Cannabis for Stroke & Traumatic Brain Injury
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Over the years, the impact of cannabis on the treatment of certain disorders has significantly expanded. This has introduced many new cannabis-infused products and treatments for disorders that were once thought non-curable or too harsh when it came to pain management. Traumatic Brain Injury and stroke are two of such disorders.

What is Stroke/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

First things first, both Traumatic Brain Injury and a stroke are two different things. But why are these two are often treated similarly?

Both TBI and stroke have several similarities and eventually involve brain neurotoxicity and cell death leading to almost similar treatment methods used by medical professionals.

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a nondegenerative, non-congenital disorder caused when some external mechanical force is applied to the head with a sudden impact.

This can lead to partial or permanent impairment of physical, psychosocial, and mental capabilities. Individuals who belong to the group of professional athletes, military personnel, construction workers, or emergency responders are at a greater risk of suffering a TBI.

A stroke on the other hand is caused by blockage or rupture of an artery that ultimately blocks the flow of blood to the brain or a specific area of the brain.

This leads to a lack of oxygen causing cell death. The most common symptoms of stroke include loss of speaking abilities and motor functions in one part of the body. According to an estimate, more than 795,000 people have a stroke in the United States, each year.

CVDs, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes are the few leading causes behind this staggering number of stroke patients.

Traditional treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Fortunately, a TBI is mild in most cases and can be overcome with due rest, an ice pack, and over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol, ibuprofen, etc. Still, it will be better to keep an eye on worsening symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, fatigue, etc.

In case the TBI is in a long-term phase, the following medical options will be opted by physicians,

  • Carotid Endarterectomy or Craniotomy
  • Physical rehabilitation as well as occupational and speech therapy
  • Counselling

The patient may also be prescribed the following medications for effective TBI treatment,

  • Gabapentin for nerve pain (anticonvulsants)
  • Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates to lower the intracranial pressure within the brain
  • Diuretics for effective cerebrospinal fluid drainage leading to lower intracranial pressure
  • Magnesium-based medications/dietary supplements to improve blood flow within the brain and neighboring regions

On the other hand, patients suffering from stroke are usually prescribed the following medications to lower the symptoms,

  • Aspiring and clopidogrel (blood-thinners)
  • Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors (blood pressure management)
  • Atorvastatin, Pravastatin, and Simvastatin (for reducing cholesterol levels)
  • Apixaban and Warfarin (anticoagulants)
  • Alteplase (as a clot-busting medication)

Apart from these medications, the patient may also be encouraged to a lifestyle change following a flavonoid-rich diet.

Can cannabis help in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The short answer is yes, cannabis can prove to be super beneficial for both TBI and stroke patients. But there’s a gray line here that often confuses people in believing that cannabis is one of the causes behind stroke or TBI symptoms getting worse over time.

While this is true, often people forget that something like this happens when cannabis is smoked with tobacco and not consumed as an individual therapeutic product.

Several studies show that CBD and CBG have long-term neuroprotective effects. This means that consuming cannabis can be therapeutic and possibly help treat acute brain damage.

Apart from the usually refined CBD and THC products, the cannabis plant itself has beneficial compounds present within it. The roots of the plant are a major source of a certain type of phytosterol called beta-sitosterol. The compound is known for lowering cholesterol levels significantly.

Extended research done on the role of cannabinoids in the treatment of TBI and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) has revealed the ability of CBD to prevent neuroinflammation in the brain.

Both THC and CBD can suppress the production of glutamate which prevents further brain damage and inflammation.

Effective ways of consuming cannabis for TBI

Individuals who are suffering from a TBI or a stroke can’t consume cannabis products in the traditional way (smoking). Instead, the following are some methods of cannabis consumption that will be more suitable for them,

  • Ingestion
  • Sublingual
  • Inhalation

It is also important to note that not all cannabis strains or cannabis products can be consumed by these patients. In most cases, cannabis products rich in terpenes prove to be ideal.

Some individuals also prefer to go with either CBD-rich or THC-rich cannabis products as per their preference. This can also be a great choice as both CBD and THC are known to promote neurogenesis.

Pros of taking cannabis for TBI

  1. Evidence has now suggested that CBD may offer protection against myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury.
  2. The cannabis plant itself is rich in compounds that are known for being neuroprotective antioxidants.
  3. The possibility of cannabinoids being effective in terms of reducing or even reversing long-term brain injury can’t be ignored.
  4. CBD can prevent active necrosis.
  5. Phytocannabinoids are neuroprotective, preventing the production of glutamate.

Cons of taking cannabis for TBI

Even with several pros in its favor, the use of cannabis for TBI treatment also has some cons,

  1. Several studies have revealed that the chance of having a stroke is significantly high in individuals who consume cannabis. This is usually relevant to cannabis enthusiasts who smoke cannabis rather than opt for other ways to ingest cannabis products.
  2. A high dosage of THC is known to hurt short-term memory and body balance.

Final Note and Future Research

Researchers around the globe now acknowledge the positive impact of cannabis and its derivatives when it comes to the treatment of medical disorders such as TBI or stroke.

It’s just a matter of time before further research is done on the topic, presenting concrete evidence in favor of the beneficial impact of cannabis in this regard.

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