Marijuana use associated with lower death rates in patients with traumatic brain injuries

October 2, 2014

Surveying patients with traumatic brain injuries, a group of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) researchers reported today that they found those who tested positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, were more likely to survive than those who tested negative for the illicit substance.

The findings, published in the October edition of The American Surgeon, suggest THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, may help protect the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury, the researchers said. The study included 446 patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries and underwent a for the presence of THC in their system. The researchers found 82 of the patients had THC in their system. Of those, only 2.4% died. Of the remaining patients who didn't have THC in their system, 11.5% died.

"Previous studies conducted by other researchers had found certain compounds in marijuana helped protect the brain in animals after a trauma," said David Plurad, MD, an LA BioMed researcher and the study's lead author. "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."

The researchers noted that the timing of their study was "pertinent" because of current efforts to decriminalize marijuana and other research that has shown THC can increase appetite, reduce ocular pressure, decrease muscle spasms, relieve pain and alleviate symptoms associated with irritable bowel disease. But they noted that their study has some significant limitations.

"While most – but not all – the deaths in the study can be attributed to the itself, it appears that both groups were similarly injured," Dr. Plurad said. "The similarities in the injuries between the two groups led to the conclusion that testing positive for THC in the system is associated with a decreased mortality in adult patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries."

Explore further: Low doses of marijuana component can protect brain against injury

Related Stories

Even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage

July 16, 2014

Even mild traumatic brain injury may cause brain damage and thinking and memory problems, according to a study published in the July 16, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Regular marijuana use bad for teens' brains

August 9, 2014

Frequent marijuana use can have a significant negative effect on the brains of teenagers and young adults, including cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ, according to psychologists discussing public ...

Estrogen increases cannabis sensitivity

September 3, 2014

Smoking today's concentrated pot might be risky business for women, according to new research from Washington State University. The study is the first to demonstrate sex differences in the development of tolerance to THC.

Recommended for you

How do antidepressants trigger fear and anxiety?

August 24, 2016

More than 100 million people worldwide take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac and Zoloft, to treat depression, anxiety and related conditions, but these drugs have a common and mysterious side ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.