Traumatic Brain Injury and Cannabis | cannabisMD

Traumatic Brain Injury and Cannabis

Cannabis for Treating Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of death around the globe in people under the age of 45. It is estimated that roughly 5 million Americans are on disability due to traumatic brain injury. It affects 1.7 million Americans annually. The economic and social costs of traumatic brain injury are high due to the fact that while TBI is fatal, people do survive, survivors often suffer from severe consequences such as neurological impairment and behavioral impairment, both of which can be permanent. This is also because over half of the patients suffering from TBI must undergo surgery for hematoma and contusion (bruising of the brain). In young adults, TBI is identified as a possible cause of epilepsy.

Levels and Types of Head Injuries

There are 3 different levels of traumatic brain injuries which are categorized by their severity of the injury. These levels are as follows, and in order of mild to severe:

  • Mild Injury – is associated with a loss of consciousness for up to a few seconds.
  • Moderate Injury – is associated with a loss of consciousness for up to a few hours, however, complications due to the injury can last for months which can be physical, behavioral and cognitive.
  • Severe Injury – is the worst form of traumatic brain injuries and is associated with blows to the brain that penetrate the skull and brain. These are more common when there is an open wound, however, they can occur if the head had a severe impact.

There are four main types of head injuries which are concussions, contusion, anoxic brain injury and penetrating injury.

Concussion are one of the most common types that are associated with TBI. They are relatively minor and is caused by a sudden change in movement, shaking or impact. An example of a concussion is whiplash. Usually, concussions are not all that dangerous, however, if more than one concussion occurs more than once in a short period of time, they become extremely dangerous.

Contusion is when the brain tissue becomes bruised. Bruises cause small blood vessels to leak and as a result of this on the brain it can cause a lot of pressure. Essentially, contusions are severe versions of concussions, where the brain is damaged directly under the impact. The bruising on the brain occurs on the opposite side from where the head had impacted, due to the brain hitting off the skull.

Penetrating injury occurs when an external strong force from an object is directly pierced through the skull. When this happens, fragments of skull or skin comes in contact with the brain and as a result, the injury can cause severe damage to a large portion of the brain.

Anoxic Brain Injury happens when the brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen. This results in the brain not operating to its full extent. Brain cells begin to die off after 5 minutes of the brain not receiving oxygen which can result in a brain injury. This is common when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked.

These types of TBI are only a few, others include Second Impact Syndrome, Hypoxic Brain Injuries and Diffuse Axonal Injuries.

What Are The Various Symptoms of a Brain Injury?

Symptoms differ from person to person and also depend on the different types and levels of brain injuries. They can also be difficult to notice if someone has a concussion or another form of TBI. Symptoms can be physical, sensory and cognitive.

Most Common Symptoms Associated with TBI
Loss of ConsciousnessHeadaches
Nausea and vomitingDizziness
Fatique/drowisnessImpaired speach
Sensivity to lightFeeling anxious or depressed
Clear fluids draining from ears and/or noseLack of coordination
ConfusionNumbness/weakness is toes and fingers

How to Treat Traumatic Brain Injuries

Mild TBI’s don’t usually require treatment, however, if you feel tired due to TBI, it’s important to try to not fall asleep until it passes. Other levels of TBI’s require immediate emergency care. Doctors will work in order to prevent secondary damage to the brain by reducing the inflammation, bleeding or reducing/increasing oxygen to the brain. There are various types of medications that you may be prescribed such as:

Anti-seizure drugs to avoid additional brain damage that may be the cause of a seizure.
Coma-inducing drugs are also a common medication. These medications help to place you into a temporary coma in order to lessen the amount of oxygen going to the brain.
Diuretics are given in order to reduce the amount of tissue and fluids which can release the amount of pressure in the brain.

Surgery is also conventional, especially when blood clots appear (hematomas). Surgery is also required when fragments of the skull occur on the brain due to a skull fracture(s). If there is too much pressure in the brain, surgery to “open a window in the skull” or draining cerebral spinal fluid is conducted to relieve pressure. When bleeding of the brain occurs, surgery is needed to prevent further bleeding.

Rehabilitation is also common after various other methods of treatments. They are set in stone to help improve speech, mobility, walking, balance, manage behavior problems and determine whether or not the patient is fit to return to work.

Cannabis and Its Potential in Treating TBI

Cannabis has shown, time and time again that it holds therapeutic benefits. two of which are anti-inflammatory, and facilitate anti-oxidant effects. Thanks to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is helps chemical compounds from the cannabis plant, bind to cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). CB1’s are located in the brain, which is essential to note as THC play a role in this.

The cannabis holds a chemical compound known as -trans-Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which activates these receptors. When THC communicates with CB1 receptors, CB1 receptors reduce glutamate release. Glutamate creates harmful effects on the brain and is released when brain trauma occurs. THC lowers this effect. Glutamate is one of the signs that the brain has been injured, so THC might be beneficial for limiting the risk of severe brain damage and fatality.

Studies show that low doses of THC can act as an anti-inflammatory while high doses could increase inflammation. This was discovered in preclinical trials on lab animals (mice models). In the study, these mice were put under a simulated stroke. Mice who took THC or CBD (another chemical compound of the cannabis plant) had fewer signs of brain damage. Another study also suggests that CBD and/or medical cannabis might be able to prevent further mild brain injuries such as concussions, which is why many NFL players in recent months have become advocates of CBD. However, it’s still important to note that CBD looks like it could possibly prevent concussions, but more studies are needed in order to make this statement an actual fact.

While using cannabis to treat brain injuries is promising, it’s important to note that more preclinical and clinical trials are needed to determine it’s benefits and side effects. If you wish to use cannabis or CBD oil as a form of treatment you must seek advice from a medical professional. This is because getting the right dose of cannabis is hugely vital as this was expressed already in the article. It’s also vital that you check the laws and regulations surrounding the cannabis plant so that you can avoid conducting in actions that are lawbreaking.

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