Some say marijuana can help reduce concussion symptoms, but others say the negative effects of weed outweigh the potential benefits.

Concussions have become a widely discussed and even controversial topic in recent years. Many professional athletes and retired athletes have come out about their experiences with concussions and the list of health problems they’ve had as a result of having concussions.

With the ongoing discussion about concussions has come a specific topic of conversation about marijuana and concussions. People are asking, “Does marijuana help concussions, and could it be a potential treatment option?”

The following provides more information about concussions, and then more specifically, the relationship between marijuana (also commonly referred to as cannabis or weed) and concussions.

What Is A Concussion

A concussion is a form of a traumatic brain injury that’s caused by a hit to the head, or a rapid movement that leads the head and brain to move back and forth quickly. This sudden movement of the head can lead to bouncing or twisting of the brain, and that can then lead to chemical changes in the brain as well as damage to the brain cells.

Concussions are typically classified as a mild brain injury since they’re not usually deadly, but the effects of a concussion can be severe. Some of the symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in your head
  • Temporarily losing consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Forgetting things
  • Clumsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling tired or dazed

For some people, the symptoms of a concussion show up immediately following the incident that caused it. For other people, there may be a delay, and it can take days for symptoms to appear.

There are many possible complications ranging from headaches to vertigo for months after an accident. There’s also something called post-concussion syndrome where people have symptoms for days, weeks or months following the accident. Researchers also believe there may be a cumulative effect on people who have had multiple traumatic brain injuries throughout their life, and this effect could cause impairment in functionality.

There has been a lot of focus on the fact that concussions may lead to an increased risk of not only physical side effects but also psychiatric problems. In fact, the risk of depression and suicide increases after head trauma, and some research has shown that even a single concussion may increase the risk of suicide by up to three times.

There is now a lot of research that’s looking at marijuana and concussions to ultimately answer the question, “Does marijuana help concussions?”

Marijuana and Concussions

So, does marijuana help concussions?

Some researchers believe that the properties of a chemical found in marijuana may help the brain to repair itself following a traumatic injury. The reason marijuana and concussions may have a beneficial relationship to one another is because cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical found in marijuana, might be able to help reduce inflammation in the brain following an injury. Cannabis plants have antioxidants that can provide protective features to the brain, and they could possibly reduce overall inflammation and stress-related damage in the brain. This is important because one of the primary impacts of concussion is neural inflammation.

There was a Tel Aviv study showing that small doses of THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana, helped reduce swelling in the brains of animals. However, this study has not been replicated and requires further research to fully confirm.

Using CBD for Concussions

There is evidence that marijuana may serve as a neuroprotective agent, and there is currently a federal patent on non-psychoactive CBD for use as a neuroprotective agent. The patent application states that cannabinoids in cannabis may have the ability to limit the neurological damage following head trauma.

There is even research suggesting that cannabidiol may be helpful as a pre-treatment for people who are in jobs or roles that could lead to a higher risk of concussions, such as professional athletes. Primarily, it’s only the CBD that has been found to be helpful in a proactive way.

Because concussions can increase the risk of psychiatric conditions, marijuana and concussions may also have a relationship with one another in terms of how cannabis affects things like memory and cognitive function. CBD may act as an antidepressant, at least in rodent studies. It tends to work more quickly than many traditional pharmaceutical antidepressants, so marijuana could be helpful for people with concussions in both direct and indirect ways.

While it’s not necessarily related to marijuana and concussions, there is also the potential that professional athletic leagues like the NFL may start exploring the potential of marijuana to replace addictive and dangerous opioids for the treatment of injuries and chronic pain.

Of course, you shouldn’t try to self-medicate concussions with marijuana, and there’s a lot of research that still needs to be done on the topic. However, what’s available so far does look promising.

Downsides of Using Marijuana for Concussion Treatment

While research suggests that chemicals found in marijuana may help with concussions, this research is not conclusive. It is not known for sure that marijuana actually helps people who have experienced a concussion. Additionally, it is primarily the CBD in marijuana that is thought to be helpful, not marijuana itself.

Marijuana contains much more than just CBD. In particular, it contains a psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC negatively affects the brain on both a short-term and long-term basis. THC can be very addictive, causing someone to become addicted to marijuana and potentially leading to more dangerous types of addictions. Using pure CBD may help to avoid some of these potentially negative effects, but it has not yet been proven to help concussions.

Is It Bad to Smoke Weed With a Concussion?

The effects of weed on the brain are not fully understood by scientists. Researchers know that the THC found in weed affects brain development and ultimately leads to poor brain health. This effect is especially noticeable in children and teens, whose brains are still developing. The effects of smoking weed with a concussion are not fully understood. However, there is a potential that smoking weed when you have a concussion could be harmful.

Summing Up—Marijuana and Concussions

Does marijuana help concussions? Marijuana may potentially help protect against much of the damage of concussions, and it may also help alleviate psychiatric symptoms that appear following a concussion. However, its helpfulness has not been proven, and there are potential negative effects of using marijuana to treat concussions. 

Ultimately, someone who is interested in using marijuana to treat concussions should discuss it with their doctor first and consider using pure CBD instead of marijuana.

Self-medicating with substances like marijuana can lead to dependence and addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with marijuana, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about marijuana addiction treatment programs that can work well for you.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.