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Why more research is needed into effects of cannabis on brain injury

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Experts say more research is needed into the effects of cannabis on TBI

Studies suggest traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients are using cannabis to treat their symptoms – but experts have warned that more clinical evidence is needed.

Scientists at research group Lovelace Biomedical, in collaboration with Mind Research Network and the University of New Mexico, have published a report reviewing the evidence for medical cannabis in the treatment of TBI patients.

Despite previous positive research into this area, the review identified significant gaps in the current understanding of the ability of medical cannabis to treat the effects of TBI.

The report – recently published in the Journal of Neurotraumaidentified – identified a lack of high-quality studies examining the beneficial and adverse effects of medical cannabis on traumatic brain injury, with only one clinical study performed. 

Animal models of TBI suggest cannabinoids have neuroprotective and psychotherapeutic properties.

Despite this, human studies with recreational cannabis have consistently shown the negative effects of the drug.

The researchers are now calling for the positive observational studies to be used further to produce clinical results.

“There is not a single pharmacological agent with demonstrated therapeutic efficacy for traumatic brain injury (TBI),” researchers wrote.

“With recent legalisation efforts and the growing popularity of medical cannabis, patients with TBI will inevitably consider medical cannabis as a treatment option.”

They added: “Observational studies demonstrate that TBI patients are using medical and recreational cannabis to treat their symptoms, highlighting inconsistencies between public policy, perception of potential efficacy, and the dearth of empirical evidence.

“We conclude that randomised controlled trials and prospective studies with appropriate control groups are necessary to fully understand the efficacy and potential adverse effects of medical cannabis for TBI.”

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