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Is It Okay to Smoke Pot After a Brain Injury?

Comments [16]

John Corrigan, PhD, BrainLine

Is It Okay to Smoke Pot After a Brain Injury?

I had a brain injury more than two years ago. Among other symptoms, I lost my sense of smell. What I’m wondering — as un-PC as this is — is whether I can still get high if I smoke marijuana.


Some people lose some or all of their sense of smell after a traumatic brain injury. However, there is no relationship between losing your ability to smell and the effects that marijuana have on your brain. You should also be aware that marijuana can be especially harmful after a brain injury.

There are many reasons not to use alcohol or illicit drugs, including marijuana after a brain injury. If you use drugs or alcohol, you could:

  • Not recover as fully or as quickly
  • Have more problems with concentration, memory, or balance
  • Increase your risk of seizures
  • Increase your risk of having another brain injury.

So, the bottom line is that whether you can smell or not, you shouldn’t being using marijuana.



Click here to go to About Ask the Expert.

John D. Corrigan, PhD John D. Corrigan, PhD, Dr. John Corrigan is a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ohio State University, and director of the Ohio Valley Center for Brain Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation. He is the project director for the Ohio Regional Traumatic Brain Injury Model System.

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Comments [16]

my son has a very severe tbi.we are lobbying tomorrow in nashville because they want to legalize mmj...we are for having that option...he hasn t had any since his accident because it s illegal and we re afraid that they will kick him out of pain mgmt ,which is only legal option he has and afraid if caught state would take him in to  protective custody even tho he s an adult.wish us luck.this guy is dead wrong ,all the studies that are newly surfacing prove he s wrong .http://medicalmarijuana.com/experts/expert/title.cfm?artID=147

Jan 26th, 2014 6:18pm

I was in the hospital in california (i have my med card) after a concussion that made me seizure after a fall snowboarding. I asked the doctor in the hospital if it was ok, and he said it was fine or might even help. So that night i went home and smoked and kept smoking and i dont see and negitive effects.  

Dec 23rd, 2013 2:18am

I'm a female, 25 who suffered a minor t.b.i. after getting hit by a car about 3 weeks ago. I also suffered a hair line fratcure to my hip and broke my left ankle. My first week home was very painful, they prescribed me percocets and would end up taking the maximum dose despite my efforts to cut back. I was so drugged up while I was in the hospitle that I didn't feel shit and it definately didn't help my memory. For the first 3-4 days I thought I was waking up in Japan and Tijuana. I told the doctor that I was a medical marijuana avocate (once I was in my head enough to express myself) and former patient, for depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. His opinion was that I shouldn't use for at least 6 months. As soon as I got home I took it apon myself to reserch the effects of marijuanas effects on brain injuries, because I'd rather use that for the pain then opiates (shitty withdrawls suck!) Or high doses of NSAIDs, which I know can have long term effects on your stomach, kidneys, and liver. At first it was hard to find info that wasn't biased either way..... but boy was I suprised when I found info on the study done at Tel-Aviv Uni. on mainstream news sights! I actually have a theory now that my marijuana use (not a big head, although I use to be when I was younger) might have helped prevent my head injury from being worse then it was.... of course thats just speculation, but I'm obivously quite articulate and capable of expressing myself just three weeks after my accident. I have yet to try marijuana since I've been home but a friend has made some treats and I want to take a nibble to see how it effects me, considering any negitive effects that might result, would be only temporary. I have a hard time beileving that the opiates they had me on are any better for my cognative process and my memory then cannabis. Anothr friend was nice enough to look into specific strains that are beneficial to those in my condition, although they're hard to come by I will list them in hopes it will help others. Skunk haze, yummy kush, shark shock, mango haze, critcal mass, and medi-haze. I hope this helps! Thank you for taking the time to read my comment, Feel better and stay strong! (Sorry about sp errors, not my strong point, even in my pre-mj days)

Dec 14th, 2013 8:02pm

\"You should also be aware that marijuana can be especially harmful after a brain injury." Exactly where is your scientific evidence to that claim. This lengthy synopsis of a scientific article claims that it can help brain injury. It also contains a link to the actual article, which you can access by clicking on the first use of brain injury in the article. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2008/11/high_expectations.html Here is direct link to the scientific article, that unfortunately costs $29.95, to be allowed to read. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-0-387-72005-0_43 Unfortunately a lot of tests are only being conducted on mice, because it is an illegal substance. The true benefits of this plant, will only be learned after it is legalized.

Nov 9th, 2013 11:17am

I was told to stay away from it, because there wasn't any medical proof it worked for brain injuries, and 'probably' compromised your injury and thought process. The main reason there wasn't medical proof, was because it couldn't legally be studied. Ever since medical marijuana has become legal in some states, studies are finally being done, and what they are finding, is that yes it can help a person wt a TBI. It contains many compounds that are extremely helpful for people with brain injuries.

Nov 8th, 2013 11:52pm

Marijuana actually can sometimes help a brain injury, but of course is not for everyone. Sometimes attention, is hard for a person wt a brain injury, and pot can help a person focus more, by both giving their brains time to pause, and increasing attention. Alcohol is never okay, because it just slows the brain down, and takes away from your focus. Unfortunately, marijuana it is still illegal, in most states, and therefore the plant is not regulated, for potency, or inactive ingredients. There is nothing dangerous in this \'plant,\' but you never know if the particular plant you are using, contains the correct cannabinoids, that your particular brain injury needs,because is illegal. Every plant is completely unique, so until it is legalized, grown and sold for its particular cannabinoids, the true benefit cannot be gotten.

