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.

Comments (185)

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.

My son had a fairly severe brain injury in his teens, 5 years ago.  For most people looking at and talking with him, they would say there was nothing wrong.  He has pretty severe motivational issues and forgets to do basic things.  If you talk to him he has lots of ambition to achieve all sorts of things but they mostly don't get done.  Of late he has been smoking a lot of weed and I am convinced it is linked to his inability to get things done.  when he stays off it he can be quite clear thinking, as soon as he is on it again everything becomes 'fine' for him, 'I'll do that later', and everything starts to fall apart.

So, I'd say if it is memory and motivation that are the problems then weed is not the answer.

I don't buy this. Daily use of Marijuana keeps me from dependency on SSRI's which don't work nearly as well. The key is small doses!

Have severe tbi . been smoking it since before my mishap mishap was 2004 still smokin it. Whatever ppl say . Its great for me . Stops alot of things

I have a TBI and I smok daily is it really that bad???

I disagree with this article completely. I've had a hard time writing and reading since my brain injury in January 2014, but when I smoke a little, I have no problems! I usually have a hard time writing papers and articles because my brain has a really hard time trying to organize my thoughts. However, after a few hits, I have zero problems and I feel like my brain can function as well as it did before.

Also, weed has helped me immensely with the stress and depression I experienced after the brain injury. If I start having one of my brain injury mood swings (as I call them), a few hits of high quality weed stops it completely and I can think straight again, and this is the kind of mood swing that causes me to cry, scream and break things (something I didn't experience pre-TBI). 

My personal opinion is to smoke. If one strain doesn't work, try another. Neurologists were so quick to try to prescribe me antidepressants, sleeping pills, pain killers and anti-seizure meds, but weed can do most if not all of the things those pills can do. Plus, you won't have to go through the withdrawal in the future if you just smoke instead. 

I find that a few hits does the trick so you don't have to get completely stoned to experience the benefits of this herb.

I received my TBI in November, 22nd when i died 3time's. They brought me back to life for the final time, but i still feel "dead" on the inside.

I've lost 97% of my friend's, some of my speech unless i smoke marijuana. Then i speak better than our president they tell me! My parent's are all against me smoking marijuana, but i tell them "as soon as it becomes legal in T.N or America i will be the first one smoking it"! I write the most AMAZING poetry when i'm high! That's all i have in this world now! THC and poetry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can you smoke cigarettes while in recovery?, if not, list the reasons? Thanks whoever.

If u were on a brain stimulate like i was, Pot cancle out the medicin. I found out thet really hurts. It changes everything

I had a concussion and i found i couldnt smoke marijuana because it simply made my brain hurt maybe because the brain can't handle the cannibal in the cannabinoid receptors during this type of trauma

One person said that pot "Just completely destroys my ability to do anything except have deep thoughts." Someone replies, "That is a flat out lie." I don't know, but everyone is different, perhaps it doesn't have a good effect on them. Still, it does have a good effect on a lot of people wt a TBI, and is not a dangerous flower, even to those who do not get benefit from using it.. Those who do not get benefit from it, are not forced to use, but those who do, are ostracized. Personally I really like how marihuana allows one to have deeper thoughts, because that is harder for me post TBI. Still probably the best way to change the thinking about pot, is not to say those who do not enjoy using it are not telling the truth. 

I have TBI and all the problems that go along with it.  The issue about all the meds is they are we're side affects and highly addictive than marijuana!  I have done it a few times and it has helped with my pain a bit.  With my TBI I have learned that docs and pharms are quick to drug you with pills but want elaborate on the pills and the long term consequences.  Weed is natural and if helps a little bit is better than blowing out my liver in ten or fifteen years because of pills.  I'm tired of the subjective opinions from these so called health professionals who really could care less about you but more about there money that's burning a hole in there pockets.  I'm a Vet from Iraq and Afghanistan.  I have every right to try to heal myself including using herbal meds.  Thanks for letting me put my subjective opinion.

Darrell Retired USMC 0311

Hi is there anyone out there that has lance adams syndrome after a brain injery? Please email me

I have survived a traumatic brain injury it helps with my headaches lowers my stress helps my concentration I think people saying god got it wrong are wrong them selves!

15 years after tbi, and heavy cannabis use to help with my pain, nausea & angsiety, all i can say is that i would not be without an emergency stash of high grade weed because it saved my life.

Omg it truly is amazing to hear someone else that has a TBI cause it has worked wonders for me I hope my gf doesn'tread this because I still haven't told her but I couldn't remember her at all after the coma I was inand then one day I want some buddies came up to Chicago to hang out and they smoked with me and that it was miraculous

I have a tbi/abi (anxious brain injury) as the result of a fall and then within a year and exposure to sewer gas. Following the fall (from about 16 feet up) I was prescribed the usual pain pills. The upset my stomach, made me moody, and did not even touch the pain. Other side effects as well. I have head, neck, back and other orthopedic injuries as well. I lost my sense of smell and have had headache non stop since the incidents 7 years ago. Constant pain, lack of focus, tremors, restlessness, depression. tense uneasyness and many other issues. I was also diagnosed with fibro myalgia after the chemical exposure. I was very emotional, tearfull and confused. stuttering ect. I began to use marijuana at first to deal with the constant pain. It worked wonders. Pain in the neck was gone with regular (moderated) daily use. Even the spongy " grinding and poping in the neck seemed to stop. Depession, anxiety, and all other symptoms disappeared. Even the seizure symptoms stopped. Only a mild almost un noticeable headache remained. I found myself being able to focus better and complete more.  I even was able to do many physical things I would never have been able to do. When the supply was interrupted, it took a while for the pain and symptoms to work their way back in.after going without for a month the symptoms came back strong. As time went by the symptoms (physical and mental) got worse. When I resumed using it, the neck and other pain began to subside instantly and by the next day or two it was virtually non existent. All other symptoms also were helped. I can sleep thru the night instead of only a few hours at a time. I do not have appetite repulsion and am able to eat. At one point I lost 20 pounds in a very short time. With in a month of resuming use I gained 15 pounds. almost back to my normal weight. Emotional symptoms and depression was no longer a factor. I have had several times in the years since these injuries where I was unable to access this MEDICINE for a prolonged period of time. each time symptoms returned. New Hampshire is a state where Brain injury is a condition that mmj can be prescribed for. In my opinion, they are on the right track. Until you suffer daily for years there is no way of knowing what one goes thru. mmj eliviates all my symptoms. I do not tremor, I have not had feelings of seizure, minimal, bearable headache, virtually no neck head back and other pain, no depression or anxiety. Better focus and ability to communicate accurately and no stuttering. I can eat, sleep and do many things I was unabl to do. Tell me this is wrong. I lost a brother to his addiction to the very prescription meds that doctors prescribed me at first. I am a much more productive, happy, pain free when I am a regular (moderate) daily user of the Medicine. With my own experience and with all the statistics of Tbi/abi survivors suffering, pain, depression and suicide rates, I will continue to use mmj as long i can get it. It works miraulosly for me. 

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 .

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.  

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)

\"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. Here is direct link to the scientific article, that unfortunately costs $29.95, to be allowed to read. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!!!!!!!
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.
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.

Maruina makes me feel a lot better

Honestly pot helps me out honestly it does!