Medical marijuana helps many conditions known to affect people on an everyday basis. In fact, its uses continue to grow and be qualified by the growing number of studies of the plant. 29 states across the country have already legalized medical marijuana and, as more research surfaces, medical marijuana benefits are becoming common knowledge. As research is done, the specific ways that medical marijuana can help specific illnesses is becoming known. One of the conditions affecting many athletes and war veterans are brain injuries. Its ability to help with brain trauma has been coming to light more and more these days as athletes and veterans continue to talk about its many benefits. Patients who have been prescribed opiates have stated that medical marijuana benefits them more than the prescription medication without the risk of overdose or the debilitating side effects.
What Constitutes a Concussion?
Concussions are of particular concern for athletes. 5 to 10 percent of athletes are estimated to experience a concussion during any given season. Concussions are minor traumatic brain injuries (TBI) which are caused by a severe blow to the head. Many smaller assaults can also lead to sub-concussions. The concussion causes temporary cognitive symptoms and there is no cure for the brain injury other than rest and time. The symptoms of a concussion include headaches, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, memory loss and ringing in the ears.
Concussions for minors can be particularly difficult to diagnose and may end up occurring on a regular basis, creating more kinds of problems in the future. For professional athletes, brain injuries become common place, especially over time. Post-Concussion Syndrome is also a disorder that can occur to those that have experienced concussions. Cognitive functions can become disturbed as well as memory and mood. Patients with this disorder can also experience irritability, anxiety and a lack of concentration along with the regular symptoms of a concussion that can last for weeks, a year or even longer after the initial injury.
Convincing the NFL that Medical Marijuana Benefits Concussions
The issue of concussion is such a concern for athletes that the NFL actually put aside $100 million to study brain trauma and how to treat it in the future but none of that research will go towards medical marijuana. Starting linebacker for the Tennessee Titans, Derrick Morgan, is one player among a host of former NFL players who have been asking the organization to rethink their policies on medical marijuana. Over 20,000 people die each year from opioid use and the side effects for prescription opioids have been known to be debilitating. Many ex-NFL players with brain injuries have benefited much more from medical marijuana and these players have been vocal about this fact.
The Healing Power of Cannabis
It turns out there are many good reasons that so many patients have been spouting the positive effects of medical marijuana. Many researchers have been working hard to understand what the specific effects of cannabis are on the brain and how they can help those with brain trauma. Studies have been promising and are showing that medical marijuana benefits are able to both heal and even prevent brain injury, including concussions for various reasons.
Reducing Brain Inflammation
The first to note is that cannabis contains neuroprotective antioxidants that go a long way in healing the brain. These serve to greatly reduce inflammation in the brain. Neural inflammation is a key result of brain injury and the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis have been known to help a whole host of brain trauma and degenerative conditions. In 2014, a study conducted by Tel Aviv University found that microbuses of THC, too low to have any psychoactive effects, act as an “effective drug for the treatment of neuroinflammatory conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases.”
The Patent on Non-Psychoactive CBD
According to HERB, the government actually holds the patent on non-psychoactive CBD as a neuroprotective agent. In their patent application, they state; “The cannabinoids (in cannabis) are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.” This is particularly ironic as marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance by the DEA, right beside heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are the highest risk drugs, considered to have no medicinal benefits and not able to be tested on humans. The patent’s existence brings a lot into question.
Another study conducted in 2013, proves that the endocannabinoid system in the body plays an essential part in how the brain repairs itself. The system has CB1 and CB2 receptors that function to keep the body in balance. Endocannabinoids are created naturally in the body but can be impaired or cease to regenerate as well over time. Endocannabinoids in marijuana, such as THC and CBD, activate the receptors, restoring health to the body. In this way cannabis functions not only help to heal brain trauma but also work to prevent the damage or injury from being as severe.
Using Medical Marijuana Preventatively
In this way, cannabis acts as prevention from injury as well. A study conducted by Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in 2014 proved that if someone has even a tiny bit of THC in their system at the time of a brain injury, they are less likely to die from the assault. Medical marijuana benefits the brain in more ways than previously imagined. In this way, cannabis is recommended for those who have a higher risk of sustaining a head injury including athletes or those who engage in potentially dangerous activities such as horseback riding or surfing. It might not be the best course of action to just consume a bunch of cannabis but THC can be microdosed and CBD oil has no psychoactive properties. These can be used in the same way dietary supplements are.
For those who are more at risk of sustaining concussions and brain injuries, the news delivered by these studies is good. There is not only a way to heal brain trauma but also a way to prevent more serious injury. Medical marijuana benefits are only just coming to light in recent years and, with further research, the possibilities are endless.