= Authors =
Laura Diamond, MSc Global Health Student
Gabi Kaplan, Student Occupational Therapist
Jenni Diamond, OT Reg. (Ont.)
Evan Cole Lewis, MD
The therapeutic benefits of cannabis
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD has been shown to have many potential therapeutic benefits, including neuroprotective effects (1). Results of clinical studies support its use in some conditions associated with difficult to treat epilepsy and for symptoms related to multiple sclerosis (2,3,4,5). There is emerging support for its use in other areas such as chronic pain, anxiety, and Parkinson Disease to name a few (6). Currently, however, little is known about the role of cannabis in treating concussions and post-concussion syndrome.
Cannabis and concussion: What we know so far…
Majority of the existing research on CBD and concussion has been limited to animals. Most notably, a 2012 study on rats revealed that administration of CBD after brain injury had long-lasting, positive effects on the brain, including reducing the severity of the injury and restoring overall neurological function (1).
… medicinal cannabis may pose as an option for treating concussion-related chronic pain, specifically headaches.
More recently, however, this research has been shifting toward humans. A 2018 study reviewed previous hospital charts and displayed that medicinal cannabis may pose as an option for treating concussion-related chronic pain, specifically headaches (7). However, these novel findings are quite preliminary and more studies are needed to validate the results.
The future of cannabis-concussion research
Recently, many researchers have been interested in advancing these emergent findings and investigating this alternative concussion intervention. In fact, Dr. Gillian Hotz is currently embarking on an ongoing study investigating the effects of CBD in combination with an anesthetic for individuals with traumatic brain injury. Her preliminary findings suggest that this treatment improves cognitive function in mice (8).
Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital working in the Canadian Concussion Centre says that he is “reasonably hopeful” for the potential of cannabinoids and post-concussion issues.
In addition, one of the first double-blind studies exploring the effects of cannabis and concussion is expected to be conducted this summer by NEEKA Health Canada, the NHL Alumni Association and Canopy Growth Corporation, a cannabis company. This exciting new study will explore the efficacy of cannabis on reducing post-concussion syndrome impairments, such as depression, PTSD, and progressive dementia, among 100 previous NHL players. Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon at Toronto Western Hospital working in the Canadian Concussion Centre says that he is “reasonably hopeful” for the potential of cannabinoids and post-concussion issues. In the future, Tator plans to explore the role of CBD on treating post-concussion headaches (9).
The possibility of CBD as an effective intervention for post-concussion syndrome is without a doubt exciting! Stay tuned for future studies in this emerging field, and for the results of this upcoming study on professional hockey players.
If you or a loved one are suffering from a concussion, be sure to speak to your physician or contact NCT to discuss which treatment options are best for you.
- Pazos, M. R., Cinquina, V., Gómez, A., Layunta, R., Santos, M., Fernández-Ruiz, J., & Martínez-Orgado, J. (2012). Cannabidiol administration after hypoxia–ischemia to newborn rats reduces long-term brain injury and restores neurobehavioral function. Neuropharmacology,63(5), 776-783.
- Davies, S. (2018). Cannabis Scheduling Review Part 1: The therapeutic and medicinal benefits of Cannabis based products–a review of recent evidence. London: Department of Health and Social Care.
- Devinsky O, Patel AD, Cross JH, et al. Effect of Cannabidiol on Drop Seizures in the Lennox–Gastaut Syndrome. N Engl J Med 2018;378:1888–97. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1714631
- Friedman, D., & Devinsky, O. (2015). Cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373(11), 1048-1058.
- McCoy B, Wang L, Zak M, et al. A prospective open-label trial of a CBD/THC cannabis oil in dravet syndrome. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology 2018;5:1077–88. doi:10.1002/acn3.621
- Russo, EB. (2018). Cannabis Therapeutics and the Future of Neurology Front. Integr. Neurosci. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2018.00051
- McVige, J., Bargnes, V. H., Shukri, S., & Mechtler, L. (2018). Cannabis, concussion, and chronic pain. Neurology, 91(AAN Sports Concussion Conference, Indianapolis, December 04, 2018: Vol. 91, Issue 23 Supplement 2).
- Lief, E. (2018). Work Continues On A Pill To Treat Concussions. Retrieved from https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/09/25/work-continues-pill-treat-concussions-13441
- Strong, G. (2019). Dr. Charles Tator ‘Reasonably Hopeful’ cannabinoids could help with treatment of postconcussion issues. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/cannabis/article-dr-charles-tator-reasonably-hopeful-cannabinoids-could-help-with/