Growing Evidence That Cannabis Helps Heal Concussions

I have always been a sports fan and pursued athletics in my own life.  For many years I competed in Show Jumping which is the equestrian equivalent of Motocross.  I certainly endured my share of injuries, including a few significant concussions.  For this reason, I have followed the stories of the NFL and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) closely.

So when Dateline recently aired an episode featuring former NFL player Eugene Morris, it was a must-watch for me. During the interview, Eugene described how he relied on opioids after many of his surgeries to manage ongoing pain issues, the standard protocol with NFL players. While he says he was never addicted to opioids, he did not like the effect they had on him mentally. The final straw for him was when he didn’t recognize his own daughter. That’s when he decided there must be a better approach. Currently, he uses cannabis daily to manage his pain and loves the results! To watch his interview copy and paste this link into your browser (trust me it is worth watching)!

After watching this I was upset because I had never heard of cannabis working for concussions.  Why wasn’t this a bigger story? The easy answer is because pharmaceutical companies spend far more than any other industry to influence politicians. Drug makers have poured close to $2.5bn into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.  Drug companies also contributed more than $20m directly to political campaigns last year.  Drug companies cannot patent a natural growing plant so there is no monetary incentive for drug makers to support cannabis-based medicine.

As far back as 2014, a Harvard professor emeritus, Professor Lester Grinspoon, wrote an open letter to the NFL suggesting that they start funding marijuana research as a way to treat concussions. Grinspoon says he is a long-time fan of the NFL and does not want to see players suffer brain traumas in the future. He says while helmets can protect the skull, nothing can protect the brain inside…except maybe cannabis.

“Already, many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory and clinical data,” Grinspoon writes. Grinspoon says the NFL is one of the few organizations with the deep pockets to fund the extensive research needed. He says the money will be worth it to prevent a lifetime of brain disease for future players.

A great deal of damage from concussions occurs as a result of post-traumatic brain swelling. In 2014 a study from Tel Aviv University found that microdoses of psychoactive THC reduced brain swelling in rodent models. The researchers wrote,

Our results suggest that an ultralow dose of THC that lacks any psychotrophic activity protects the brain from neuroinflammation-induced cognitive damage and might be used as an effective drug for the treatment of neuroinflammatory conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases.


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