Nov 7th, 2013 4:37pm

Marijuana is not a drug for everyone, both pre or post TBI. In college, pre injury, when I first tried it, Marijuana gave me too much paranoia. I also smoked it, 15 years post injury, but at that time, I did not like how it altered my thinking. Everyone is different. Still at least for me, 20 years post injury, I found it to have very positive effects. My balance, thinking ability, creativity, use of muscles, and general outlook are 'very' much improved. The good effects for me last much longer then the few hours of the high. Even days after smoking it, all of these things are still improved. I have found that usage for me is only desired about once a month. Still the effects vary, depending on the individual, and the strength of the marihuana. Fortunately you cannot OD, on pot, and the worst effect it can have, is an over abundance of thought, something a person wt a brain injury needs. It 'will' become legal in every state sooner then later, and hopefully when it finally is, plants sold, will be properly labeled as to the THC content, much like alcohol is today.

Jul 2nd, 2013 8:09pm

Dr John Corrigan makes several statements here but provides no sources to back them up. The truth is that marijuana has not be subjected to scientific testing because no company will pay for it, since it cannot be patented. My own experience is that MMJ helps with pain, headaches and anxiety but makes concentration, dizziness and cognetive functions worse (short term). I had a moderate TBI 1.5 years ago and I dont use MMJ now because I believe that my best medicine is a regular schedule with sleep and exercise and MMJ doesnt help me attain this. However I am not likely in as much pain as others, so I cannot say what is right or wrong for you.

Mar 6th, 2013 5:41pm

I've used MMJ for pain relief and a sleep aid for an auto accident and it has been very effective. However, I also sustained a mild traumatic brain injury with visual trauma and have noticed that due to this, I am much more sensitive to the effects and have to be very careful with usage. If I have any when my brain function seems to be compromised, decreased concentration and fogginess, even a very small amount of MMJ can put me in a stupor and knock me down for the day. When it comes down to it... it seems to vary per individual and the type of traumatic brain injury that has been incurred as to how they will react to MMJ.

Feb 18th, 2013 9:12pm

Just saying... Almost a year after my severe tbi, I got like REALLY high, it was my first time being high after the accident, and it was like... An acid trip almost. I like could barely walk, and everything was like in a fog. I like wasn't aware of my body almost. I like dunno if you're into that type of thing, but it was honestly somewhat frightening. There have been no long-term effects that I am aware of.

Aug 7th, 2012 10:39am

I was on a site that stated medical marijuana can help people with tbi and now I read to stay away from it? I am so confused. Then I read these people that were helped by using it. I know for myself that this headache that I have had for 11 months that the only thing that has helped it has been medical marijuana. Percocet, vicodin did not touch it. All the other migraine meds did not nothing. My doctors will not sign the card, so I will be going to someone else who will. This pain is driving me crazy. My tbi was not diagnosed until 5 years after the fact, so my symptoms I am stuck with anyways. I am 10 years into it. So, I am not going to live with this pain if I dont have too!

Jan 31st, 2012 5:27pm

TBI in '79, Coma for 10 days, hospital for 60 days,Rehab, Home school teacher for a semester( quarter in those days ) Kicked out of house for agitated temper explosions, dropped out of H.S.,Lived alone for 8 months, Joined the Navy for all the wrong reasons! (friends(?) brother scored hash in Africa while in the Navy). Got OTH discharge. Screwed all relationships I ever had. Can't hold a job. Can't get a new job in this P.C. clean U.A. society! Have a criminal record as well. So I cannot tell you wether smoking pot is right for you. What I know is that it has not bode well for me and at age 48 I'm quitting 'cause the pot is only getting stronger and I'm too old to continue with it.

Dec 9th, 2011 1:55pm

As someone who had a TBI more than 25 years ago and as someone who in his teenage years briefly smoked pot (I had my injury when I was ten), I can say for me at least that it completely destroys my ability to concentration and function normally. In the past 15 or so years I might have smoked maybe a half dozen times, and each time I say "never again". Just completely destroys my ability to do anything except have deep thoughts.

Dec 8th, 2011 4:35am

That is a flat out LIE! Medicinal Marijuana saved my life!! I had an ABI that should have left me comatose. I was NEVER supposed to even be able to talk again. I am back working full time and have never felt better. I use it to make an herbal butter that I then bake various treats with. It not only got rid of the physical pain and symptoms, but allows my mind to focus. There have been NO adverse side effects - it is truly a miracle drug. Stop believing propaganda!! MARIJUANA IS AN HERBAL MEDICINE THAT HAS BEEN USED FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS, INCLUDING IN THE US. IT WAS ONLY BANNED WHEN ASPIRIN WAS CREATED AND BIG PHARMA PAID OFF THE US GOVERNMENT!!! QUIT LYING TO PATIENTS!!!!!!!!

Dec 8th, 2010 11:52am

As I suffer.. With TBI and other injuties from a car accident. I find THC brings the most relief with out making me wacked out like other pain meds. I need to function with Children. After 2 years of trying perscription pain killers handed out by doctors and the hospital visits. THC has been the safest.

Dec 8th, 2010 11:15am

I had my brain injury last year and I still have pain after the injury. I'm in California so I've considered getting a medical marijuana license. This information is helpful if it's a good decision or not.

Dec 8th, 2010 8:34am

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