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 (155)

To "healed being": I suffered a head injury in the prime of my working career. Alcohol is horrible for me. Pot is a hopeful remedy for chronic insomnia! I would like to try it! One thing is for sure, I agree that people with head injuries always tell the truth about their injuries and what may work for them or doesn't! The way it changes your life is previously unimaginable! And there's just no room for anything besides truth! Thanks.

I strongly believe what you said.

I suffered a TBI a little less than 3 years ago when I was hit by a freight train while walking to work. I'd been smoking for about 7 years when this happened. I got brain surgery and had to relearn how to breathe, walk, tall, etc. again. I smoked again, very slowly at first, but I jumped in hard after a few months of that. Much too much for my mind, especially so near to when I'd had the TBI. Moderation is the key for everything. Now I take CBD's for seizures and also smoke about twice a day. I have a full time job, a house, a car, life is great. I don't know where I would be without having marijuana to smoke, but it has saved me numerous times. Smoking in moderation has done wonders for me

I had a brain hemorrhage just over 2 yrs ago
This was diagnosed as a migraine for a full week before my partner, who's a nurse refused to leave the doctors surgery until he'd arranged for a scan
They scanned me and found the rupture
My point is I was smoking rather a lot during that 7 days to help with the pain and trying to sleep
I've since been told by more than one medical professional that the cannabis I smoked that week probably helped save my life
It lowers blood pressure which is handy when you;re walking around for a week with a ruptured aneurysm
thye hemorrhage took 45% if my sight on the left and though I can still work I get tension headaches across my forehead from all the squinting I do whilst reading my monitor at work
Again, a spliff after work sorts this straight away and I'm convinced is less harmful to me than a dozen paracetamol a day

Every brain injury is different as we all know but I just thought I'd share my experience

This information is completely FALSE. How can smoking pot cause another brain injury? Reading that stupid answer gave me a brain injury, Jesus.
The truth is that there are many medical facts that support the use of marijuana specifically TO help heal the brain more quickly and efficiently. So to be more precise, WEED HELPS BRAIN INJURIES. Weed is not the devil.

I got hit by a drunk driver and I have a brain injury and seizure disorder, when I smoke marijuana I feel calm and normal like I didn't just take 1,100 milligrams of brain injury med, I've never had a seizure after or during smoking weed, I started to smoke when I was 14, I'm 38 now and it's different, I used to get high, now I just don't have seizures, I believe in God and I think weed helps, it comes straight from the ground He created with no man made nothing, somebody tell me why I can't have this medicine?

I wouldn't smoke pot or drink if you are a TBI surviver... My son has a tramatic brain injury and he started somking pot a few weeks ago and drinking and he is now in a hospital... He became impulsive and erratic, he couldn't sleep, he was aggressive thinking people are out to get him. He was doing so good and now we have to start all over again and why because people were telling him that pot was good for brain injures...

The drinking is the culprit. Same happened to my son, however the marijuana alone has been a life changer.

Your either ignorant or a ignorant dumbass if you think anything bad comes from cannabis.

I am a serious TBI survivor. 2 major and 1 minor external bleeds. Basically I shouldn't be here let alone commenting on how retarded you just sounded.

Cannabis saved not only my life but the lives of many survivors.

Hi Daniel, I do not doubt that Marijuana made you feel better. But the issue is more whether or not your brain functioning rehabilitation is retarded by the impact of the THC. My experience is that MJ has a major impact on brain function, making you less logical, less capable of linear thinking, and less capable of focusing (except on certain foods and other matters over which you will be attracted). I agree that the MJ slows down recovery from brain injury -- that is, recovery of the brain function and a person returning to activities of daily living.

Sorry woman (or man), but what you are describing are just side effects from the injury... Cannabis does only cause those kind of effects very rarely and usually among people which have bad mental health problems. I had a really bad injury, had to relearn everything, but it has only helped me, and the advice that I got from many doctors completely goes against what this doctor from who knows where, that studied somewhere where they are obviously against it. You could find many symptoms and blame it on marijuana, since it affects people many different ways. And I speak of experience, I went around different doctors telling them about symptoms I had after I told them I had been using cannabis, though I had not in a long period of time. They blamed it all on cannabis, being in a country that barely started to recognise the therapeutic use. It was fun seeing their reactions after I told them the truth. I came off seizure medication after I started smoking again, because of how well I was doing. Came off morphine because of it. Doctors kept insisting on anti anxiety pills, but anxiety more or less stopped because of it. And the list goes on, I made such progress because of it. Sure it does damage the lungs, but only until every country gets their stuff sorted and makes it orally available and subsidised. So don't go blaming cannabis, when a load of other factors are most likely the cause. People are so quick to blame it, when barely no body knows why it was made illegal for the first time, purely for profit! But so many harmful chemicals and alcohol is widely accepted.

most likely your problems were caused by the alcohol, not the pot.

