Traumatic brain injury (or TBI) is a term used to describe injuries that a person has sustained via blows to the head. These injuries can cause significant damage to the cranium and-worse-to the brain itself, which can leave a survivor stricken with lifelong disabilities. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued research that states that traumatic brain injuries have a role to play in 30% of all injury-related deaths. Now researchers are looking to cannabinoids-yes, of the cannabis plant-to treat these dangerous and downright life-threatening injuries.
One controlled study conducted in 2014 compared the survival rates of individuals with TBIs after breaking them down into two groups for the purpose of the study: patients who would receive a THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) treatment, and those who would not. Those who received the cannabinoid treatment fared significantly better than those who did not. Of the THC-treatment group, only two patients died. This amounted to a total of 2.4%. However, an unfortunate 11.5% of patients in the non-THC treatment group died-a total of 42 patients.
Of course this is great evidence to promote the further research of how cannabinoids can be used in the treatment of brain injuries. What is most important, is figuring out how these compounds assist the brain as a neuro-protective agent.
When a person sustains a severe enough blow to the head, the brain body releases what are called “harmful mediators,” that can lead to death caused by inflammation and toxicity. It is believed that the compounds found in the cannabis plant can protect the brain and effectively reduce the degree of damage sustained. Israeli researchers have shown that the administration of cannabinoids prior to or shortly after a brain injury can prevent long-term, even lifelong, damage:
“Administering just a fraction of the amount of THC that would be found in a typical marijuana joint induces chemical processes necessary to protect critical brain cells while preserving long-term cognitive function.”
The importance of further study into this topic cannot be understated. Israeli institutions, like Tel Aviv University, are currently the technological and scientific leaders in such research.