Traumatic brain injuries cause brain dysfunction due to an outside force. The effects can be severe and long-lasting, with continued damage to the brain even after the initial event. Cannabis use for traumatic brain injury can help minimize damage to retain more cognitive skills and functions to improve quality of life.
Why Medical Marijuana Is Effective for Traumatic Brain Injury
After a traumatic brain injury, the body can release toxic chemicals that cause further damage to the brain, including excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and inflammation. These processes can cause neural death even after patient stabilization, causing much more damage than the initial injury.
Marijuana is known for its protective qualities on the neural system. This means that medical cannabis can help minimize the secondary brain damage that occurs after the initial injury. The body's natural endocannabinoid system includes many receptors throughout the body. The cannabinoids in medical marijuana interact with these receptors and can stop the body from releasing cytokines, which cause inflammation, after an injury. Cannabinoids can also stimulate the body to release minocycline to minimize inflammation and neurological decline.
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Two cannabinoids in marijuana appear to have a particularly beneficial effect on traumatic brain injury: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD, in particular, can be effective in treating traumatic brain injuries. It is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning it doesn't create the "high" like THC does. It also offers many beneficial properties, including neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects.
In a study conducted on brain-damaged piglets, CBD reduced excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Another study showed significant reductions in brain inflammation in brain-damaged mice.
Research by Professor Yosef Sarne of Tel Aviv University shows a positive relationship between cannabis and traumatic brain injury. Research has revealed that cannabinoids given shortly before or one to three days after injury help protect brain cells and long-term cognitive functions. Cannabinoids appeared to initiate the biochemical processes that create this protective effect.
Other research shows that people with detectable THC in their bodies at the time of a TBI are less likely to die from the injury than those without. These data suggest that marijuana may have a preventive effect before injury occurs. This information aligns with the results of Sarne's research.
Marijuana also has other benefits that reduce some of the symptoms of traumatic brain injury, including:
- Decreased nausea:Marijuana is known to minimize nausea, which is sometimes the effect of traumatic brain injury.
- Improvements in depression:Another benefit of marijuana is the potential to help with depression. Traumatic brain injury can cause depression and anxiety. The use of medical marijuana can help alleviate these symptoms.
- Increased appetite:Traumatic brain injuries can cause a change in appetite and eating habits. Marijuana is known to increase your appetite, which may help you eat more if your injury has caused you to lose your appetite.
- Improved mood:Another possible effect of a traumatic brain injury is a change in mood. Many users experience an improved mood with marijuana use.
- Sleep better:If traumatic brain injury is interfering with your sleep, marijuana can help. Cannabis often creates a drowsy effect and helps people overcome insomnia. Indica strains in particular help with sleep problems.
Federal regulations limit the amount of research specific to marijuana and traumatic brain injury. Scientists often have difficulty accessing the cannabinoids needed to conduct meaningful studies due to regulations. Despite the lack of US studies, many people share anecdotal evidence of success in treating traumatic brain injury with marijuana.
Medicinal cannabis treatment for traumatic brain injury
Choosing a medical marijuana strain is an important first step in treating your traumatic brain injury. A physician qualified in medical marijuana can help you choose a specific strain for your situation. Both THC and CBD appear to have a positive effect on traumatic brain injuries. In some studies, CBD appears to have an even stronger effect on the brain. Choosing a medical marijuana strain that is high in CBD can provide the greatest benefits.
Marijuana is classified as Sativa dominant or Indica dominant. You can find high CBD strains in both types. Sativa strains tend to give users a stimulating and energizing high. This is beneficial if you want more energy or need to stay alert. To help with sleep issues, an Indica strain may be a better choice. These strains often make the user drowsy, which can help them sleep better.
The method of intake is another factor in creating your treatment plan. Consider these ingestion methods:
- From smoking:When you smoke marijuana, the plant is heated to the point of combustion to release the cannabinoids. You feel the effects right away. However, smoking creates byproducts that can cause lung problems. For this reason, smoking may not be the preferred method for people with traumatic brain injuries.
- vaporize:An alternative to smoking is to vape marijuana. Special vaporizer machines heat marijuana to a lower temperature than when smoking it. Vaping releases fewer by-products than smoking, but still offers almost immediate effects.
- Groceries:Another option for ingesting marijuana is an edible product. You can choose from a variety of marijuana-infused foods, including popcorn, cookies, ice cream, and other foods. The benefit of edible consumption is the long-lasting effects. Edibles take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to take full effect, but these effects last much longer than smoking or vaping.
Side effects of using marijuana for traumatic brain injuries
Taking medical marijuana can have a profound positive impact on your traumatic brain injury. However, it is important to note that marijuana does have some side effects. While these side effects are usually mild, knowing what to expect helps you prepare for them.
Some common effects of marijuana include:
- A feeling of "high"
- increased appetite
- Dry mouth
- short term memory difficulties
Many of the side effects of marijuana can be positive. For example, if you have insomnia, the fact that marijuana makes you drowsy can help you sleep at night. If your appetite is low, increased hunger can help you get the nutrition you need. In addition, many users enjoy the high feeling.
Are you or a loved one dealing with the effects of a traumatic brain injury? Medical marijuana may have a neuroprotective effect to minimize the long-term effects of injury. We can help you connect with qualified medical marijuana doctors in your area. We have options in every state for legal marijuana. Connect with a doctor now to start restoring your quality of life after a traumatic brain injury.
Additional Resources on Traumatic Brain Injury and Cannabis
For more information on how cannabis can be used to treat traumatic brain injury, check out our resources:
- How Cannabis Can Slow Damage From Traumatic Brain Injury
- How Cannabis Manages Pain Related to Traumatic Brain Injury
- Can cannabis prevent long-term brain damage?
