Cannabis for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
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The term Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is relatively new and now includes a broad spectrum of symptoms and causes associated with repeated physical head injuries. Historically, the disorder is known as dementia pugilistica which is quite common among individuals such as professional athletes or workers who are more prone to repeated head injuries.

CTE involves the gradual degradation of brain cells due to traumatic inflammation. The main reason behind it is years of head injuries that are pretty common within contact sports such as boxing, football, etc. This explains why individuals who are professional athletes or have served in the army have a higher chance of developing CTE. According to a report published back in 2017, around 99% of brains donated by the National Football League (NFL) players were diagnosed with CTE.

As CTE involves multiple concussions and head traumas over an extended period, the overall symptoms such as nausea, lack of sleep, etc can be annoying. This is where cannabis can play a vital role in CTE treatment along with the beneficial ability to reduce inflammation.

Classifying CTE: Signs, Symptoms, and Types

It is important to note that the research being done on CTE and how it progresses over the years is still quite scarce. Not much is known with definitive evidence regarding the early signs or symptoms of CTE development. But one thing is quite certain, the CTE symptoms don’t usually become apparent for years after the brain trauma.

The most common symptoms that are associated with CTE are similar to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson-caused dementia. These symptoms usually include,

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Short-term memory loss, e.g. repeatedly asking the same questions
  • Worsening confusion and disorientation
  • Random bouts of depression, apathy, mania, lability
  • Feelings of agitation, aggression, suicidal thoughts, anxiousness, or frustration

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy: Causes and Complications

Even though ECS is well-known to affect contact sports athletes as well as army and emergency response personnel, researchers are still trying to find a definitive cause for the disorder. So far, researchers have classified the following individuals into a ‘high-risk’ class for CTE diagnosis,

  1. Victims of domestic assault, individuals with badly managed epilepsy leading to multiple head injuries, and people who experience repeated blunt head trauma.
  2. Professional athletes with a history of mild TBIs such as players of the NFL, boxers, MMA fighters, etc.
    Military veterans or emergency responders who have experienced severe blows to the head over time.

It is crucial to carefully observe the symptoms of CTI as the disease can progress over time leading to the following complications,

  • Dysarthria which results in slurred or completely compromised speech.
  • Discoordination in muscle movements, dysphagia.
  • Development of prominent Parkinson’s disease symptoms such as tremors or slow movement.
  • Severe mood problems and both long and short-term memory problems.

Does the ECS play any significant role in treating CTE?

Within the human body, the Endocannabinoid System aka ECS holds the title of being the ‘largest neurotransmitter system’ with very little research being done on it. There is a whole category of body functions that are influenced by the ECS. Cognition, mood, memory, reward, risk, sleep, etc. are some of the physiological processes maintained by the ECS.

Now, the ECS is known to be the primary network affected by cannabis. Over the years, the following are some proven symptoms related to various disorders (including CTE) that can be cured to a great deal using medical cannabis,

  • Aggressiveness, anger, and irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Gradual dementia
  • Memory loss
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Self-injury

This leads to another interesting debate about the possible role of cannabinoids in the treatment of disorders like CTE. Well, we do know that cannabinoids do in fact lower the brain’s oxidative stress after a traumatic blow to the head.

Can cannabinoids provide relief in any capacity?

Let’s discuss the role of cannabinoids in providing relief to CTE patients to find a definitive answer. So far, no cure or any sort of remedy has been discovered for CTE in any capacity around the globe. Clinical trials are underway, yet no prominent progress has been registered so far.

Still, there are some speculations and assumptions regarding the possible treatment of CTE symptoms in the long run. Cannabis is known for its neuroprotective effects which can be beneficial for CTE patients as the disorder itself targets the cognitive abilities of the brain. This has further led to the identification of specific cannabinoids found in cannabis that can be beneficial.

For example, phytocannabinoids are often regarded as a sub-category of cannabinoids that are known for their neuroprotective properties. These specific properties work great against common CTE symptoms as credible scientific research is showing positive and hopeful results.

Consuming cannabis products for more effectiveness

So far, we have some vague ideas that cannabis can infact be beneficial for relieving CTE symptoms in the long run. Well, many patients with initial CTE symptoms showing up also state that consuming cannabis does infact have some beneficial impact on the overall progress of the disease. But still, not many patients are open to the idea of consuming cannabis. Why?

Well, most believe that the only way to consume cannabis is by smoking it which can further lead to developing serious pulmonary disorders. In reality, you can consume cannabis in many more ways other than smoking. Some of the most common consuming methods for cannabis include,

  • Edibles
  • Powder
  • Capsules, pills, and tablets
  • Tinctures

How do you communicate with your doctor?

Getting a CTE diagnosis at an early stage doesn’t mean that the symptoms are not treatable. In many cases, the individual symptoms of CTE can be treated by effective techniques prescribed by your doctor. These techniques will include a mixture of certain beneficial medications as well as behavioral therapy and pain management sessions to help you cope with this life-altering disorder. But to achieve this, it is crucial to discuss your symptoms and their effects on your everyday life with your doctor.

Final Note

CTE is quite common among military personnel or professional combat sports athletes. The unfortunate part of this is that the disease is still not curable and over the years many valuable players of their respective sports and military heroes who have served this country have started to lose their cognitive skills. Where medical cannabis does prove to be an effective way of treating certain CTE-related symptoms, extensive research is still needed to be done on the topic.

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