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According to scientific research, cannabis may be an effective way to manage symptoms of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is often spoken of in the context of NFL football players, with one high-profile New York Times study finding that out of 111 examined brains of former NFL players, 110 of them (or 99%) showed signs of CTE. While football players and other athletes are at a particularly high risk for developing CTE, anyone who has repeated brain trauma is at risk as well. This includes:

  • Military veterans
  • Victims of violent domestic abuse
  • Individuals with developmental disorders who engage in head banging
  • Boxers/martial arts fighters
  • Individuals who have epilepsy who sustain head injuries during seizures

At this point in time, CTE cannot be diagnosed until after death. On top of that, doctors are not in total agreement on the symptoms of CTE, indicating more research needs to be done before definitive conclusions can be drawn. With that being said, many speculate that the signs of CTE may be similar to those of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which also result in a decrease in brain cells. These signs may include:

  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Depression and suicidality
  • Aggressive behavior and other personality changes
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Decreased balance and motor skills

On a more promising note, research indicates that medical marijuana may help. One Israeli study discovered that endocannabinoids reduce brain damage in mice and rats. A separate study revealed that cannabidiol and other cannabinoids may be an effective neuroprotectants. In other words, cannabis use may help to reduce brain damage and encourage neuron growth and development in individuals with a traumatic brain injury.

As further research is conducted, the implications of cannabis as a treatment modality will only become clearer. In the meantime, it is critically important that any individual who sustains a possible brain injury seek medical treatment immediately.

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