based medications with non-intoxicating cannabidiol (CBD) have been shown to possess strong antidepressant and anti-anxiety potency through preclinical trials.
As an alternative drug to opioid-based painkillers, cannabis has also been shown to be safer and more effective than prescribed medicine. This is particularly important as opioids have recently been associated with not only high overdose statistics, but side effects that include constipation and low sex drive.
- Trauma tic injury protection
Did you know that the potential of surviving a head injury is increased by 80% if you already have THC in your system? According to a study authored by Dr. David Plurad, in experiments conducted on animals, result data showed that THC could be neuroprotective in brain injuries, although studies conducted on humans have been minimal, and little is known about the true effects.
Endocannabinoids are abundant in the brain and act like the body’s own cannabis. As molecules that are produced naturally in the body, they communicate with cells in the nervous and immune systems. Based on a number of preclinical studies, endocannabinoids were shown to help the brain and nervous system repair themselves after an injury.
CBD, which is a primary component found in the cannabis plant, increases the levels of the body’s own naturally produced endocannabinoids. THC, which delivers the classic “high” from cannabis, does its job by taking the place of the body’s endocannabinoids.
- Traumatic brain inflammation reduction
From research, it’s a known fact that cannabis can engage with the endocannabinoid system, which helps the human body respond to stress-related environmental signals. Endocannabinoids help in the reduction of inflammation in the brain when it is injured. Therefore, when plant-based cannabinoids like THC and CBD are introduced, they’re considered to be able to contribute to the reduction of inflammation by way of their neuroprotective properties.
Research has also found that being treated with CBD immediately after a loss of oxygen to the brain can help to reduce subsequent damage to the brain. In a 2011 study that was published in Pediatric Research, experiments showed that when CBD was administered to newborn piglets after an injury to the brain, the CBD helped to significantly reduce brain edema, nervous system injuries, seizures, and helped improve motor skills and behavior after just 72 hours following the initial injury.
- Brain cell growth
Two of the most common afflictions that accompany traumatic brain injuries are anxiety and depression. Almost half of people who have experienced some type of TBI have admitted to experiencing depression within a year of their injury.
In preclinical research, cannabis was found to contain compounds that have the potential to help improve one’s mood after sustaining an injury. In a 2005 experiment, University of Saskatchewan researchers administered a synthetic form of THC to rodents. When administered on a regular basis, it was observed that the cannabinoid appeared to have the ability to jump-start new brain cell growth in the region of the brain known as the hippocampus.
While the hippocampus is primarily responsible for memory, learning, and the autonomic nervous system, it’s also the part of the brain that’s affected when patients experience anxiety and depression that’s chronic.
Additional research confirms that compounds found in cannabis help in the promotion of neurogenesis, which is the growth and development of nervous tissue. All of these findings lean toward helping patients with traumatic brain injuries face hopeful futures with more evidence showing the benefits of cannabis in treating mental health and mood conditions stemming from an injured brain.
- Healing bones
The skull takes a severe hit during a traumatic brain injury, and it’s one of the less widely discussed results of the injury. It goes without saying that when the skull endures a highly severe impact, injuries to the bone of the skull will take place. As a result of studying TBI, researchers have found that endocannabinoids also play a role in stimulating bone growth. For example, when cannabinoid receptors are blocked, generating new bone typically doesn’t occur. The use of medical cannabis in these instances helps ensure that those cannabinoids are as accessible as possible.
Learning more about Traumatic Brain Injury & Medical Cannabis
Ongoing study on the effects of cannabinoids on traumatic brain injuries and how best to treat them is leading many physicians to look at CBD as a safe and beneficial treatment. CBD is a cannabinoid that is not intoxicating, and a compound that contains anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and neuroprotective qualities. There’s much promise that’s being shown even in the limited research that’s taking place.
So while the full potential of cannabis and its therapeutic properties is yet to be unleashed, cannabis still holds a lot of answers that can lead to new and innovative treatments that can have a positive impact on the millions of people who are suffering with serious medical conditions and symptoms.