Is It Okay to Smoke Pot After a Brain Injury?

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.



Posted on BrainLine November 15, 2010. Reviewed July 25, 2018.

About the author: John 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.

John Corrigan

Comments (215)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

I've seen the worst of this drug too!! Well said.

I recently had a brain aneurysm which the doctors called a subarachnoid hemorrhage stroke. Is it ok to try marijuana edibles?

If you're concerned about smoking, edibles cross the blood/brain barrier too and edibles make me and a few of my friends paranoid and lasts WAY too long if you do get paranoid from it.

I had the same thing ..all I wanna know is will I mess up if I smoke marijuana again? I've stop drinking, and stop smoking cigarettes. My stole was on August 19, I haven't did either since. My b'day is Wednesday the 6the and I wanna smoke.

For me TBI happened 7 months ago spent 17 days in two hospitals 3 days in a coma 7 in an ICU unit. I'm still recovering. I smoke cigarettes didn't while in there. I have smoked pot for a long time but since this injury I have only smoked very little but has help me to eat sleep and not be so irritated with myself or life as a whole..if you know your limits trying it may not be so horrible.....

I had the same thing, a TBI with a subarachnoid hemorrhage. I have smoking to alleviate the headaches.

Dear Dr. Corrigan,

I'm wondering if CBD oil ( without THC) will help a survivor of a TBI with frontal lobe damage. i have a son that acquired an alcohol problem many years after his TBI.

I would appreciate any information, links, contacts, etc. on TBI and CBD oil.

Thank you,

I’m not a professional by any means and this may not help. I developed alcoholic tendencies after traumatic brain injury and have been suffering since. Genetically I’m prone to alcoholism but I never had such intense cravings until after my head incident. Praise the Lord I did not die or become paraplegic after my accident. I have been smoking marijuana since my injury in 2008 and it has helped immensely. With legality of the product throughout the years I have been able to use pot to help with brain injury and quit alcohol. With love to TBI sufferers may you find peace -B

Hi B,
Thanks for your reply, it's much appreciated. I just posted again but it's not showing up yet. I have some questions about impulsiveness and employment when one has right frontal lobe damage. My son cannot stay employed due to impulsiveness with his words (out of turn and inappropriate comments.)Once said, he is well aware he should not have said whatever he said. Navigating social situations is super hard for him. Now he tends to prefer to be alone more than not. I would love your input if you have experienced this yourself.

- ❤ ❤ ❤ -

I have a TBI from being knocked out and falling and hitting my head on the concrete sidewalk. I had to have emergency surgery on the left side for the hematoma and inside bleeding. It has been 1 year now. My headaches and pain are every day. They very from a throbbing to stabbing pain that rate a 1 or 2 for my good days to a 7 or 8 on my bad days. I cannot take lyrica or gabapentin due to side effects. I currently take butalbital - acetaminophn and Excedrin migraine when I cannot stand the pain. I tried the edible pot because everyone said it helped. I do not think that is the answer for me. I am prone to having seizures for the rest of my life now. It did help me sleep better, but I still woke up with pain. Also when I tried it during the day, It caused me to slur my speech and make head feel like it was moving when it wasn't.
I say try what you thinks help, but be ready for side effects and be willing to try other things too. I think pot is more natural and better for the body, but it is not a cure everything.
There are evidence-based studies coming out to show presence of a positive THC screen after TBI is linked to better outcomes (lowered mortality) and trauma patients with THC in their system experienced fewer secondary affects from their trauma (ie: reduces inflammation).

I suffered a mTBI with multiple body injuries as well. The combination of post-concussive syndrome, PTSD and cognitive dysfunction was crippling. I take an (nardil) MAOI for the depression and have with double vision. I still see a therapist who's completely on board with me using marijuana to ease my symptoms... I think this doc is full of crap. He has no citations for reference to his information. What I have, and many here too, is permanent brain damage which makes taking any oral medication a crap shoot. I have zero response to pain meds, hyper response to muscle relaxers. Why take an RX with all the side effects, like memory loss, when CBD handles my pain and marijuana helps me sleep through the night. I wake up fresh. Consult an MMJ doc for advice for your specific injury if you like. Friends, It just works!

