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A study recently published by The American Surgeon Journal linked marijuana use to increased chances of surviving a brain injury. This may come as no surprise to many, considering that cannabinoids found in marijuana have also been reported to decrease the size of brain tumors as well as slow and even halt the spread of cancerous cells. Cannabinoids found in marijuana work so well in the human body because the human brain is lined with cannabinoid receptors. Different marijuana cannabinoids, of which there are many, have different effects on humans depending on which receptor is being targeted.

This study was conducted at the UCLA Medical Center by researchers of the Los Angeles Bio-Medical Research Institute. In this study, the urine of similarly injured brain trauma patients admitted to the hospital between January 2012 and January 2010 was tested for THC, the well known psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana.

In brain injury cases, urine is tested no matter what, so that physicians may offer proper treatment depending on what is in the system of each patient. The study found that the urine of 82 of the 446 patients tested, contained THC. This means that about 18% of the sampled patients were marijuana users.

What linked the marijuana use to increased survival of the brain injury?

Of those surviving the similarly scaled brain injuries, fewer of the marijuana users died from the injury than those who did not use cannabis. The mortality rate of those among the marijuana users was less than 3%, where as the mortality rate of those who tested negative for THC was over 11%.

This study was the first able to demonstrate this in clinical human trials, as the study’s lead author and researcher, David Plurad, MD reported to EurekAlert,

“Previous studies conducted by other researchers found certain compounds in marijuana helped protect the brain in animals after a trauma. This study was one of the first in a clinical setting to specifically associate THC use as an independent predictor of survival after traumatic brain injury.”

Might this also, have anything to do with the anti-inflammatory properties associated with the cannabinoid, CBD (cannabidiol) that is also found in marijuana? A huge risk factor in death resulting from brain injuries is the inflammation of the brain inside the skull. THC has been linked to the relief of many conditions such as pain, stress, appetite loss and many others, but its the THC + CBD combination that is associated with reducing inflammation. It is safe to assume that even though this study may not have tested for CBD specifically, those testing positive for THC would have also tested positive for CBD.

It would be interesting to see a different, similar study conducted that also tests the amount of CBD in the system of each patient. Then a ratio of THC to CBD could be assessed.

photo credit: MilitaryHealth

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