Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a blow, jolt, or bump to the head causes damage to the brain, affecting its normal function. According to the Center for Disease Control, TBIs are a leading causes of death and disability in the US. Traumatic brain injuries contribute to about 30% of all injury-related deaths. Statistics also show that falls and being struck by an object are the top two causes of the occurrence of TBI in the United States.
The severity of the injury range from mild to severe. The mildest form, called concussions, may cause symptoms such as headaches, neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, and tiredness. Patients might also experience a brief change in their mental status or consciousness. For moderate and severe cases, patients might also experience the same symptoms plus others such as:
- Convulsions or seizures
- Inability to awaken from sleep
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the extremities
- Dilated pupils
Depending on the severity of the injury, doctors will prescribe the appropriate method of treatment. These treatments range from intake of certain medications to surgery. For mild forms of traumatic brain injuries, limiting movement and getting rest is the solution.
Emergency care and surgery is usually done on TBI patients in order to stabilize their condition. Surgery is usually done in order to remove clotted blood, repair skull fractures, and relieve the pressure in the skull.
Anti-anxiety medications such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) is prescribed to patients to help with pain and anxiety. It may also help with depression. Usage, however, might cause side effects such as unusual dreams, sexual problems, loss of appetite, constipation, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, dry mouth, tiredness, trouble sleeping, yawning, tremors, dizziness, blurry vision, sweating, headache, increased heart rate, and jitters.
Anticoagulants such as warfarin helps with hemorrhagic and thrombotic events after hospitalization. Hemorrhagic events include hemorrhagic stroke, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, adrenal hemorrhage, and other forms of hemorrhage. Thrombotic events include ischemic stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis, and myocardial infarction. However, usage of warfarin might cause side effects such nausea, loss of appetite, or stomach/abdominal pain. It severe bleeding occurs, you should contact your doctor.
Anticonvulsants (or anti-seizure) medication such as phenytoin and fosphenytoin can help treat early post-traumatic seizures. Usage of phenytoin might cause side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue, ataxia, irritability, headache, restlessness, slurred speech, nervousness, nystagmus, dizziness, vertigo, dysarthria, rash, pruritus, paradoxical seizure, drug withdrawal seizures, diplopia, psychosis (in high doses), toxic amblyopia, encephalopathy, AV conduction disorder, ventricular fibrillation, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, megaloblastic anemia, hypocalcemia, hepatotoxicity, hypertrichosis, lymphadenopathy, purple glove syndrome, rash, allergic reactions, purpuric rash, toxic epidermal necrolysis, bullous dermatosis, coarsening of facial features, periarteritis nodosa, immunoglobulin abnormalities, altered taste sensation, and Peyronie’s disease.
Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are given to patients to help with depression associated with the injury. Some new antidepressants help improve anxiety and cognition. Usage might cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, headache, numbness, fast heartbeat, nausea, stomach pain, upset stomach, constipation, dry mouth, changes in appetite or weight, sleep problems, and sex problems.
Muscle relaxants reduce muscle spasms. However, these are not usually beneficial and often cause lethargy or drowsiness and might worsen other post-TBI symptoms.
Stimulants such as methylphenidate increase alertness and attention as the injury might cause cognitive problems, especially attention and processing speed. Usage of methylphenidate might cause side effects such as fast heartbeat, chest pain, fever, joint pain, and skin rashes.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and Medical Marijuana
Because of issues with legalization, studies on the usage of medical marijuana for treatment of certain diseases and disorders remain limited. And while limited, some groups have already performed initial studies on its potential benefits, showing that there is a need to perform further research to better understand the mechanism/s of the healing properties of medical marijuana.
Some studies have found that medical marijuana use can be beneficial for patients with traumatic brain injuries because of its protective qualities in the neural system, such as minimizing secondary brain damage.
Because of the naturally found cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), medical marijuana usage reduces the impact of excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, and inflammation, which cause secondary brain damage. Aside from minimizing the impacts of these processes, cannabinoids help to initiate other biochemical processes that create a protective effect on brain cells and long-term cognitive functions.