I don’t completely agree with this doctor I received a tbi when I was 15 I’m now 27 I’ve been on so many medications I couldn’t function I finally got off some of them but I still have a lot of problems I just recently tried marijuana and found that it helped my tremors and my anxiety tremendously I haven’t had any seizures in years but haven’t had a problem since I started the marijuana and haven’t felt any sort of odd side effects from it although I would be careful and not buy it off the street from any random person but sometimes you have to use your own commen sense and not believe everything the doctors tell you especially when it comes to medication

I was in the Army for 16 yrs and suffered a major head injury during one of my deployments, orbital fractures and at the bottom base right side of my skull. Then kept deploying jumping out of airplanes etc. and had minor head injuries since. Been retired about two medical for TBI PTSD, I’m down to 600 Mg a day of oxcarbazepine and 100 mg of trazodone for sleep. I keep bouncing on and off Mary to stop, but same deal no nothing for feelings. Nothing towards family just a hulk. I get a 20 take three hits and I can hear myself come to life again, I can feel emotions again, apply sympathy and empathy to people because of my experiences in the world, I am a productive, healthy happy member of society that understands and doesn’t lash out like an animal. I have never had this relief in my life. When I was in high school, I got blazed, ripped Cheech and Chong style. Now I can walk with Jesus because I can see life in my family and my self again. God help us all. Amen.

Thankyou for this comment

As of 3 Nov 2018, I became a moderate/severe TBI survivor. The anti-seizure meds I was on were killing me. Edible cannabis saved my life. I literally believe that I would be dead now, had I been without it.

I was on 1500mg keppra (seizure meds) a day, and like you said the marijuana edibles made me be able to walk again. The CBD is the main thing that you need from weed, it has more of the healing properties. THC is more the psychedelic high, which can also help with problems

Tell it it is George
I was on Dilantin 8 x 200 mg then asked to be switched to Phenobarbital an started having Aura's and only way to stop them ? .. Take a toke an I was fine
have also seen that Marijuana does not affect You if You have TBI .. but actually helps You an have seen it does So now days dont Belive everything You .. read

Hey, glad to hear you're making it work.


Absolutely retrograde. No science. He just says it and we're expected to accept it uncritically. I would not assume the responsibility of recommending it to others, but my very smart neurologist is tacitly in favor of it. I know when I'm having a bad day, a little bit of cannabis does wonders for my pain and my mood. And I know that some studies suggest moderate marijuana use after a TBI actually favors neuroplasticity. Experts! God deliver us from them!

I got hit by a drunk driver when I was a teenager. I have a brain injury and a seizure disorder. I take a lot of different kinds of meds. When I smoke weed I feel sober. I don't get high like I used to just feel normal. When will marijuana be legal for my help? I'm 38 now and I was 18 years old when I got my brain injury, why does weed help so much? Why can't I get it as a medicine? Brain injury is hard to live with. I don't get high I get sober I don't feel brain injury. Why do I need weed to feel better from my brain injury?

Suffered a TBI after being hit by a moving vehicle. I noticed the same thing. I don't get high from it any more. They put me in duloxetine and a bunch of other crap to help with restless legs and anxiety and now my number one medicine isn't even effective. I ha e had bobbing swaying and rocking sensations for months.

yes Bob, I'm with you. Pot and CBD oil help my mood, depression, and anxiety/panic and pain. man made poison made me want to kill myself. did time in the psyc ward. I'll take what God has grow and given us. big pharma pays off the government and feed you poison to keep you hooked until you die. in the meantime they have a customer for life. thanks, but no thanks

They nearly killed me at a state run psychiatric outpatient facility I went to here in Connecticut. Misdiagnosed me had me on lithium carbonate combined with other drugs which are known to be very dangerous combinations. Gave me brain damage. The only thing that I find helps a little bit now is cannabis. I agree with you.


