can you smoke weed with a concussion

Marijuana and Traumatic Brain Injury: Things to Know

Concussions are a lot more common in the United States than most people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control, well over 1 million Americans suffer from a diagnosed event each year.

Millions more suffer from undiagnosed events. Tens of thousands of these patients are children aged 5 to 18. Studies have shown that early-age concussions can lead to an increased dependence on drugs and alcohol later in life.

What Is a Concussion?

To understand how marijuana helps the brain recovery process after concussion, we first have to understand what a concussion is. Then, we need to identify what its immediate and long-term effects are.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a concussion takes place when the brain “bumps” the skull after a significant impact to the head.

Symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Difficulties with motor skills and balancing
  • Light sensitivity and seeing bright lights
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Speech difficulties
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Troubles concentrating and confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Seizures
  • Numbness in limbs

DID YOU KNOW: The majority of concussion-related hospital visits are the result of sports injuries or car accidents?

Every concussion – even mild ones – are classified as a traumatic brain injury or TBI. Whenever the brain gets injured, it releases compounds called glutamates. This results in the build-up of calcium over time, as well as neurological cell degeneration. The antioxidative properties of cannabis may be able to help prevent this cell degeneration and its long-term effects.

When speaking of TBI, it’s important to understand that a spectrum exists relating to the severity of brain-related injuries. Most TBI cases (up to 80%) fall under the mild spectrum, which includes concussions (often referred to as ‘mild TBI’).

The Dangers of Concussions

The real danger of concussions lies in what’s known as ‘concussion plus’; this is aside from the temporary headaches and nausea that it produces.

This term, coined by Dr. Gillian Hotz, describes the long-term impact of concussion, as well as its debilitating (and sometimes even fatal) effects.

Calcium buildup and damage to brain cells can result in a variety of long-term psychological conditions. These include early-onset dementia and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – both of which can be deadly.

The prevalence of long-term concussion side effects among former NFL players has been well-documented in recent years. The TBI-related deaths of Pittsburgh Steelers Lineman Ralph Wenzel and Philadelphia Eagles fullback Kevin Turner highlight the dangers associated with suffering a traumatic brain injury.

But is there anything doctors can do to prevent the long-term impacts of concussions, or to reduce the prevalence of related onset conditions like dementia or CTE?

Concussions: How Are They Typically Treated?

The biomechanical impact that takes place when the brain comes into contact with the skull produces headaches, dizziness, and nausea. These symptoms typically persist for 8-12 days. The only real “treatment” is rest, as well as the administration of mild OTC analgesics like Tylenol and ibuprofen.

However, repeat concussions over an extended period can result in very serious long-term conditions.

In a 2015 study, researchers from Boston University observed that 96% of former NFL players showed early symptoms of CTE.

The scary thing about CTE is the fact that it is a progressive brain disease. This means that it inherently gets worse over time with no known treatment. Some of CTE’s long-term symptoms include depression, aggressive behavior, memory loss, impaired judgment, loss of motor function, suicidal thoughts, and dementia.

Adequate treatment of concussion is something that clinical researchers have been taking very seriously in recent years. The active chemical compounds within marijuana may be a viable option in terms of limiting long-term brain cell deterioration.

Marijuana for Concussion: What You Need to Know

If you are considering consuming cannabis with a concussion, then it is extremely important that you consult your medical professional beforehand. We are not medical professionals. The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the most studies phytocannabinoids. The use of these cannabinoids in the treatment for TBI and concussion is the subject of ongoing research. So far, it appears that these cannabinoids may be able to help alleviate some of the symptoms of a TBI and post-concussion syndrome.

Some ways that they can do so is by providing an anti-inflammatory response, helping to reduce pain, mitigating hypotension in the brain, as well as helping to control seizures. The use of CBD for concussion is being taken very seriously by some of the top doctors, psychiatrists, and neurological researchers in the world.

Back in 2014, after being astonished by the protective effects of cannabis on brain cell deterioration, Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon penned an open letter to the NFL pleading for the issuance of grant money to research the clinical effects of cannabis on concussion-related symptoms.

In 2016, researchers from the University of Miami were awarded a $16 million grant to try and develop a patented “cannabis pill” that individuals could take after suffering a concussion (or other forms of TBI).

