A new research study out of the University of Miami shows that an ingredient found in marijuana, known as CBD, may be effective in treating the effects of brain concussions when combined with a specific amino acid. Researchers are saying the combination could become a “concussion pill” that may one day be used by every professional football team, and in any other profession where traumatic brain injuries have proven to be a serious hazard, according to a report on the study published by the news agency United Press International.
“The potential is enormous and extraordinary,” said Jonathan Gilbert, who managed the partnership between the university and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which produced the new study. “It may someday be mandatory equipment on the sidelines of every football, baseball and soccer game, from youth leagues to professional organizations, ready to protect people of all ages from the brain’s immediate inflammatory response to trauma.”
CBD is a substance found in the cannabis plant, and it differs from THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces the plant’s distinctive “high” when smoked or otherwise consumed, according to Medical News Today. Earlier studies have shown that CBD can be effective for a variety of medical uses, including pain relief, reducing inflammation, treating neurological disorders such as epilepsy, and can even be useful in helping tobacco smokers kick the habit.
The study was part of a five-year effort initiated in 2016 and funded by a $16 million grant from the Canadian commercial biomedical research firm Scythian Biosciences Corporation, according to Medical Express. The long-term project is designed to determine the effects of combining CBD with an anesthetic amino acid known as N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA.
NMDA is a type of neurotransmitter similar to glutamate, a chemical found in almost all of the brain and nervous system’s connecting synapses, according to DNA Learning Center.
The study’s findings “show that the combination therapy improved the cognitive functions of animals,” according to a media release about the study from the University of Miami. The study also showed that the combination of CDB and NMDA produced no negative side effects — nor did either chemical when applied individually.
But the researchers in charge of the study say that more research is required before a “concussion pill” is ready to be tested by the Food and Drug Administration — a required step before becoming available to the public.
“There needs to be more systematic research in this field in order to study the neuroprotective properties of CBD, and to improve treatment for those sustaining mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury and concussion,” said lead researcher Gillian Holtz of the University of Miami, as reported by Eureka Alert.
According to the Center for Disease Control, traumatic brain injuries play a role in about 30 percent of all injury-related deaths in the United States — and on average, 153 Americans die every day from injuries that are at least partly related to TBI.
A 2017 study reported by the New York Times found that, in the brains of 111 deceased National Football League players ranging in age from 23 to 89, 110 showed the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a type of traumatic brain injury known as CTE and closely related to concussions.