Why Cannabis Helps People With Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) doesn't only effect ex-football players and boxers: as many as 1.4 million Americans get a TBI every year, most commonly from falls and car crashes. Of those, 235,000 patients are hospitalized; 50,000 die.

Partly due to the advocacy of former NFL players, including former Baltimore Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, medical marijuana is increasingly being considered to ease the symptoms of TBI.

Contrary to the dated, simplistic idea that marijuana "kills brain cells," not only is marijuana safer than opiates for relieving pain, but there's also both anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest THC has a neuroprotective effect. In a study published in The American Surgeon of more than 400 adult TBI patients, testing positive for THC was associated with a higher rate of survival after the injury. Animal studies, too, have found that THC protects the brain post-injury.

Weirdly, although heavy drinking increases your chances of sustaining a TBI - whether due to drunk driving, getting in fights, or simply falling and wiping out on your head - there's also good news for folks who like the occasional beer or glass of wine along with some marijuana: moderate alcohol consumption might not be a bad thing for patients post-brain injury, either.

"Indeed, some clinical studies surprisingly seem to suggest a beneficial effect of alcohol in injured patient," according to one study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

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