The goal of the 5-year clinical investigation (which is currently ongoing and led by University of Miami’s Dr. Michael Hoffer), is to create a CBD-based medicine that would “disrupt the series of chemical reactions that follow a concussion and lead to brain-cell death.”

Understanding CBD and Its Relationship to Concussions

CBD – short for cannabidiol – is a natural cannabis extract that unlike THC, does not get users high. For obvious reasons, it is being regarded as the preferred compound of choice in many instances of therapeutic marijuana use.

The five-year-long study involves a multidisciplinary team who will examine the effects of combining CBD with an NMDA antagonist (anesthetic) in the treatment of TBI and concussion. The hope is that the combination of CBD and the NMDA antagonist will be successful in reducing post-injury related symptoms.

The findings from the pre-clinical pre-study were recently released, and the results so far have been very encouraging. The researchers found that the combination therapy resulted in improved cognitive functions in animals when compared with animals which received only CBD or the NMDA antagonist. Further encouragement was drawn from the fact that neither the combination therapy nor the individual components produced any adverse reactions.

Helen M. Bramlett, a professor of neurological surgery, and a member of the multidisciplinary team involved in the research says:

“These findings, which represent the initial results from our TBI study using this novel combination therapy, merit further investigation in other pre-clinical models of brain injury, including concussion.

More work needs to be done, including evaluating the use of these compounds in other injury models and in preparing for a clinical trial of these compounds if their use is supported by the ongoing basic research.”

Further Research

Robert Reid, the CEO of Scythian Biosciences, which is the company funding the research, says that he is “encouraged by the initial findings of the study. We are just beginning to tap the potential healing power of medicinal cannabis and (are) exploring its growing number of benefits.”

The second phase of the study will involve a small human pilot study. It will likely involve the administering of the compounds in pill form to a control group as well as to two groups of TBI patients. One suffering from an acute TBI, and the other with a chronic TBI.

The researchers will use nine different outcome fields to determine the efficacy of the treatment. These are: cognitive, behavioral, psychosocial, sleep, pain, sensorimotor, cardiovascular, inflammatory biomarkers, and neuroimaging studies.

Upon completion of the study, the data from the nine outcome fields will be analyzed. Additionally, any safety concerns will also be addressed. If the treatment is deemed safe and effective, then the third phase of research will begin.

This will involve a full-scale clinical trial with FDA oversight over a three-year period. Furthermore, by the end of the clinical trial, researchers will better know whether or not the compound is an effective treatment for TBI and concussion.

Results of the clinical investigation will not be out for several years. However, early signs have indeed been promising, with Dr. Hoffer claiming that “if we can stabilize those [brain cells at risk], we can prevent the dominos [of onset CTE] from falling.”

“What that pill would do is stabilize the brain, so that when you get a head injury, there may only be a few brain cells that are injured to the point of no return.”

-University of Miami’s Dr. Michael Hoffer

What Does the Research Say?

In one 2017 study, Schurman and Lichtman determined that endocannabinoids represent “important areas of basic research and potential therapeutic interest to treating TBI [including concussion].”

The researchers also noted that “phytocannabinoids represent an understudied yet promising group of compounds given the neuroprotective results obtained from other types of CNS injury.”

Shurman and Lichtman believe that “CBD as well as other phytocannabinoids which do not bind cannabinoid receptors, represent promising molecules to treat TBI.”

Another study, entitled, “Effect of Marijuana use on outcomes in traumatic brain injury” was published in 2014 in The American Surgeon. Interestingly, the researchers based at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in California found that “a positive THC screen is associated with decreased mortality in adult patients sustaining (a) TBI.”

The researchers also say that while cannabis won’t save the life of someone suffering a catastrophic injury; it “does seem to protect the brain in people who have lived through a TBI.”

Final Thoughts on Marijuana for Concussion

It is clear, as Gillian A. Hotz, Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery, puts it, that “there needs to be more systematic research in this field in order to study the neuroprotective properties of CBD, and to improve treatment for those sustaining mild-to-moderate TBI (traumatic brain injury) and concussion.”

Holtz and colleagues are carrying out research in relation to the effectiveness of treatment for TBI and concussions. This involves a combination of CBD and an NMDA antagonist, is a particularly significant and important area of current research. For now, though, the jury is still out on that one. So far, the initial preclinical findings have been very encouraging.

