Cannabis and the Brain, "Weeds 3" in review

Dr. Sanjay Gupta's third instalment on CNN on the subject of medical marijuana continues his quest to uncover the science behind the plant's healing abilities.

Focusing on cannabis and the brain, Dr. Gupta talked to patients and researchers specifically about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), Alzheimer's disease and CTE (chronic trauma encephalopathy).

Patients & Experiences

A medical marijuana user

For patients dealing with PTSD, the symptoms can be unbearable.

These may include flashbacks, reliving the trauma and events, avoidance tactics, staying away from places and events, hyperarousal, being easily startled to name a few.

The filter down effect to the patient's families perpetuates the confusion, guilt and shame that plagues the patient.  

PTSD sufferers in Weeds 3 describe themselves as experiencing daily insomnia, anxiety, tremors, muscle spasm and pain.  One particular patient, a US war vet and his wife spoke at length with Dr. Gupta of his amazing recovery from a near fatal overdose of prescription medications by using medical marijuana.  Now he enjoys a better quality of life by using an sativa dominant activating strain in the morning, and a indica dominant sedative strain in the afternoon/evening.

Doctors & Research

Doctor with cannabis

As explained by Dr. Abrams, renowned California medical marijuana researcher, persons with PTSD have a decrease in the chemical that binds to the brain receptors normally keeping us, as people, calm.  It is believed that active ingredients in marijuana help to bind the brain receptors and restore balance to the PTSD brain.

Sue Sisley, PTSD researcher who discovered positive effects from marijuanaDr. Sue Sisley, PTSD researcher, fired from University of Arizona a day after the FDA approved her study on marijuana and PTSD, along with fellow researcher Rick Doblin, PhD, Harvard, have been encouraged by the positive results marijuana has had on the PTSD patient.

It is known that cannabis suppresses dream recall and has the quality of keeping a person focusing on the here and now, two attributes that seem to help deal with PTSD.    It'll be interesting to see the follow up research now that it looks like the good doctors battle with finding academic institution willing to risk going against the status quo has been successful.  

Dr. Staci Gruber, also known as the pot doctor, studies the brain on cannabis at McLeans Hospital Brain Imaging Center, Havard.  She agreed to study Amelia, a PTSD sufferer who says she's had a 60% decrease in anxiety since using medical marijuana and felt happy, something that wasn't present before.

Dr. Gruber did not find any noticeable impairment on the patient's brain even though she had been using cannabis daily for the last three months.

What Dr. Gruber did notice is changes in the part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex right after using cannabis.

This is the area of the brain associated with the emotional aspect of pain as talked about in my article, Pain and Medical Cannabis (March 6 / 15).

Labratory Findings

Marijuana studied in a laboratory

Cannabis finding from a Tampa Florida lab are showing promise for the Alzheimers patients.  The research is showing that even low doses of THC slows down the build up of the sticky proteins which create plaque in the brain, one of the telltale signs of Alzheimers.

Mike, a patient with Alzheimers, had been feeling depressed and very down, common symptoms of the disease.
Since he has been using cannabis, his reports indicate several turning points leading to an improved quality of life whereby he is able to laugh and communicate.

The How and Why

The documentary went on to point out that cannabinoids may act as anti-oxidant and neuroprotectant especially in the case of Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy, repeat brain trauma as in the case of athletes such as football players, boxers and bull riders.

In fact, U.S. Patents dating back to August of 2003 and the submitting companies proclamation that cannabis can protect against further brain damage.

Dr. Geoffrey Guy of GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK remarked to Dr. Gupta that CBD could be reducing inflammation of the brain helping many with brain diseases and acting as a neuroprotectant for brain cells exposed to trauma or injury.  

The research continues and it looks promising.

Take care of yourself

People suffering from brain related conditions need to do whatever it takes get themselves the help they need.
Often times it is the loved ones who need to bring attention to these matters as the patient is unaware that the condition is progressing.

Getting everyone on board is difficult.

This author is willing to bet a lot of people wish they knew about medical marijuana while their loved ones struggle through the trials of having a brain injury or illness.

Future discoveries of cannabis's amazing healing properties, I think, will be astounding.

Stay tuned!