Alcohol contributes to seizures so he needs to stop drinking. Sounds like he is depressed.

I am 8 years post and just began using pot some with my boyfriend
I DO NOT get any good side effects
Only worse having a brain injury
I can’t hardly walk straight, my memory is way worse
I feel I don’t suffer enough with a TBI to get the effects that a lot with a tbi do....

Reefer definitely helps. Only smoke the herb though, no blunts, no joints, just the herb.

The words 'blunt' and 'joint' do not mean it has tobacco in it. Definitions (which you can look up for yourself) :

"Reefer" is just an old-school term meaning cannabis/marijuana. Using it in the form "a reefer" usually means a cannabis cigarette.

A "joint" is a cannabis cigarette.

A "blunt" is just a cigar sized joint that was rolled (usually) using larger stronger cigar papers instead of smaller cigarette papers.

A "Fatty" is a thick cannabis cigarette.

A "Swisher" is a (manufactured) cigar in which the tobacco has been replaced with marijuana (a way to make your blunt look like a commercial cigar)

A "Pinner" is a very cannabis cigarette

None of these terms have anything to do with the person mixing tobacco with cannabis, although ti could easily happen while making a 'swisher'

In this era, most people never ever put tobacco in with their cannabis. It makes the tobacco far more dangerous, and most cannabis smokers dislike tobacco putting it into the category of 'drugs of death' with coke, heroin and other powders .

This is sooo true . I was wondering why I felt like I was going to have a seisure after smoking and drinking .

I live with TBI. Ask those of us who chose to not to use SRI drugs . We chose a natural antidepressant. I have no taste or smell and have lost 50 pounds. Get an education.

That was clearly a negative comment and useless.
You don't like marijuana or can't physically use it. So you are NO good here.
"You" can go get an education in learning to talk properly to other people about serious medical information.

Illegal drug use or not, it's all medical related, do NOT push people ignorantly away if they use drugs or drink, you help no one by letting your opinion on illegal drugs and drinking tell people they "need to go get an education" for the things you can't answer.

Grow up. Don't involve yourself in places you can't help anyone.

Here Here

Marijuana is being studied for its healing effects on serious brain injuries in the NFL. Smoking high cbd weed after my TBI was encouraged by both my specialist and my psychiatrist. Smoke up man

It is being studied yes, very exciting. I have a TBI and seizures as a result. My friend who has epilepsy and has smoked for as long as can remember. Her seizures have lessened by 80%. That's WONDERFUL!

My son currently is recovering from ..tbi...complete facial reconstruction...T-4..T-5...crushed....musle graph...partial foot 4 day after being released...completely off all pain pain ...smokes once a day...

drs don't support Marijuana at all no point talking to them about it

That's just not true. My 93 year old mother's medical primary care doctor told us to get her on it. She has tbi after a nearly fatal fall and it sent her into dementia like symptoms. She gets it in tincture form and it is successfully treating a whole host of issues for her; insomnia, lack of appetite, depression and anxiety and panic attacks. She has made a wonderful and positive transformation and is living in assisted living in her own apartment. It has been a godsend to our family.

Amen! It's good for a lot of things! I have seizures as a result of blunt force trauma.

There are preparations that are high in one of the chemicals in Cannabis, Cannanbinoids , that have been shown to reduce inflammation after brain injury. When you get it in a tincture, with little or no TCH, the substance that produces a high, it has been shown to have beneficial effects. Be aware, though that this is not the same as smoking or ingesting recreational marijuana. The difficulty after brain injury is that we don't really know what is in the particular strain an individual might be using.

Hello Carolyn. I have been smoking a bit of Marijuana for the past few month. I had a brain injury. Blunt force trauma. I was seizure free for two years. I heard Marijuana was good for seizures. I am 100% cognitively there so I'm not worried about the side effects of the usual. I had a gran mal seizure Christmas Eve. I now am smoking marijuana once a day. I read that marijuana increases having another Seizure? is this true? My friend has seizures and she smokes for that reason and it really helps her. I know it isn't a cure, but if it all prevents, not increase the risk I am going to smoke it! I don't smoke a lot but at least once a day.

I have a relative that has had a TBI, they smoked quite a bit after, and it didn't do anything good for them. At first, it took all that ailed them away, relaxed them, etc. But they started to become way more forgetful after smoking more frequently; and feared that everyone was after them. I'd saw her getting better, stronger, healthier, even her memory was improving — and then I saw her take 50 steps back and end up in a terrible state of depression. I don't think weed is harmful to the average person at all. But I honestly don't feel that for someone who's still in recovery for such a traumatic injury, it's good to smoke.

