A Marijuana Pill, for Concussions?

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The headaches and body pain that accompany a concussion—the all-too-common result of the routine shots to the head taken by football players—are the result of inflammation, as brain cells swell following trauma.

As it happens, CBD—cannabidiol, one of the many active compounds in the cannabis plant—is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. There are numerous former football players who swear by CBD as a tonic for football-related injuries, including head trauma.

It follows, then, that a drug containing CBD ought to do something for concussions, maybe even something as simple as a marijuana-derived pill.

That’s what Dr. Gillian Hotz aims to find out. Hotz leads the University of Miami’s concussion program, which will in January begin studying various cannabis-based treatments—including a pill—to see if they have any value in treating post-concussion syndrome, as the Miami Herald is reporting.

Hotz buys into the limited research that documents marijuana can treat a host of afflictions “with few side effects,” the newspaper reported, all of which support its potential to treat concussions.

As has been repeated time and again, research into marijuana’s medical value is still in its infancy, thanks largely to federal prohibition.

Since cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance, it’s both costly and complicated to access. Absent a big chunk of money from a pharmaceutical company, funding has to come via a government grant. And since most pharmaceutical companies don’t produce marijuana-derived medicines, and since most government grants go to studies that want to examine marijuana’s harm, not its benefit, most studies like this one never get off the ground.

Hotz is avoiding at least some of that trouble thanks to a $16 million grant from Scythian Biosciences, a pharmaceutical startup. As it happens, Super Bowl winner Bart Oates, head of the NFL Alumni Association, is a member of Scythian’s board. This emphasizes the intense interest among football players—and not just necessarily current and former NFL players—for a safe and effective concussion treatment.

Hotz’s research team includes Dr. Michael Hoffer, a U.S. Navy veteran who helped develop goggles used to test for concussions in athletes as well as military personnel, the newspaper reported.

The team will begin by trying CBD on rats, the newspaper reported. If that goes well, they’ll try out CBD on humans with “traumatic brain injuries, acute and chronic.” Eventually, they’ll ask for FDA approval for a “full-scale clinical trial.” All of the above could take as long as five years—during which, Hotz says, she expects to “find something,” she told the newspaper.

Florida recently legalized medical marijuana, but that won’t have much impact on the study. The CBD the team will use in the study still requires a special license and security so strict that it requires a “double-locked” container and DEA approval.

All for a pill that doesn’t get you high.