Using Medical Cannabis to Alleviate the After Effects of Concussions

September 29, 2020 02:53 pm ET
Using Medical Cannabis to Alleviate the After Effects of Concussions

Brain injuries can come in a variety of forms with the most common being concussions. Concussions can present in any person of any age and are usually accompanied by serious consequences. It is defined by the International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sports as “a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces. The consequences of misdiagnosis or faulty management of concussions could leave the individual with a major disability or even death. Studies have found that cannabis can be effectively used to assist post-concussion to deal with the related symptoms. 

What are Concussions?

Concussions have been explained as traumatic brain injuries that affect brain functioning. Effects are usually temporary but are accompanied by a host of symptoms. They are caused by a blow to the head or by violent shaking of the head and upper body. Some concussions can lead to loss of consciousness, although the majority of them do not. 


The symptoms associated with concussions can be subtle and may not show up right away. These symptoms can also last for days, weeks, or longer depending on the extent of the injury and severity of the concussion. 

Physical Symptoms Witnessed Symptoms Delayed Symptoms
Ringing in the ears
Fatigue /Drowsiness
Blurry Vision
Loss of consciousness
Slurred speech
Delayed response to questions
Dazed appearance
Forgetfulness (includes repeatedly asking the same questions)
Seizures (mostly in children)
Memory Complaints
Irritability or other personality changes
Sensitivity to light and noise
Sleep disturbances
Psychological adjustment problems such as depression
Disturbances in taste and smell

It does not matter what grade of concussion is being experienced, they are all serious and require swift action and care by trained professionals in managing concussions. Concussions need to be managed properly until the individuals have completely recovered. 

Types of Concussions

  • Grade 1: Mild with symptoms that last less than 15 minutes and there was no loss of consciousness. 
  • Grade 2: Moderate with symptoms lasting longer than 15 minutes and there was no loss of consciousness.
  • Grade 3: Severe symptoms lasting longer than 15 minutes and there was a loss of consciousness.

Complications That Can Arise 

Complication: Description:
Post-traumatic headaches Consistent headaches for several days after the injury.
Post-traumatic vertigo Coming and going experiences of spinning or dizziness.
Post-concussion syndrome Concussion related symptoms which lasts for beyond three months. 
Second impact syndrome Experiencing a second concussion before the signs and symptoms of the first one is resolved.

How Can Cannabis Help

Pain and Inflammation: A 2015 study published in the Journal of Cerebral Cortex has examined how the body’s own cannabinoid receptors, called the CB1 and CB2, interact with the healing process. The study found that since those receptors are located throughout our bodies due to the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the cannabis was able to bind to those receptors and reduce damage and inflammation throughout the body. Another study published in 2016 supports the notion of cannabis as an inflammatory agent. This study examined cannabis for the inflammation and pain associated with conditions such as arthritis. Despite the different conditions, the fact stands that cannabis can be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the body by binding the receptors located in our ECS.

Memory Problems: A 2020 published study revealed that CBD can increase blood flow in the parts of the brain relating to memory, which means that it improves memory function. The study found that there was an improvement after just a single dose of CBD. 

Mood and Sleep: A study conducted by the Dent Neurologic Institute examined 142 patients with concussions. The study administered cannabis to patients’, and they were rated on a Patient Global Impression of Improvement (PGI-I) scale. The results revealed more than 80% of the patients reported improvements with the most significant being 63% moderate and 20% significant mood improvement, 53% moderate and 23% significant sleep improvement and 60% moderate and 14% significant pain, and headache improvement. concussions and cannabisAdditional support can be found in a study published in the Journal of Pain Research and Management which found that patients responded well to cannabis for chronic pain, mood, and sleep. Another 2017 review also found that cannabis can be an effective treatment for headache disorders. 

Medical professionals suggest that the optimal dosage for concussions lay in micro-dosing with doses as low as 2-5mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) per day. This comes from the biphasic tendencies of cannabis, which means that THC can be effective as a medical treatment in lower doses while higher doses may cause undesired effects for medical patients.  

Although cannabis can’t treat or prevent concussions, it can be used as a  cost-effective and low-risk method of alleviating the symptoms that accompany the condition. It is important to manage concussions thoroughly and properly by taking care of the symptoms, reducing screen time, limiting exposure to bright lights and loud sounds, avoid unnecessary movement of the head and neck, staying hydrated, getting proper rest, eating more protein and foods rich in omegas as well as by listening to your physician.


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