Can Marijuana Use Kill Brain Cells?

The short answer as to whether marijuana can kill brain cells is “NO.”  Medical marijuana’s effects on brain cells does not appear to be neurotoxic at doses appropriate for human consumption.  You may be assured that our Ohio Medical Marijuana Doctors will be recommending safe and effective products for your qualifying medical marijuana needs.

Why was this idea of marijuana being a “brain killer” brought up?  The rumor that marijuana can kill brain cells was probably based on several things.  Medical Marijuana is a Schedule 1 Drug. Never mind, that it does not fit the definition for a Schedule 1 Drug, in any way. Also, it is considered by many to be a “bad habit” just like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcoholic beverages. Drinking alcohol can kill brain cells, so that link in some people’s minds may be there. During the hippie generation, marijuana was smoked as well as a lot of other “harder” drugs. That did not help its reputation with mainstream Americans. Also, by using “hard” drugs as well, it made it more difficult to separate the effects of marijuana from drugs such as LSD and PCP.      

There seems to be some indication that the age that you start using medical marijuana can determine its effects on your brain. How often and how much you use can also be factors in its effects. These effects do not mean that medical cannabis kills brain cells, though.  The studies that have been done on both animals and humans, do not indicate that medical cannabis kills brain cells.  Instead, they have shown that medical cannabis has some very positive effects on your brain. [1]

 

What about the US Patent for Cannabinoids Patent No.: US 6,630,507 B1

In fact, the US government has known for a long time how useful it is.  It has a patent as far back as in October 7th, 2003 for the use of cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants!  It plainly states on the patent, “Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties… this new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases…following stroke and trauma…Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease…”  

[2]

Medical Marijuana can be used to combat brain injury in chronic illnesses affecting brain and nervous system

The incidence of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease is rising.  Alzheimer’s has increased by 8,902% in the U.S. within a 23 year period (1979-2002).  The incidence of other neurodegenerative disorders are also increasing. [3]  We are very privileged to have the opportunity for using medical marijuana. Our Ohio Medical Marijuana Doctors can help you with all your qualifying medical marijuana needs.  

 

Neurodegenerative means that the nerve cells lose structure and function, which results in the cell’s death.  Although the causes of these disorders may differ, there are similarities in how they play out. These diseases have in common:

  • nerve inflammation,
  • nerves being excited to death (excitotoxicity),
  • lack of cellular energy (mitochondrial dysfunction),

 

  • reduced trophic factors, which control the development and survival of specific  groups of nerve cells. [4]

 

The endocannabinoid system is affected by neurodegenerative disorders.  At the same time, we can use cannabinoids to assist in treating these diseases.  

 

Alzheimer’s disease

  • Cannabinoids can have a number of beneficial effects with Alzheimer’s.  They will reduce the inflammation burden. One of the ways they do this is by reducing the excitotoxic (excited to death) damage caused by too much calcium inside a nerve cell. Within a healthy nerve cell, calcium “channels” are carefully regulated, so that too much calcium is not allowed into the cell.  Calcium pumps will normally pump out unneeded extra calcium. If the calcium channels are left open, then too much calcium gets into the cell.  This triggers the formation of inflammatory compounds (called prostaglandins) and free radical formation. The result is inflammation in the cell, a decrease of cellular energy, and ultimately cell death. [5]    
  • With cells dying, there is a need for neurogenesis (formation of new nerve cells) in the brain.  These new nerve cells, and their ability to make connections is especially imperative for those who have nerve related diseases.  The nerve/immune network of an adult person and their brain’s endocannabinoid system works together to form new nerves.  Both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, neurogenesis and expression of BDNF are regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECB).  [4] [7]

 

  • So, medical marijuana can decrease inflammation, decrease oxidative stress, and maintain cell energy levels (through healthy mitochondria) with Alzheimer’s.  It can also support new nerve cell production.

