Psychedelics Show Startling Results for Traumatic Brain Injury
Studies have demonstrated the neuroprotective properties of cannabis can help with traumatic brain injury by reducing secondary damage after the initial trauma, which has contributed to the interest in exploring alternative treatments like psychedelics for traumatic brain injuries.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. In Canada, 2% of the population lives with a traumatic brain injury. There are 18,000 hospitalizations each year, and traumatic brain injury typically occurs in 500 out of every 100,000 individuals annually. That is approximately 165,000 people in Canada impacted by traumatic brain injury every day. This equals 452 people every day, or one person every 3 minutes.
Here we will look at psychedelics for traumatic brain injuries, mainly where the research is headed and its promise for treatment.
Description of Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a disruption in the brain’s normal function caused by trauma to the head. This trauma can be experienced in numerous ways, typically described as a bump, blow, or jolt to the head.
Children and older adults are at higher risk of experiencing a traumatic brain injury than an average adult—other than adults engaged in contact sports.
Is a concussion a traumatic brain injury?
The term traumatic brain injury sounds scary, and it can be. A concussion is considered a type of traumatic brain injury. Even though concussions are often seen as mild brain injuries (because they are generally not life threatening) the impacts can still be severe. This is important because concussions are common in many contact sports.
Signs of a concussion can be subtle (hard to identify) and may not show up immediately following injury.
The symptoms of a concussion can last for days, weeks, or sometimes even longer. Common symptoms include headache, memory loss (amnesia), and confusion. Amnesia usually involves forgetting the event that caused the concussion.
|Physical signs and symptoms||Other signs and symptoms||Symptoms that may occur days after injury|
Ringing in the ears
Fatigue or drowsiness
|Confusion or feeling in a fog|
Amnesia surrounding the event
|Concentration and memory complaints|
Irritability and other personality changes
Sensitivity to light and noise
Psychological adjustment problems and depression
Disorders of taste and smell
Related: Cannabis for Heacaches and Migraines
Treatment for Concussions
It’s essential to speak to a doctor if you think you’ve experienced a traumatic brain injury. Treatment focuses on physical and mental rest. Doctors recommend engaging in relative rest: reducing activities that require mental exertion but not eliminating all activities.
It’s vital to slowly add mental and physical activities back into your life and pay attention to how they impact symptoms. Resuming rigorous physical activity after a traumatic brain injury increases the risk of another brain injury. So, increase activity slowly and listen to your doctor.
Related: Mindfulness and Psychedelics
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease linked to repeated blows to the head. It can include behavioural problems, mood problems, and issues with cognition. While it can only be diagnosed in an autopsy, a 2017 study showed that 99 percent of former NFL players and 91 percent of college football players studied had CTE.
Some professional athletes experience significant adverse impacts of traumatic brain injury, including depression and suicide ideation. As a result of these symptoms, many athletes have turned to alternative treatment methods, such as psychedelics.
Several athletes have already turned to psychedelics to manage symptoms related to traumatic brain injury. The research is also underway.
A 2019 review stresses the importance of research into the use of psychedelics, such as psilocybin, for disorders related to consciousness based on previous preliminary studies. A 2021 review looked at historical data about psychedelics’ safety and potential therapeutic uses to outline the areas of interest for traumatic brain injury.
Neuroinflammation specifically refers to inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. Ongoing neuroinflammation can increase damage to the brain.
The 5-HT2A receptor, the one psychedelics like magic mushrooms act on, is well known to have the potential to regulate inflammation in the brain.
Neurogenesis is the growth and repair of brain cells which is essential for healing from a traumatic brain injury.
Psilocybin has been shown to support neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which plays a vital role in learning, memory, and mood. Scientists believe the damage to the hippocampus may account for some of the long-term emotional and cognitive problems experienced by those who have experienced a brain injury.
Neurogenesis in the hippocampus also supports recovery from PTSD.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change and adapt through growth and reorganization. After a traumatic brain injury, the reorganization of neural connections is an integral part of recovery, specifically relearning information and reforming memories.
Studies show that psychedelics promote neural plasticity, speeding up relearning in patients with traumatic brain injury.
Psychedelics for PTSD and Depression
It’s common for those who have experienced a traumatic brain injury to develop PTSD or depression.
Approximately 25% of people who experience a traumatic brain injury develop symptoms of major depressive disorder.
Psychedelics can also support the treatment of PTSD and depression, which, in turn, can support the overall recovery for those with a TBI.
Learn more about using psychedelics for PTSD and Depression.
Final Thoughts on Psychedelics for Traumatic Brain Injury
Psychedelics are being used by many athletes to manage the long-term impacts of traumatic brain injury. Research is underway to develop a deeper understanding of how psychedelics help heal the brain.
Preliminary evidence suggests that psychedelics could help restore some of the damage and improve psychological symptoms associated with injury. However, it’s important to note that this research is still pre-clinical, but more people are investing in it.