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Can Cannabis Treat Traumatic Brain Injury?

Medical marijuana has been on the minds of legislators and medical professionals for the last several years. Now some professionals are asking, can cannabis treat traumatic brain injury? Research could lead to relief for thousands of American citizens with life-changing disabilities.

Advocates for medical marijuana say that cannabis can treat any number of medical conditions, from glaucoma to anxiety. The federal government still regulates the drug as a Schedule 1 controlled substance with no legitimate medical purpose. However, many other countries, and several states within the U.S. have begun to recognize and test the medical benefits of marijuana. Michigan is one of 25 states and D.C. to have legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.

Now one study out of Israel suggests that marijuana may have neuroprotective qualities, which could protect TBI patents from secondary injuries or aggravated symptoms. Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University’s Adelson Centr for the Biology of Addictive Diseases reports finding that extremely low doses of THC – the psychoactive element of marijuana – can protect the brain from long-term cognitive damage following an injury. It doesn’t take much. Sarne’s study found that as little as 1,000 to 10,000 times less than a conventional marijuana cigarette can have preventative effects if administered up to a week before or 1-3 days after the injury.

Testing Medical Cannabis in the U.S.

The study supports anecdotal evidence from families of TBI victims. Leafly.com reports:

“My father suffered severe TBI for years. He used to sit around hating his life all day. Once he started using marijuana, he changed a lot. He was able to get off some of his meds, start eating more, go outside, enjoy music, laugh at a movie, sleep at night, less anxiety in the day, less body pain. The list goes on and on.”

However, these reports are almost purely anecdotal. It is difficult for medical professionals here in the U.S. to test the medical benefits of cannabis because of its status as a controlled substance. Because of the FDA’s classification of the drug, only very limited numbers of researchers are allowed to even perform experiments using TBI.

NFL May Start Cannabis Testing for Players

The FDA and other regulatory agencies may be facing a new source of pressure to change that classification soon. Forbes reports that the NFL is recruiting a new chief medical officer. The current chief medical officer, Dr. Elliot Pellman, has announced his retirement.

Until now, the league hasn’t spent any of its considerable resources on medical marijuana research. When Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller recently told participants at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Expo:

“The NFL spent $100 million on concussion research and none of it was on cannabinoids or CBD’s.”

And that’s in spite of the fact that many football players report using medical marijuana to treat concussion symptoms. Until now, those players have had to be wary of random drug testing by the league. Depending on who accepts the position, the NFL could become a loud voice in favor of THC testing and medical marijuana legalization nationwide.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents TBI victims following auto accidents. If you have suffered a brain injury, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.