I know people think marijuana is the miricale drug but it's not.I have seen first hand the negative effects it can have on some people. It's like all drugs some people expierence some bad side effects, so be careful.

My brother (53 years old) is 9 1/2 years post-TBI... He is ambulatory but has memory and cognition problems, with agitation issues being our biggest problem.  We tried meds, SSRIs, Depacote) but with absolutely NO help with the agitation episodes which were increasing.  He was always a big pot smoker in the past.  We hesitated to let him smoke for years after his accident.  So we started it slowly, mainly to help with the extreme agitation episodes. He can go from extremely angry to very friendly and even empathetic in just one toke.  His vocabulary and sentence structure goes through the roof and his sociability level allows us to be out in public without the agitated behavior, which is usually F bombs and flipping off the world (pretty disconcerting, huh?!) ... Unfortunately we live in a backward state that has JUST passed MMJ legislation but iis trying to find every way it can be limited.  

I can just speak from my experience. I sustained a severe tbi 3 years ago, and have found that now my brain function is horrendous when I smoke. It's the thc and it messes with me so much now

I found this too from early tbi days . But now 17 years on a very small amount of bush bud ( no chemicals ) helps me

Then why would my s sons Dr. prescribe a medical marijuana?

In 1972 I was involved in a car accident and I had a subdural hematoma I was in the hosptial 1 1/2 years....after the accident I was put on medication to control seziures(I hated it!)I smoked pot but for no other reason than to get high,then I stopped the meds and was convultion free...I didn't put pot and no seziures together....about 3 years ago I stopped smoking pot i had a seziure....then I read the resrerch about CBD I am thinking about starting again cause the meds they put me on are full of undesireable effects.Any coments would help...God Bless

Recommend the cbd's. So good. There is a lot of research out there to educate yourself. No paranoia. It's amazing.

Is it better to drink alcohol or smoke weed after TBI?

Honestly, man, I wouldn't do either if you want to recover the most possible. I drank a little and smoked a couple times and now I feel like I’m going downhill and fast

I had an abi 9 months ago (multiple bleeds, 3 on CCS, 28 days in PTA) I tried "pot" 6 months after with no negative effects so I kept on smoking weekly for 6 weeks, I started to feel slower, "dumber" and more forgetful for a few days after I smoked so I haven't smoked for about a month and will not smoke again until it's been 12 month's since the abi.

I think a lot of you that have commented need to do more research. You are confusing THC & CBD. Both are in Marijuana but thc has a lot of side effects for tbi patients. TBI patients benefit from CBD. If you smoke after a tbi you are slowing the brain down. That is not what you want to do.

20 years ago I became TBI. When that happened I lost everything. I had to drop out of college, my girl dumped me (wasnt part of her ten year plan), my high school friends said I changed too much and didn't want to be my friends anymore, and my grandma and mom died. I was passenger in the car. I was alone in the world but for some reason I lived. With no money, no place to live, no friend,s no living family, I had nothing and i cursed my God. Living on the streets during winter I did what I had to do to survive. I was in constant level 10 pain. I was wondering, why am I alive? I was wishing I was dead. Knowing I was going to kill myself then I was introduced to weed it took my pain away. It put me in a really good mood. It helped me to forget about all the bad things that happened to me. Marijuana saved my life and now doctors try to say its not good for TBI..... wtf? Where were these people 20 years ago to help me? I was homeless. These people mocked me, laughed at that guy who smells and hasn't taken a shower in forever. These people would not help me out.

Actually, it is the lack of abundant scientific research and FDA approval of marijuana use after a brain injury that keeps us in the dark. Thank you Big Pharma.

The "answer" is absolutely wrong. Use google, countless scientific articles have been made on the effects of marijuana use before and after having a traumatic brain injury.

I suffered a TBI that resulted in right frontal scarring. I've found that I get a quicker, happier, and lengthy high since my injury. Before my injury, I experimented with pot and had little success. I'd smoke a whole joint by myself to get a buzz. Imagine my surprise at three months after my injury, approximately a year and a half since I last smoked! One puff from a pipe and I was a happy, high, free from pain person. It helps me relax and frees me from the dull pain on my bones that exists since my TBI.