 

 

Prion Disease CJD- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

 

  • Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative disorders that have a prion protein accumulation in the brain. This is a misfolded protein. What is very important to note is that CBD inhibited the accumulation of this protein in rat and sheep models. The CBD significantly increased survival time. [6]  
  • Although CJD is reportedly not common in the United States, Colm A. Kelleher PhD, author of  Brain Trust: The Hidden Connection between Mad Cow and Misdiagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease, described an intriguing study.  The study was done by Laura Manuelidis and her husband, who were neurodegenerative scientists. It was published in 1989.  The husband and wife team were associated with Yale University. They autopsied 46 people who died of “Alzheimer’s disease.”  Upon close inspection of brain tissue, they found that six of those 46 people, did not have Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, it was prion disease.[3] IF there is a chance that a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease actually has prion disease, then using CBD could be a critical component of their therapy. [6]

 

 

Parkinson’s disease

 

  • Parkinson’s disease causes the degeneration of a part of the brain that controls movement.  The endocannabinoid system is strongly present in this area of the brain. Cannabinoids help decrease the progression of the disease via the four components already discussed.  It also helps decrease protein from clumping together (aggregates.)

 

  • A key feature of Parkinson’s disease is abnormal clumps (aggregates) called alpha-synuclein, which can act like prions in that they will propagate from cell to cell to additional brain regions.  This may contribute to a patient’s symptomatic progression. New therapies utilizing cannabis, targeting different mechanisms may have significant impact on Parkinson’s disease. [7]
  • Dr. Rachna Patel in California reports that clinically medical marijuana helps her patients with reduction of how often tremors occur, how long the tremors last, or how severe the tremors are.  She states that her patients report pain reduction from severe to tolerable.  Some of her patients have been able to decrease some of their medications, while taking medical marijuana.  

 

 

Traumatic brain damage or strokes

 

 

  • Brain damage due to trauma or strokes triggers a number of protective mechanisms.  These mechanisms can lead to secondary damage.  There is swelling.  Because of our hard skull, only so much swelling can occur without causing adverse effects.  Chemicals such as glutamate are released. Glutamate toxicity occurs, because it causes cells to “excite to death.” [8]

 

 

  • Your brain makes more endocannabinoids  in response to damage. Your endocannabinoid (eCB) system helps your brain compensate and repair itself. The eCB 2-AG helps decrease brain edema (swelling) and inflammation.  2-AG does damage control and increases chances of recovery. Both CB1 and CB2 receptors play a role in recovery, as well.  Both CBD and THC have been shown to protect against excitotoxicity (the cells being excited to death) caused by glutamate. One way it does this is by its antioxidant effect. [9]

 

So, the TRUTH of medical cannabis’ impact on the human adult brain is being uncovered by research and clinical use. Medical cannabis has amazing attributes that in normal therapeutic dosages, can positively affect the adult brain, that is compromised by disease or injury.  Our Medical Marijuana Doctors at DocMJ can help you no matter which medical marijuana qualifying condition you have.

 

References:

 

  1. Https://www.ncsm.nl/english/health/marijuana-kill-brain
  1. https://patents.google.com/patent/US6630507B1/en
  2. Kelleher PhD, Colm A. Brain Trust: The Hidden Connection between Mad Cow   and Misdiagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease. Paraview. 2004.
  3. https://www.brjpharmacol.org/DOI:10.1111/bph.12492/ “The Influence of Cannabinoids on Generic Traits of Neurodegeneration”.  S G Fagan and V A Campbell.
  4. Blaylock MD, Russell L. Excitotoxins The Taste that Kills. Health Press. 1994 : 33-57.  
  5. Dirikoc, Sevda. Nonpsychoactive Cannabidiol Prevents Prion Accumulation and Protects Neurons against Prion Toxicity. The Journal of Neuroscience. September 5, 2007.  26(36):9537-9544.
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5054685/
  7. Shohami, Ayelet C-Y. Endocannabinoids and traumatic brain injury”. British Journal of Pharmacology. DOI:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01343.x
  8. Hampson, A.J. “Cannabidiol and (-) delta 9- tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants”. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. Vol. 95, pp 8268-8273. July 1998 Medical Sciences