Getting a concussion can be incredibly traumatic. Not only at the time of impact, but also in the weeks, months, and even years that follow. Some symptoms of a concussion can be debilitating, and unfortunately, one of the most effective treatments for this condition is simply time. Often, sufferers have to wait it out whilst the brain attempts to repair itself. Research, although in its infancy, may point to cannabis as holding the key to helping recovery. Not only in the after stages of concussion, but even in helping to reduce the extent of the initial damage.

Despite the fear mongers who have for decades proposed that cannabis can damage brain cells, new research suggests that it may actually assist in repairing damaged nerves resulting from impacts to the brain. Several studies offer a look into how cannabinoids may be of profound effect, although much more research is needed to obtain conclusive answers.

WHAT IS A CONCUSSION?

To understand the symptoms of a concussion, we first need to understand what a concussion is. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can occur as a result of a blow to the head and/or significant change in movement speed. Typically, victims of car accidents can incur concussions. An impact to the head is also commonplace in contact sports like boxing, American football, and rugby, where despite protective equipment, a concussion is still likely.

The reason our bodies react the way they do to this kind of trauma boils down to the way the brain is protected inside the skull. The brain itself is very fragile - just a soft organ that sits inside a protective bubble of cerebrospinal fluid. When we experience a strong blow to the head or a dramatic change in speed, this fluid isn't enough to stop the brain from moving, causing it to inadvertently slam against the inside of the skull. This impact causes damage to nerve endings, inflammation, and disrupts the natural chemical process inside our brain. All of this can lead to post-concussion syndrome.

Concussion Symptoms

THE SYMPTOMS OF POST-CONCUSSION SYNDROME

Post-concussion syndrome can manifest in a variety of symptoms lasting weeks, if not months.

Symptoms include:

  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to noise and light
  • Loss of memory

The exact cause of these symptoms following a concussion is not yet known. To make matters worse, conventional medicine is often of very little help. For the symptoms to completely go away or greatly reduce in severity, time is proposed to be the best, albeit inconvenient solution. Occasionally, over the counter medicines might be prescribed to combat headaches or insomnia if the symptoms are extreme enough. But ultimately, your brain simply requires time to rest and repair itself.

WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH TELL US?

Open on center stage; in walks the increasingly diverse cannabis. Given that specific studies examining the link between concussions and cannabis are limited, we must predominantly look at those studies showing the effects of cannabinoids on the brain. These in turn can pave the way for more specific research into using cannabinoids to tackle PCS.

Preclinical research published by the Oxford University Press in 2011 has shown a correlation between the endocannabinoid system and decreased brain swelling and inflammation following a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Researchers simulated this by testing the CB1 and CB2 receptors within rats. We already know that rats and the human body both have an endocannabinoid system that regulates a variety of functions. By triggering CB1 and CB2 receptors with CB1 antagonist/inverse agonist AM251 and CB2 antagonist/inverse agonist AM630, researchers deduced that a certain steroid could suppress the release of microglia and decrease reactive astroglia in the brain by regulating actions of the endocannabinoid system.

Further studies show how manipulation of those same CB1 and CB2 receptors can be used to tackle stress, depression, and anxiety, which are a few of the main symptoms of PCS. Published on NCBI in 2013, rats were tested again, although this time, they were subjected to chronic restraint stress in an effort to replicate stress and anxiety within humans. The research summarised that activation of cannabinoid receptors could potentially treat the cognitive deficits accompanying stress-related disorders.

Concussion And Cannabis

CAN CANNABIS TREAT CONCUSSIONS?

With just these two tests as examples, we can start to explore how cannabis can help treat not only the initial concussion itself, but also the after effects. If cannabis could improve the brain's ability to repair itself following TBI, then the related symptoms could possibly be managed or reduced as well.

Furthermore, cannabinoids have been shown to provide relief to those experiencing significant pain associated with a wide variety of ailments. Until more evidence reveals the exact link between the endocannabinoid system and the amelioration of concussions, some individuals simply choose to self-medicate with cannabis to relieve the persistent discomfort. Despite being inherent to our body, the endocannabinoid system was only “discovered” relatively recently. Only time and research will reveal the full potential of cannabis on this amazing system.

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