Study finds medical marijuana improves concussion symptoms

Medical cannabis vapor pen

Medical cannabis vapor pen

Medical cannabis tincture

Medical cannabis tincture

A new study supports the use of medical cannabis (medical marijuana) as a treatment for concussion-related chronic pain (such as headaches) and for other concussion symptoms. The study also specifies the type of medical cannabis that provided the optimal benefit, in terms of the THC to CBD ratio, and oral tincture or vapor pen. The article was published on December 5, 2018, in the journal Neurology.

The study is from Dent Neurologic Institute (DENT) in Buffalo, NY, which has treated thousands of patients for chronic pain, and specifically 142 patients with concussion symptoms. New York State approved medical cannabis for chronic pain in 2017. The study notes that “individuals with concussion often experience discomfort from headaches.”

The researchers reviewed the charts of sixty-six patients who were treated at DENT with medical cannabis for concussion symptoms, and they plan to review a total of 100 patient charts. (This type of study is called an “ongoing retrospective analysis.”) They found that 80% of the patients “experienced significant improvement in activity level and symptoms.”

They evaluated for five common concussion symptoms: headache, mood, sleep, attention, and dizziness. The improvement was most significant with headache, mood, and sleep.

Optimal forms of medical cannabis

The form of medical cannabis that provided the “optimal benefit” to prevent or minimize longer-term symptoms was an oral tincture that was 1:1 (THC:CBD). For acute pain, which is pain that is relatively more sharp or severe, the optimal form was a vapor pen of 20:1 (THC:CBD). Therefore, the patients’ more sharp or severe pain responded to a higher amount of THC and also responded better to intake via the lungs, which is faster acting than oral ingestion.

In the experience of the Concussion Alliance community, a vapor pen does work best for quick acting relief of headache pain, and we find a 1:5 (THC:CBD) is effective. We don’t find the 1:5 ratio to be psychoactive. In terms of the study, the 20:1 (THC:CBD) vapor pen appears not to be psychoactive, even with the much higher THC ratio, as psychoactive effects were not listed as a side-effect.

With regard to oral ingestion, a number of us find that an RSO oil is more effective than an oral tincture. See our page CBD products from marijuana for additional information.

Improvement scores for concussion patients taking medical cannabis

When evaluating the concussion symptoms, the researchers use the scale ranging from 0 as “much worse” to 10 as “must better.” Moderate improvement was 7-8 on the scale, and significant improvement was 9-10 on the scale.

  • Mood: 63% moderate improvement, 20% significant improvement

  • Sleep: 53% moderate improvement, 23% significant improvement

  • Headache: 60% moderate improvement, 14% significant improvement

  • Quality of Life score: score of 46 for those using medical cannabis, score of 19 for those not yet started on medical cannabis.

The researchers used the Quality of Life After Brain Injury Score (QOLIBRI).

Side-effects were minimal

Only 15% of the patients reported side-effects, all minimal. Of these side-effects, 63% were related to disliking the poor taste of the oral tincture or experiencing cough with the vape pen. None of the patients choose to stop taking medical marijuana due to side effects.

The average monthly cost for an individual patient (for both the oral tincture and vapor pen) was $242.

See our additional pages on cannabis for concussions

CBD 101: What it is, what it does, how it’s helpful
CBD and cannabis research and clinical trials
Choosing between marijuana and hemp CBD products
CBD products from Hemp
CBD products from Marijuana
The NFL, Concussions, and CBD
Veterans, Concussions, and CBD