Again, as already mentioned, if you have suffered a concussion or TBI, and are considering consuming cannabis, it is important to speak with your medical professional before doing so.

Research on marijuana for concussion has been compelling, to say the least. In this article, we discuss some of the long-term positive effects.

Smoking Weed With a Concussion — Safety Concerns and Best Strains

Between 2 and 4 million concussions occur every year in North America.

Depending on the severity of the injury, concussion can be fatal. The death risk rate for those with a mild concussion is 2%.

This percentage goes up with the severity of the hit—it gets up to 30% for those with a more severe injury.

Thankfully, most people recover just fine.

That being said, there isn’t much you can do after you suffer a concussion: Usual directions are to get a lot of rest, sleep and take lots of fluids. The only medication your physician is likely to prescribe is something to soothe the headache.

If you’re a cannabis user, however, there’s probably one more question on your mind:

Is smoking weed with a concussion safe or not?

Well, as it turns out, cannabis is good at reducing brain swelling and helping your body recover from a head injury.

Let’s explore how.

What is a concussion?

In layman terms, concussion is basically a bruise on the brain.

A more thorough definition is that a concussion is a head injury caused by a blow to the skull. The blow produces a swelling on the brain and temporarily stops certain brain functions.

Concussion is the most common traumatic brain injury and can be also caused by a blow to the body that makes the brain bounce off the skull walls.

The brain floats in the skull and is surrounded by spinal fluid which acts as a buffer. When we suffer a hard blow, the inertia slams the brain on the skull wall—this has the potential to cause physical damage and abnormal chemical reactions in the brain, which can lead to a traumatic brain injury.

Most common causes of concussions in adults are car accidents, sports injuries and cycling accidents.

Children are also more prone to concussions—around two million kids visit the ER every year for concussion-related injuries.

Symptoms of a concussion

Most concussion symptoms occur almost immediately after the injury (or a few hours or days after), and last from several days to a week. In extreme cases, concussion symptoms can last up to a year.

Here are some common concussion symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Difficulties with motor skills and balancing
  • Light sensitivity and seeing bright lights
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Speech difficulties
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Troubles concentrating and confusion
  • Amnesia
  • Seizures
  • Numbness in limbs

Often times, the smartest choice is to get checked out by a medical professional immediately after suffering a hard blow to the head.

Concussion treatment

Once a doctor gives a green light that there is no long-term risk related to the injury, it’s time for rest.

All the injured brain needs to recover is to take some time off from physical and cognitive exertion.

This includes abstaining from studying, working hard, socializing, exposure to bright light and loud noises and staying away from sports and workouts, at least for some time.

Doctors even recommend not playing video games, texting and reading.

As I’ve said, there is no specific medication for a concussion, but doctors can prescribe painkillers for treating headaches or something to help with the sleep— sleeping problems are quite common after this type of injury.

But let’s cut to the chase.

Can cannabis help the brain heal faster after a concussion?

T here’s a lot of scientific and anecdotal evidence that marijuana can help the brain heal faster and protect it from neural damage.

I was interested in finding the truth so I set about to find some concussion-related cannabis studies.

There aren’t many of them, but combined with what we previously know on the health benefits of cannabis, we can make an objective conclusion.

CBD reduces brain inflammation tweet this

CBD is known by now as an anti-inflammatory agent and there are a few studies that prove that cannabis reduces all sorts of swelling and inflammation in our system, including brain inflammation.

According to a 2015 study published in the scientific journal Cerebral Cortex, the endocannabinoid system plays a very important role when it comes to our brain recovering from the injury. (1)

In fact, researchers found that cannabinoids (particularly CBD) can even protect our cells against the damage before and after the injury.

How Does CBD Actually Work?

Cannabis helps reduce post-concussion syndrome symptoms tweet this

Cannabis is famous for its positive effects on chronic pain, sleep, appetite and even depression, so it’s no wonder why people turn to it immediately after suffering a concussion.

Unfortunately, only the state of Illinois has approved the use of medical marijuana for treating post-concussion syndrome symptoms.

Most states and provinces in Canada have approved medical cannabis for some of these symptoms separately, which may be a good way around this.

Cannabinoids have neuroprotective properties tweet this

Even the US government admits it: Cannabinoids have neuroprotective properties and the ability to limit the neurological damage and consequences of strokes and head injuries (such as a concussion).