I am a little relieved to be reading this! It's been about 7 months now since my accident, was hit by a car that pulled out in front of me while I was on my motorcycle. I had brain surgery, broken ribs, clavicle and broken femur. I am doing great now! I have been taking cbd oil, restoring my endocannabinoid system for around 2 months now. Nutrition and fitness being two other factors that help and am passionate for.
I do have a hard day every now and again. I have not met or talked to anyone else who has TBI yet and was hoping for that to happen. So thank you guys for sharing what you have. I feel supported.


This very same thing happened to my 19 yr old son 3 months ago! Skull fracture, front temporal lobe damage, fractures pelvis and collar bone, femoral blood clots. Maybe I can can connect you with him and hopefully talking about your experiences will help you both!


Hey Amy, I read your comment and I feel we're very alike. I have a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), broken clavicle, humerus, and broken ribs due to my accident in 2017. I was wondering if it was okay to smoke marijuana or it it's better to get CBD oil? I wasn't sure if people with a brain injury were able to smoke or anything. I felt that it could cause me to have seizures. Should I ask a doctor?

Yes. You should talk to a doctor first!

I sure would like to read evidence based articles on the topic. If none are available then case studies, cohort studies, and lower grade information.

Dr John Corrigan,posted this 8 years ago! A lot of has happened in 8 years and a lot more research has come to light. I wonder if the good doctor still has the same evaluation??!!

I had been in a bad car accident 8 years ago and i had a TBI and the marijuana actually helps me calm down instead of making my anxiety worse and i am against taking pills when things change over the years the certian amount of pot helps and its healther in my case it helps me eat and remain calm <3

Marijuana use after a brain injury can actually help prevent further damage. It reduces inflammation and swelling which is the number one cause of damage during and after a brain injury. I suffered a serious brain injury in high school and started using marijuana once I got home. For the next few months I had serious headaches which marijuana helped alleviate by reducing inflammation and helping with the pain. While some drugs may make it worse. Marijuana is not one of them. If used in moderation it can provide remarkable medical benefits to anyone with an injury. People still think you can group all drugs into "its terrible for you". But each of them can provide specific benefits to those in need depending on the affliction. Some have less medical benefits like cocaine. But under the right circumstance some can have positive life altering medicinal benefits.

I am reading all stories . I had a mild tbi from a car accident 17 years ago . Was terrible at the time . Im much better now but when i have a bad day pot helps . Only a small amount . Like a one paper joint or two cones and its amazing how much better i feel after this .

I wish i knew if i could smoke weed, i can't drink beer anymore due to seizure medsm so it'd be nice to have sonething to escape this TBI torture and the feeling of 'NEVER BEING THE OLD ME' feeling

I feel ya. I just got out of the hospital after a severe TBI and I feel the exact same way. Mostly because I lost 80% of my hearing, but I feel that I'm stuck "never being the old me" as well... You're right about it being torture...

Very well.. said !
was just like You till weed came into picture.

i dont agree that weed is not good for people with brain injury it can relieve pain and so many other reasons whoever said its harmful should talk to a professional about it

I strongly disagree with this article. Big pharm & their secret partners (hospitals) want that residual income at the cost of their patients. They have drugs to help get off drugs.....their drugs kill other major organs but they have more drugs to counter that horrible side effect. Medical marijuana and cbd oil has helped my husband a thousand fold. No mood swings, no uncontrollable shakes, speech became clearer. I'll back up the marijuana before any other pharm drug.

I agree with you 100 % as a TBI suffer from almost 8 years ago I am on long term disability. It took me almost 3 years to get off all the medication and that is a good thing.

Spot on.
Glad it works
Wish I knew why CBD oil messed up my diet so much !!
Loads of stuff I can't drink or eat ever since trying CBD oil.
Caused severe stomach cramps and uncontrollable temperature changes in me
NOT a cure for everyone.
I vape full oil= no issues.
Good luck

I agree! My only confusion is knowing what strains to use?

My problem is finding a dealer. I know a jerk in a classy Ph.D program who knows some people who smoke it, but he's terrified of what might happen to him if it became known he'd introduced me to any of them. An overly lucky and privileged *****, in my opinion.

I'm thinking of just asking workers at Whole Foods. I know the stuff does wonderful things for me. I just cannot get any.

