Among the many other amazing things weed can do, a new study suggests it may protect against traumatic brain injuries.
People who use cannabis are more likely to survive traumatic head injuries, a study found. The death rate was lower for patients who use marijuana than it was for patients in a control group. The protection appears to result from THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.
“This data fits with previous data showing that [THC] may be neuroprotective,” said Dr. David Plurad, one of the study’s authors.
The study examined 446 patients with brain injuries at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Cal. Those who used THC – about 20 percent – had a lower mortality rate than those who didn’t. The findings back up earlier animal research that suggests THC may protect the brain following an injury. But scientists still know very little about how that works.
80% less likely to die
The new study found about 10 percent of all study participants died of their injuries. But the figure was much lower – about 2.4 percent – in patients who tested positive for THC. A whole 11.5 percent of non-tokers died, the study explained. That means THC users were a whopping 80 percent less likely to die from their injuries – even after adjusting for age, gender, type of injury, and severity of injury.
Earlier studies suggest alcohol may play a similar role in protecting the brain, but the authors said those studies failed to account for marijuana use.
“We included the presence of alcohol in our statistical analysis, and it didn’t turn out to be as protective as the presence of the marijuana,” Plurad said.
A shortcoming in the study?
There was at least one big shortcoming in the new study: THC tests couldn’t distinguish between patients who used regularly and those who used infrequently. Even moderate consumption days or weeks before the study could have registered.
Plurad recommended caution in interpreting the results of the study. Marijuana may be good at protecting against brain injury, and it may be good at treating other diseases, but it isn’t right for everyone, he said.
“There’s not going to be one answer, is marijuana good for you, is marijuana bad for you,” he said. “Like most things in life, and particularly medicine, it’s going to be somewhere in between.”