That is the reason why cannabinoids have found their application in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

CBD has especially shown neuroprotective properties, but one study found evidence that THC may also protect our brain, if administered before the injury.

In a 2014 study published by the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, researchers found that concussion patients who had THC in their blood at the time when the accident occurred were less likely to die from a brain injury. (2)

Best strains for concussion

Exclusive bonus: Download a free cannabis dosage guide that will show you the exact step-by-step process Dr. Dustin Sulak used to successfully treat more than 18,000 patients with marijuana.

In North America you can get a prescription for medical marijuana for treating separate concussion symptom (except in Illinois where you can get a prescription for post-concussion syndrome symptoms).

If you’re in Canada, be sure to use Strainblazer, our strain finder tool to help you refine your search.

Strains for headaches and pain

Headaches are pretty common after head injuries.

Certain sativa and indica strains, as well as hybrids, have painkilling properties, which is very beneficial for overcoming headaches and migraines.

These strains can help you get rid of headaches, as well as some other accompanying symptoms.


This could very well be the strain to help you with all concussion symptoms, as it reportedly helps soothe headaches, pain, stress, and depression.

Harlequin is also great at reducing inflammation. It contains high levels of CBD which diminishes the psychoactive effects of THC and stops marijuana-induced paranoia.

OG Kush

A pure classic, OG Kush is one of the most popular strains in the world so you won’t have trouble finding it in your area. It crushes stress, kills pain and swipes away the migraines. With THC levels around 20%, OG Kush will put you to sleep as it starts to wear off.

Blue Dream

Blue Dream is a perfect strain for daytime rest since it does not provide heavy sedation. This high THC strain is great for treating pain and nausea. Blue Dream is actually perfect for balancing slight euphoria and body relaxation.

Cannabis for Migraines: Can It Reduce Migraine Frequency?

Strains for sleep

After suffering a concussion you’ll need lots of naps.

After a medical observation, your doctor will most probably recommend home rest — no work, no heavy physical activities, no phones, and computers. Just a lot of rest and sleep.

Here are a few strains to help you get into a deep slumber.


This is a very potent strain, so novice users should be very cautious with it. Keep the dosage low until you get used to it. It releases the body tension leading to a good night’s sleep.

It’s great for severe pain as well as mild headaches.

Northern Lights

A beneficial high-THC strain, Northern Lights relaxes all the muscles in the body, gradually introducing peaceful sleep. It’s also known to relieve pain and boost appetite.

Cookie Jar

Cookie Jar is perfect for those who have suffered a head injury since it provides a relief from pain helps get your sleep under control. Many patients have been using it for treating insomnia with success.

Strains for fatigue

After suffering a concussion, you’ll probably feel more tired than ever. So, to get you back on track, here are a few strains for daytime fatigue to give you a little energy boost.


This strain is known as a happy strain. Jillybean has a sweet and fruity aroma, produces a slight head buzz, but does not weigh down the body.

Pineapple Express

With a nice body buzz, Pineapple Express is used for treating a number of medical conditions such as chronic depression, stress, and fatigue.It also reduces mild pains and headaches while it fills you with all the energy you need.

Green Crack

Green Crack is a potent sativa that can really increase your high-time productivity, even though the name suggests otherwise.

The vigor from this strain can possibly be a bit too much for the gentler users, so make sure you consume it in a non-threatening environment for the most pleasant effect. On the other hand, if you take your weed as strong as possible, you’ll have no problem with it pretty much anywhere.

Strains for depression, anxiety and stress

Suffering a head injury like a concussion can be really stressful, so here are a few strains to help you overcome feelings of loss and despair and recover faster.

Laughing Buddha

Need a laugh in these hard times? No problem, Laughing Buddha is perfect for laughs and giggles. However, this is a really potent strain, so those who are not really experienced should take it easy.

Glass Slipper

An excellent strain for depression, stress, fatigue, nausea, and headaches that makes you feel happy and relaxed.

Jack Herer

Jack Herer is simply known as the nature’s antidepressant. It uplifts the mood, creativity, and boosts focus. Named after a famous activist, Jack Herer gives you a full body bliss and a clear head, perfect for battling the post-injury depression.

Marijuana has promising effects on brain recovery from an injury, but can we claim that it’s safe to smoke weed with a concussion? You bet.