- How medical marijuana can help treat TBI-related mood disorders
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What is a traumatic brain injury?
A traumatic brain injury is damage to the brain caused by a blow, blow, bump or injury to the head. An object that penetrates the brain can also cause a traumatic brain injury. The injury causes a disruption of normal brain function, which can interfere with almost every process in the body. Children and older adults are particularly susceptible to traumatic brain injuries, but everyone is at risk. each year,nearly 52,000 people dietraumatic brain injuries, and another 80,000 face serious injury-related disabilities. More than 5.3 million people in the US are living with disabilities resulting from traumatic brain injuries.
Minor traumatic brain injuries such as concussions sometimes cause only temporary dysfunction, while severe traumatic brain injuries can cause permanent dysfunction or even death. This long-term damage usually comes from bruising, tissue rupture, bleeding, or similar injuries to the brain. In some cases, damaged brain cells only occur at the point of impact. In severe cases, the brain can move into the skull, causing damage to cells throughout the brain. Bleeding and swelling as a result of the injury can cause further damage.
After the initial injury, the body usually releases chemicals that can have toxic effects. These chemicals can cause additional damage after the injury. Even if the patient survives the actual injury, the ongoing damage can be devastating.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury
Symptoms vary significantly depending on the severity of the injury and its location in the brain. The effects of injury often include physical, sensory, and cognitive symptoms. Some of the symptoms occur initially and disappear. Others last a lifetime.
Symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury can include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Be dazed or disoriented
- Dizziness or balance difficulties
- nausea or vomiting
- Drowsiness or increased drowsiness
- sleep interruptions
- Blurred vision
- ringing in the ears
- Changes in smell
- memory problems
- hard to focus
- mood swings
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can cause the following symptoms:
- Any symptoms associated with a mild traumatic brain injury
- Loss of consciousness lasting from minutes to hours
- Persistent or worsening headache
- Continuous nausea or vomiting
- Pupil dilation in one or both eyes
- Clear fluid coming out of the nose or ears
- difficulty waking up
- Weakness in fingers and toes
- Numbness in fingers and toes
- coordination difficulties
- extreme confusion
- difficulty speaking
A traumatic brain injury can be more difficult to detect in children, especially young children without the ability to communicate symptoms. Parents need to be particularly vigilant after a head injury to look for specific signs.
Some symptoms to look out for in children include:
- Diet changes
- continuous crying
- excessive irritability
- difference in sleep
- Mood changes, particularly sadness or depression
- There is no interest in your favorite things like toys or books.
Symptoms can appear immediately, or they can take hours or days after the impact that causes the injury. For this reason, continuous monitoring is important whenever you receive a blow to the head.
Patients with traumatic brain injuries can face potentially serious complications, including:
- Prolonged change in consciousness, such as coma, vegetative state, or brain death
- Accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain
- Infection when the cause is a skull fracture or a penetrating wound
- Damage to blood vessels resulting in stroke or blood clots
- nerve damage
- cognitive problems
- communication difficulty
- Behavior changes, including outbursts, decreased self-control, and risk-taking behavior
- emotional changes
- Degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or dementia
Since traumatic brain injury occurs due to impact on the brain, most people are aware of the cause and source of the injury. In many cases, the initial incident requires immediate medical attention to stabilize the situation and prevent further damage or death. Collecting injury information helps the clinician determine whether the patient is at risk for traumatic brain injury. CT scans and MRIs can help detect problems associated with traumatic brain injuries. These imaging tests help the medical team to assess the severity of the damage and create a course of action.
Traditional treatments for traumatic brain injury
The type of treatment significantly depends on the severity of the traumatic brain injury. Mild cases may not need any treatment. Pain relievers can help ease the pain associated with the blow that caused the injury. Regular monitoring is important to ensure symptoms don't get worse. This check is usually done at home, along with rest to help the brain recover.
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries usually require emergency care to deal with the situation. Care ensures that the patient is stable, including oxygen supply, blood supply and blood pressure. Doctors also work to prevent further damage by controlling things like swelling and bleeding. Once the immediate danger has passed, the medical team creates a long-term treatment plan to help the patient live with the injury as best as possible.
Immediate and ongoing treatment options often include a variety of therapies. These can include medications, surgery and rehabilitation. Surgery focuses on repairing or minimizing the damage caused by the stroke. This may include removing bruises, repairing skull fractures, or drilling a hole in the skull to allow room for swelling.
Medications used to treat traumatic brain injuries can include:
- Diuretics:Traumatic brain injuries often cause increased pressure within the brain. Diuretics can help remove some of this extra fluid to reduce pressure and minimize brain tissue damage.
- Anticonvulsant medications:Seizures are a risk after a traumatic brain injury. Some patients may be given antiseizure medication immediately after the injury to prevent possible seizures, which could cause further brain damage. After the first week, anticonvulsant medications are usually only used if the patient is having seizures.
- Coma-inducing drugs:In some cases, the patient is given coma-inducing drugs. Putting the patient in a temporary coma helps because the brain needs less oxygen in this state. This is particularly helpful if the brain is having difficulty delivering enough oxygen to the brain.
After doctors stabilize the immediate injury, patients often need rehabilitation services to regain basic function and daily activities. Therapy can continue in a rehabilitation center or on an outpatient basis after the patient is discharged from the hospital. Patients may undergo different types of therapies at the same time, depending on the severity of the injury and the impact it has on the person.
Some people involved in rehabilitation may include:
- Occupational therapists to teach basic skills for day-to-day activities.
- Physical therapists to work on mobility and balance to regain walking ability
- Speech therapists to improve communication skills.
- Neuropsychologists to deal with cognitive decline
- Social workers to coordinate services throughout the rehabilitation process.
- Vocational counselors to address return to work or vocational options after injury