Can Cannabis Treat Concussions? University of Miami Researchers Are Trying to Find Out

Article by Cresonia Hsieh, Miami Herald

As director of the concussion program at the University of Miami, Dr. Gillian Hotz has spent years tracking head injuries of high school athletes. But starting in January, the research professor will see if she and her team can come up with a new way to treat a concussion — possibly with a pill derived from the plant that produces marijuana.

In late October, the university’s The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Miller School of Medicine received a $16 million research grant from Scythian Biosciences to study if a simple pill, among other possible solutions, could reduce post-injury brain cell inflammation, which leads to headaches and other neurological pain.

Researchers believe the answer lies in a cannabinoid derivative of the hemp plant, the plant from which hashish and marijuana, among other hallucinogenic substances, is extracted. The chemical compound the UM researchers will use — CBD — does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the main mind-altering substance found in marijuana.

“I’m excited that this could be a new treatment pathway for the hundreds and thousands of people that have this type of mild brain injuries,” Hotz said.

Hotz said there have been studies that document how cannabinoids have helped treat pain, glaucoma, epilepsy and depression with few side effects. They want to see whether the same applies for sustained brain injuries like concussions.

“It’s not a guy smoking a joint, playing video games anymore. People have to get past that picture. We’re way beyond that,” she said. “(Cannabinoids) can really be helpful for a lot of people that have neurological conditions. It just has to be systematically evaluated.”

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