I had a 30 km/h longboard crash with no helmet on and it cause a fractured skull, epidermal hematoma and my heart stopped working a few hours after. I should be in a wheelchair and relearning basic life skills but within around 4 or 5 days after I was able to walk without my walker. It was brought up buy a friend that my marijuana use may be why I recovered so fast since he had heard it before . Around a year after I read a something about a study in Israel done on soldiers showing that cannabis not only helped in the recovery of tbi patients but also prevented brain damage if smoked 3 days before the cause of your injury. The first few months I had migraines from the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep, The first time I smoked weed after the crash was a little over a month later and my migraine was gone for 2 days. It has almost been 2 years since the crash and the only problems I deal with is migraines and headaches through the day, mood swings, handful of sleep problems and I twitch. Cannabis helps me with almost everything but twitching. The reason cannabis helps me function better is because I have a tolerance to the point that it doesn't make me impaired when I use it.

I would like to comment..that cannabis has been proven to aid in the brain's healing process. It may take the brain slightly longer to heal. When we heal, our bodies try to do that as quickly as possible. So, the human body kicks into overdrive and starts using many different building blocks in a sporadic attempt to heal in the quickest, not always most efficiently built healing process. Cannabis eliminates inflammation, and allows the brain to heal slowly. Cognitive outcomes fair better when the healing process is slow and uniform..

I would like to say as a survivor of a TBI, I was violently attacked by a man who was trying to kill me with a kitchen knife and I ended up having my neck broken, the back of my neck was stabbed, my head was stabbed over 6 times and the last time the blade broke off in my skull and pierced the center line of my brain. The bottom line is I've been using cannabis oil illicitly and have experienced an incredible recovery, to say the least. I was told I wouldn't walk again, I was told I would be having constant seizures due to the severity of my brain injury, the blood loss, and the fact I couldn't be put on pain meds and was kept awake during the craniotomy. I answered the neurosurgeon's questions while he pushed the blade from my brain and skull, and proceeded to put a metal nanowire mesh and part of my skull back on. I was put in a medically induced coma to lower my brain swelling, they really weren't expecting me to wake up after that, but I woke up after 11 days, and was out of the hospital in a month and into a rehab hospital for 1 month. I was 18 years old when this happened to me. I'm now 21 years old and my life is a wreck. I can't keep a job, I can't pay for what happened to me. I ended up putting my hands on my girlfriend in a nightmare, had the cops called on me, and am being charged with domestic violence. The man who tried killing me with a knife and snapping my neck got 15 years in jail in the state of Kansas. It took a group of 6 cops to get this man off me. I've been dealing with the nightmares and PTSD for so long without help or being able to deal with it because of memory problems and overall life situation, and the fact I would have to move to a state to use medical cannabis is purely criminal. Luckily, I was able to have a friend who worked in the industry and heard about what happened to me and brought me cannabis oil which healed me illegally in the hospital, all documented fact that my condition improved so dramatically after that first dose, they didn't have to perform the extra brain surgery to drain the fluid off my brain,or surgery for a poop sack, due to the fact my friend brought me the right strain of cannabis oil. I could not even comprehend my mental condition if I had not been taking that oil, that is FACT. I would not be alive. Doctors need to stand up for their oath, and speak on the truth of the endocannabinoid system and stand up for the truth. If you're a doctor, you know the book truths you've studied and whatever experience you've had, and ultimately what you decide. By the way, the man who attempted murder on me somehow bought legal bath salts or some compound from a gas station and was drunk, he was a 38-year-old man who was renting a room at the person's house I was staying at for the night.

I have a friend with a traumatic brain injury that works for me and uses marijuana. It helps with mood but causes cognitive impairment to be worse. It over loads his brain and causes burnout and depression. I would not want him to drive after smoking it, because I would fear for his and others safety. He is not allowed to come to work if he smokes because he can't do his job. Research has also shown it to cause early onset dementia in TBI patients.

That's a hard one. Anyone who knows me since I had a brain injury, and disagree with it before my injury say I'm a jerk on it, not to mention they say this after drinking or doing stuff more messed up, while when I talk to important people they love my company without knowing I smoke beforehand, and had a brain injury, so it's a catch 22 thing.

This article is in serious need of an update by someone who knows.  In Colorado there is nothing illicit about cannabis, as for it's use with brain injury and I'm speaking from over 20 years first hand experience of Cannabis in my life, I have found the following to be true.

There is nothing wrong with Cannabis use and TBI, in fact I would give it a try if you are wondering about the benefits it has on brain injury.  It's not for everybody but its a personal choice you need to make and try.

I have lost 40+ pounds and am quite active even though I still have right side hemiparisis (sp). It has lessened the affects but not 100% which is bonus, my speech has improved and my life processing speed has shown me the world has slowed down to real time and I can pay attention .All. The. Time. 
Heck I even play golf and as any seasoned TBI veteran will tell you, is a great challenge for those with a with with this dreaded beast.

- TBI (Give it a Google to learn more)