Excellent! I’m so glad that you posted your comment! I totally agree! Big pharma... Don’t get me started... I’m also very happy to hear that you’ve found a NATURAL substance (made by God), that can take the place of manufactured medication!!! I highly recommend others to try these natural methods, as long as it’s legal (!!!)

I think big pharma is a joke all the over dose is because of big pharma and there increased opiates

Thanks for the feedback. I went in for a CT scan after a traumatic car accident and it came back unclear. Now I need an MRI scan to see deeper into my brain more clearly. Still use cbd and thc therapy along with oxycodone when needed should I worry at all about marijuana as bad as they say I should. And does it cause more damage or not?

My untrained no medical experience.
Any medication can effect different people badly and without professional trained OPEN,HONEST AND UNBIASED advise we all play Russian roulette if we intake street drugs.
Taking any remedy may interfere with your medication or diagnosis.
Tell your Drs if you smoke and at least try to trust there professional opinion/training or find a more sympathetic Dr.
Don't waste time tell Dr in first visit then if no help get another asp.

I take daily- deep breath;
8 paracetamol ,
10 baclofen,
8 methocarbamol ,
70mg Zomorph (morphine) tablets day and night.
Occasional add breakthrough liquid morphine ,
About 4to 6 oxazepam
Glandosane throat spray
Lumigan eye drops
Mometazone nasal spray.

Had head injury, epilepsy spinal injury.
Neck injury,
Back injury.
Nose injury.
Ulnar nerve damage.
All from Gulf 91.

Now waiting L4/5 discotmy back operation. After a spinal tap for M.S/M.N.D./
deheminililation .
Warned possible " "Caudia equina " or squashed spine.
Possible growth at base of brain (expect it to be spinal damage )
Scars or lesion on my brain (new)
"Anterior horn cell disease "

Without weed still spend most days on floor in pain and struggle to talk.
A drag or two of oil in vapour pen and I can talk stand,relax, Laugh .
I look healthy and strong!

I would still say nicotine is far worse than cannabis .
Best thing I did stopping that, but certain CBD oil messed me up
(No thankyou)
But think ?
"Do you need weed or just want to get high ?
Don't just smoke cause everyone else does.
Weed helps but give me baclofen or morphine first any day!
And my Drs (good or bad)

No it's GENERALLY not dangerous to healthy strong people.
But some people are at serious risk if they add any substance, smoke,drink,pills,activity.
Its Your life pal but if going to but worried, don't try alone.
I've collapsed into a fit after blowback years ago.
If alone etc could easily of dyed.
Its not Oxygen.

Hi Tiffany,
I completely agree with what you have to say and I am glad to hear that it has helped your husband! I suffer from severe traumatic brain damage to my frontal lobe that I encountered in 2003. I had to re-learn everything from who I was to who my family and friends were even walking, talking and all other independent functions had to be re-learned. My life was a complete upside down roller-coaster for about five years until I discovered cannabis. Cannabis gave me back my positive inner-voice and allowed me to channel my disability in a new light. I can proudly say that I have beaten the odds and have attained an Associates, Bachelors, and four more classes away from earning a Masters in psychology applied behavior analysis. Cannabis has been my biggest aid towards independence and happiness!

I have smoked marijuana for 29yrs, I have recently suffered a sabarachnoid haemorrhage which have been coiled 1 burst + 1 bulged, I'm currently taking medication + have been told I need to stop smoking altogether ( cigarettes as well as marijuana ) I enjoy the high I used to get + am wondering 1-was my aneurysm caused by smoking marijuana ? + 2-will I never be allowed to smoke it again ? I enjoyed chilling out with a joint + don't drink alcohol I have a check up in 8week's time + of course they are going to tell me I shouldn't smoke at all, I'm worried that if I do smoke again I may die or suffer seizures is there any known links between them please ??

This is western medicine opinion. I personally received a very traumatic brain injury in March of 1999. I have taken several medications for memory improvement, and impulsiveness. The prescription medications would work for a few months, then I would develop an immunity, so I would have to change to a different pill. In mid April, 2018 I started smoking marijuana oil, sativa hybrid 70% thc. In 3.5 months, I am not taking any prescription medications, and have been having flashbacks of the head on collision that caused the tbi in 1999.