Cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years, both for its psychoactive and medicinal properties. In the US, the use of cannabis has been the subject of much debate. Many see it as a dangerous drug, while others believe it to be an essential medicine. The marijuana debate takes place on many levels. Each State has their own laws concerning marijuana. Eight States, plus Washington DC allow people to recreationally use marijuana and many more States have laws allowing patients to use medical marijuana. Federal law, on the other hand, classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. As long as there ARE parts of the country that are able to benefit from their state’s legality status, there are going to be opportunities to discover the medicinal and therapeutic properties these cannabinoids offer. There are some obvious benefits that our ancestors discovered and some we have yet to discover.
Recent studies are beginning to make lawmakers question whether marijuana should remain on the list of Schedule I drugs. Clinical studies have proven marijuana to be effective in treating pain, seizures, and loss of appetite. Something that continues to look promising is cannabis’ treatment for concussions. For many patients, no other treatments have offered any relief except for the marijuana treatments. Another new development to emerge in the marijuana debate is the chemical compound CBD. CBD is one of the two main constituents found in cannabis, alongside the more widely known THC.
Both THC and CBD are known as cannabinoids, chemical compounds unique to cannabis that react with what is called the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a system of neurotransmitters and corresponding receptors that help regulate pain and appetite, among other things. Receptors in the endocannabinoid system are more numerous than any other neurotransmitters found in the body and never would have been discovered if not for the study of marijuana, and how marijuana functions in the way it does. In the 1990s, the specific receptors responsible for interacting with THC and CBD were first isolated and cloned. The receptor identified to respond to THC was named CB1 and the receptor discovered to interact with CBD was named CB2.
Once the receptors CB1 and CB2 were discovered, the study of cannabis become much more efficient and structured. Previously, much of the research done on cannabis was directed at the dangers associated with the drug and very few studies took into account the medical benefits of the plant. Through studies carried out on mice, researchers were able to determine that THC was the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects brought on by marijuana and that CBD had no psychoactive properties. This has in many communities spawned a THC vs CBD debate, questioning which cannabinoid is more useful in a medicinal capacity. Many believe that since CBD doesn’t get you high, it is a more practical compound to use for treating patients. There has been a great deal of evidence to suggest that CBD on its own does help treat pain, seizures, and loss of appetite, including treating concussions.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is responsible for at least 1.5 million emergency room visits in the US every year. TBI is responsible as the cause of death for more than half of all traumatic deaths. Concussions are considered to be mild to moderate forms of TBI, but they are also responsible for numerous cognitive and mental health disorders if left untreated–and there are serious consequences when there are multiple, mild concussions. The damage to brain tissue accumulates and may cause degenerative brain conditions. Younger men are the most vulnerable demographic to these types of injuries.
Why do researchers believe CBD may be very effective for treating concussions? For starters, endocannabinoids may help treat traumatic brain injury (TBI) by helping to repair some of the things that go wrong when concussions or TBI occurs. They are:
Without repair after concussion or TBI, the brain may degenerate. A number of professional athletes who have experienced multiple concussions while playing contact sports have been diagnosed, or are likely to experience symptoms that are linked to loss of brain tissue density. Multiple concussions may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Consumption of CBD–either ingested or vaped–has been implicated as a way to hopefully reduce symptoms linked to neuroinflammation to prevent or slow the degenerative process that occurs in CTE. But many who are outspoken about the subject understand what the symptoms look like. For instance, some professionals in the NFL have been outspoken about the way that CBD has helped them with emotional and physical symptoms related to CTE. NFL legend Leonard Marshall has given up taking opioids for pain management and has advocated for the use of organic CBD oil as a way to reduce his symptoms.
Another NFL player, Eugene Monroe also refused to manage his pain using opioids and swears by medical marijuana to reduce his symptoms of chronic pain caused by his concussions and other injuries. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Eugene is quoted as saying, “studies show that almost everyone who plays the game (American football) will have some level of brain disease.”
There are virtually no serious side effects for those who use CBD. While there is a great deal of evidence both empirical and anecdotal that CBD holds vast medical importance and certainly deserves to be studied further, it is important to note that many of the most positive results have been obtained from patients being given a 1:1 THC to CBD combination. It is understandable that many patients do not want to get high or experience other side effects brought on by THC, but evidence suggests that when used in conjunction THC and CBD are more effective in treating things such as pain than when either is used alone.
In regards to its treatment of concussion and TBI, the endocannabinoids CBD and THC are effective at treating this condition because of their ability to, most notably, reduce pain and neuroinflammation. The “entourage effect” of both cannabinoids have a positive effect on the body and brain because of the different pathways they inhabit and the different ways they bind to distinct receptors in the body. More research into this field of study is needed but our country is seriously lacking in its ability to treat chronic pain and inflammation in effective ways. CBD has no propensity to be addictive, while THC does. CBD, however, has the ability to reduce the effects of psychoactivity that THC induces. You be the judge.
Read more about how cannabis can be used to treat concussions at What is a Concussion and How Does Cannabis Help